Court-martialled in World War II. For throwing an officer over the side (of a ship).
The father-in-law who I never knew, because he had died before I had even met my husband.
William was on the way to Dunkirk, and the said officer decided he wanted to have sex with him. Now, while there may be lots of rumours about sheep and sex in Wales (a bit like New Zealand) it seems my partner’s father was only interested in sex with women.
So he chucked the officer over the side. And the ship didn’t go back for him.
He fought at Dunkirk, survived, came back and was court-martialled and given two years imprisonment. He was of course, allowed out to fight, because he was also the regimental boxing champion.
This just illustrates the stupidity of some non-commissioned officers. Who in their right mind would attempt to shag a regimental boxing champion?
Not that William was in his right mind either. He was a coal miner, originally a coal hewer, and later a belt mender and fire officer. That was a good move because when everyone went on strike he didn’t have to, because of the safety aspects of his job.
But for some reason, despite being in an essential service that would have got him excluded from the second world war, he signed up.
On the other hand, my partner’s grandfather (on his mother’s side) was a conscientious objector. Jailed. Receive a white feather. Finally let out to go and be a stretcher bearer in the First World War. Whereupon he was gassed and had problems with his lungs ever since. (Anyone who wants to read about gassing in the FWW can nip over to roughseas where I added Wilfred Owen’s superb Dulce et Decorum Est to the poetry page).
He fell down in the snow and died of pneumonia because no-one found him. Aged not very old.
But back to the father-in-law who died before we met, he moved from South Wales to Aylesham, in Kent, UK.
Discussing this with my partner, he said it was a purpose-built village, created for the newly-made pit (colliery/mine) for all the people who had moved there. I looked it up on Wiki. It said… well, you can work it out. Exactly what my partner had said, which I thought was slightly impressive given that he was only there for a few years as a babe in arms.
He worked at Snowdown Colliery, maybe Betteshanger too. Kent coalfields are interesting. Betteshanger hosted the first biodynamic conference in the
UK back in 1939. It was the only pit to strike during WW2 and the last one to return to work after the 80s miners strike. It was hellish radical.
Pits are – or were – an integral part of life for people from South Wales, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Durham, Nottingham and Kent. Yes, there are others before any smarty-pants jumps on my back, but those were the main ones.
Now, as an interesting side point, when I were a lass, ie a trade union member, there were three radical left-wing unions. The NUJ (journalists and mine), the NUT (teachers), and the NUM (miners).
Anyone, who knows anything about t’ pit, will know of Arthur Scargill. An extremely obnoxious loud-mouthed git who comes from Yorkshire.
A few facts about Arthur and t’pit.
1) He rose to fame on the back of the Lofthouse Pit disaster where seven miners were trapped after a water inrush. Only one body was recovered.
I might have been 14 years old at the time, but I do remember this. It was all anyone could talk about at the time. It was a few miles away from where I lived. And people worked down the pits.
What griped me about Arthur was that he just used this horrific incident to sweep to power.
In fact, the Lofthouse disaster occurred because of problems in a different, abandoned, mine working in my town.
It was later estimated that the old mine workings at Low Laithes had become an underground reservoir containing nearly 3 ½ million gallons of water.
The water from the working in our town leaked into Lofthouse.
That’s probably why it was the talk of the town ~ not for days, or weeks, but for months. I lived in a pit village. Mines back in the fourteenth century, and 26 pits recorded by the NCB (National Coal Board).
2) My family were not in pits. My partner’s family were. His brother, his father, his uncles, his step-grandfather, well, they did come from South Wales. It was Trethomas after all.
None of them liked Arthur Scargill. Everyone preferred Joe Gormley.
3) Next, ie after Lofthouse, there was some brief talk about safety. While Scargill criticised Lofthouse he basically campaigned for more money for miners because they were doing a dangerous job. How about campaigning for safety?
He went to talk to Kent miners. Given that they were largely imports, he was speaking to Scottish, Yorkshire, North-East and Welsh miners.
Scargill wanted the weight of a pit prop to be reduced from 56lbs. My never-met father-in-law told him if you couldn’t carry a pit prop you shouldn’t be down the mine.
Even I could carry a 55/56 lb cheese, so I can’t really argue with NMFiL.
Wiki on accidents down t’ pit
During the period 1850 to 1930 the South Wales coalfield had the worst disaster record. This was due to the increasing number of mines being sunk to greater depths into gas-containing strata, combined with poor safety and management practices. As a result there were nearly forty underground explosions in the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire areas of the coalfield during this time. Each accident resulted in the deaths of twenty or more workers – either directly in the explosion or by suffocation by the poisonous gases formed. The total death toll from these disasters was 3,119 people. The four worst accidents in Wales were:
439 deaths at the Senghenydd Colliery Disaster at Universal Colliery in Senghenydd, Glamorgan, in a gas explosion in 1913.
290 deaths at the Albion Colliery in Cilfynydd, Glamorgan, in a gas explosion on 25 June 1894.
272 deaths at the Prince of Wales Colliery, Abercarn, Monmouthshire, in an explosion of 11 September 1878.
266 deaths in the Gresford Disaster near Wrexham in North Wales on 22 September 1934.
Some collieries, e.g. Morfa Colliery,near Port Talbot, Glamorgan, and Black Vein Colliery, Risca, Monmouthshire, suffered three disasters before they were closed for being unsafe.
4) More Wiki:
There has been conflict between the mine owners and the miners for over 200 years. A strike by miners in 1792 for higher wages at the Duke of Norfolk’s collieries near Sheffield is an early example.
During the 19th century a variety of unions or associations such as the Mining Association of Great Britain & Ireland, The Miners National Union and the Miners Federation were formed to campaign for improved wages and better working conditions. They were largely unsuccessful. Two large scale strikes took place during the century including actions in 1842 and 1893. The strike in 1893 was the result of a 25% wage cut by the mine owners which was eventually restored but not before two miners were killed by soldiers at Featherstone.
The 20th century brought further strikes in 1912, 1921 and the General Strike in 1926. These all generally failed to bring about any improvement in pay and conditions.
5) I went down a mock-up of a pit once, as apart of a Science Group. BAYS – British Association of Young Scientists. Yes, this arty farty journalist actually has O levels in physics and chemistry. Mostly we all joined BAYS because there were BOYS in it too. So we all snuggled down the fake pit together. It was hellish claustrophobic and I certainly couldn’t do it now. Even with the incentive of the boys.
Which brings me back to Arthur. Currently arguing that the NUM should continue to pay for his flat in the Barbican. CENTRAL LONDON, and worth approx £1.4/5 mill. And his fuel allowance in Yorkshire. And his accountancy fees.
Now while I think all that is OTT, if that was the deal he engineered at the time, I also don’t see why it should suddenly change. But it seems the NUM no longer wants to fund the £34,000 a year rent for his flat.
I could live out of 34K a year. Arthur could live in his other home in Yorkshire, with his free fuel. Thereby saving everyone money. What is it with socialists that we all need more than one home? At least I have paid for all mine.
Great communist Arthur. I appreciate you read the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Noonan Tressell and it hugely influenced your life. But you weren’t really in the same league were you? He died aged 40 in the workhouse in Liverpool from TB.
You are fighting the NUM because they won’t fund your rented home in London. Surely that money could be put to better use?
Meanwhile, it turns out his predecessor Joe Gormley was a grass to Special Branch, telling them about the activities of union members who he considered to be militant. Nice to have confidence in the president of your union. Maybe that’s why he received a life peerage and became Baron Gormley, entitled to sit in the House of Lords.
We all disliked Arthur, and his so-called communist beliefs, and what was Joe? An informer. A leech.
Who is or was the worst?
I am proud of my trade union principles and I still stick by them. The first thing I did on joining a newspaper was to sign up for the union. Well, it could have been the second, maybe I claimed ten pence for my note book on my expenses first.
Regardless of Arthur and Joe, I’ll leave the last word with the NUM.
The NUM has always regarded education and knowledge as a powerful tool for the working class and as this site develops it is hoped that this will be of assistance in providing the visitor with an understanding of how the world is seen from the eyes of the National Union of Mineworkers. The National Union of Mineworkers is alive and kicking, and is still representing miners, their families and their communities. The NUM is still very active industrially and politically. It is over twenty five years since the start of the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984/85. We warned then that if our arguments for a role for coal in our energy requirements were not heeded then the country would pay a heavy price. Over twenty five years on we have been proved absolutely correct. Most of the nation’s collieries have been closed, we are now at the mercy of foreign importers and gas and oil prices are rocketing. Our own gas reserves have been depleted at an alarming rate as we have squandered them in massive quantities in gas-fired power stations when we could have used coal. At the same time we have been squandering our indigenous coal reserves, with which this nation was blessed, by sterilising them in closed coal mines. At the same time we have been squandering the talents of our skilled workforce by making them redundant. In the next few years we will have to import gas and oil from politically unstable or war torn regions of the world such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Equatorial, New Guinea in some cases through pipelines wide open to terrorist attack. We will present the compelling case for Britain’s coal industry more fully as the site develops and place the blame for a looming energy famine where it belongs, with those who have and are putting our energy needs in peril for purely political and vindictive reasons.