The Bevin Boys
Bevin Boys were young men between 18 and 25 who were chosen by ballot to serve in the mining industry. They were named after Ernest Bevin the wartime Minister of Labour and leader of the Transport and General Workers Union.
The system employed by Ernest Bevin was that of a ballot scheme whereby young men upon registering for National Service would be selected according to the last digit of his registration number. These numbers from 0 – 9 were drawn at fortnightly intervals in the Ministers Office by his Secretary. Thus the fate was decided by this simple lottery for compulsory conscription into the mines. Any refusal to comply with the Direction Order would inevitably result in a heavy fine or possible imprisonment under the wartime Emergency Powers Act which were in force at the time.
The selection of these men enabled vital manpower to be reserved for the mining industry as opposed to going to the armed forces.
The work was however, not popular either with the miners or the boys themselves. Many had no mining background at all. They received no medal, badge or uniform and little recognition. Many were not released from their war work until several years after the war had ended.
The Boys lived primarily in one of the eleven Miners Hostels in Scotland. In 1945 there were 384 pits in Scotland and Bevin Boys could be sent to any one of them. Training for Bevin Boys serving in Scotland took place at the Government Training Centre Colliery at Muircockhall in Fife, with accommodation at the Miners Hostel at Townhill. Training would last for a duration of four weeks and take the form of 25% physical training, 25% classroom lectures, 20% surface work and 30% underground. At the end of this period final allocation would be made to a colliery normally within the region where the training took place.
In East Lothian there were eight such mines during the Second World War, including those still active at Ormiston. The list in East Lothian consisted of Limeylands, Tynemount, Bankton, Fleets, Glencairn, Penkaet, Preston Links, Prestongrange and Oxenford.
In East Lothian, there were 2,192 employees below ground and 711 above ground. (A total of 2,903 men and boys).
If you want more information about The Bevin Boys Association, please contact:
Vice President, Archivist and Public Relations, Warwick H. Taylor MBE, 23 Great Cranford Street, Poundbury, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 3SQ.