Bevin Boys

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The Bevin Boys program enlisted young British men to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom between December 1943 and March 1948 during World War II . Ten percent of all male conscripts between the ages of 18 and 25 were committed to this work by lot, some volunteers were able to do this service as an alternative to military conscription. In total, almost 48,000 persons obliged to work served and had to perform a vital and dangerous, but largely unknown, labor service in coal mines. Many of them were not released from service until two years after the end of World War II .

Bevin Boys receiving practical training from an experienced miner in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, February 1945

Creation of the program

The program is named after Ernest Bevin , a British trade union officials and later Minister of Labor and National Service of the Labor Party in the wartime coalition government . At the beginning of the war, the government underestimated the value of the miners it had drafted into the armed forces. By mid-1943, the coal mines had lost 36,000 workers who, as a rule, were not replaced because most of the young men were brought into the armed forces. The government approached young men to volunteer in the mines. Only a few were found and the labor shortage in this war-important area continued.

In October 1943 the UK ran into a supply shortage of coal, which was needed for both the war and fuel. On October 12, the Minister of Fuel and Energy announced in the House of Commons that some conscripts would be sent to the mines. On December 2nd, Ernest Bevin explained the project in more detail. The slang name "Bevin Boys" came from another speech by Bevin.

From 1943 to 1945, one in ten young conscripts was required to work in the mines. This created resistance as many young men preferred to join the armed forces, fearful that they would not be valued as miners. Indeed, many Bevin Boys were ridiculed for not wearing uniforms and were very often accused of evading military service.

Bevin Boys program

Selection of conscripts

In order to make the selection at random, one of Bevin's secretaries pulled one of the ten digits 0–9 out of a hat once a week from December 14, 1943. All men whose national service registration number ended in this number were drafted into service as Bevin Boy. Highly qualified people such as aircraft technicians and those physically unfit for mining were exempted.

working conditions

Theoretical instruction for the Bevin Boys on the miner's lamp at Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, February 1945

After six weeks of training (four weeks of theory, two weeks of practical experience), I worked underground in dark, damp tunnels. Equipped with helmets and steel-clad safety boots, the Bevin Boys wore no uniforms or badges, but the oldest clothes they could find. They were therefore often stopped and questioned by the police because there was a suspicion that they were evading military service.

Conscientious objectors could do compulsory work in the mines as alternative civilian service . This alternative service was completely separate from the Bevin Boy program. For this reason, too, there was sometimes an assumption that Bevin Boys were "conchies", that is, conscientious objectors who were not very much appreciated at the time. The right to refuse military service for reasons of conscience or for philosophical or religious reasons was recognized in military legislation as it was in the First World War. However, there was great rejection of conscientious objectors among the majority of the population, which the Bevin Boys also felt.

End of the program

One of the four memorial stones

The Bevin Boys program ended in 1948. At that time the Bevin Boys received neither medals nor the right to return to their old jobs, unlike the soldiers who had served in the regular armed forces. The Bevin Boys were not officially recognized as contributors to the war until 1995 in a speech given by Queen Elizabeth II .

On June 20, 2007 Tony Blair informed the House of Commons that thousands of conscripts who had to work in the coal mines during World War II would be honored. The Bevin Boys would be rewarded with a veteran badge similar to the Royal Armed Forces badge awarded by the Department of Defense.

The first badges were presented on March 25, 2008 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a reception at 10 Downing Street , the 60th anniversary of the last Bevin Boys' sacking .

A memorial to the Bevin Boys was unveiled on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 . The monument was designed by the former Bevin Boy Harry Parkes and consists of four stone pedestals.

Well-known Bevin Boys

Individual evidence

  1. James Heartfield: An Unpatriotic History of the Second World War. John Hunt Publishing, 2012, ISBN 978-1-780-99378-2 , p. 14 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  6. Called Up Sent Down: The Bevin Boys' War - Tom Hickman Pub. The History Press 2008 ISBN 0-7509-4547-8
  14. Archived copy ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  15. a b Ken Cooke: Percy Jackson's. Troubador Publishing Ltd, 2007, ISBN 978-1-905-88678-4 , p. 6 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  17. ^ Ray Morton: Amadeus. Limelight Editions, 2011, ISBN 978-0-879-10417-7 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).