My badge of honour

ONE of Britain's most famous Bevin Boys today welcomed the news that they will be honoured 60 years on.

Sir Jimmy Savile is one of the unsung heroes who dug for victory in the coal mines during the Second World War.

He said he was delighted that the Government was 'fixing it' for commemorative lapel pin badges to be awarded to the 5,000 surviving members, all in their 80s.

Sir Jimmy said today: "That is terrific news. We have been unsung heroes for so many years I am not sure we will get used to being recognised."

Ernest Bevin, the minster for labour during the war, ordered 48,000 conscripts to be chosen at random to work in the pits after a call-up of miners to the forces led to a severe shortage of coal.

Each month for 20 months his secretary drew two digits from a hat and all men whose National Service registration number ended with one of them were sent down the pit.

And 80-year-old Leeds legend Sir Jimmy recalled how as an 18-year-old he went down to the coal face.

"I had done the Air Training Corps and went to see if I could sign up for the airforce. I then had my number picked out of a hat and became a Bevin Boy. I worked at Prince of Wales in Pontefract, South Kirby, near Hemsworth and Waterloo at Temple Newsam.

"It was hard work but I loved it underground, going one and a half miles bent double then you came to a coalface and think 'that's been there for 70 million years', I was the first to see it, it was magic, I loved it.

"There was great camaraderie down the pit."

In his flat he still has his helmet lamp, uniform and equipment in boxes, which were recently released to him from the War Museum.

After a few years down the pit, he had an accident which left him bedridden and back home under care of his beloved mum The Duchess.

Eric Morecambe, Brian Rix and Leeds City Councillor Frank Robinson were also Bevin Boys.