Voices in the Coalshed: The Bevin Boys
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Voices in the Coalshed: The Bevin Boys

Have you ever heard of The Bevin Boys?

The Bevin Boys were young, British men conscripted to work in the coal mines of Britain between 1943 and 1948. They were employed to increase the rate of coal production, which had declined through the early years of the World War II. The programme was the brainchild of Ernest Bevin who served as Minister of Labour and National Service in the wartime coalition government.

Nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed vital and dangerous civil conscription service in the coal mines. It has been documented that some Bevin Boys did not want to work in the mines as they were very patriotic and wanted to go into one of the forces. This was occasionally granted but was not the norm. Bevin Boys were often targets of abuse from the public who mistakenly believed them to be draft dodgers or cowards. They were frequently stopped by the police as possible deserters.

Although the last ballot took place in May 1945 (shortly before VE day) the final conscripts were not released from service until March 1948. Few chose to remain working in the mining industry after demobilisation and most left for further education or employment in other sectors. Unlike those who served in the military, Bevin Boys were not awarded medals for their contribution to the war effort and official recognition by the British Government was only granted in 1995.

Regardless of your feelings about the Bevin Boys, without them, the war effort would have been severely hampered by lack of coal to run the various industries.

Come along to the Museum and find out more about the Bevin Boys!

Written by Volunteer Pete

Image header: © Ian Beesley