The Bevin Boy’s Story

Researched by John Lumsdon
During W.W.2, the shortage of manpower in the mines resulted in the Ministry of Labour and National Service inaugurating a policy of drafting men of military age into the mines.

From July 1943, the draftees for the mines were chosen by ballot and a number of men already serving with the forces were given, and took the option of working in the mines.

The ballot consisted of Mr Bevin's secretary each month placing 10 digits into a hat and, for a period of approximately 20 months, two of these numbers were drawn out. All men whose National Service Registration Number ended with that digit were directed into coal mining without exception. Any refusal to comply with the direction would inevitably result in a heavy fine or possible imprisonment under the wartime Emergency Powers Act.

At the end of the war, in May 1945, the ballot ceased but the option remained open and a few hundred chose the mines. Discipline amongst the 45,000 men conscripted for the mines went into decline due to the disparities for demobilisation between them and the men in the armed forces.

With the ending of the order for prosecution of Bevin boys for non-attendance it became impractical to retain the compulsory labour force. It was gradually faded out over the three years after the war and in 1947- 48. 20,000 young men left the coal industry on the completion of their National Service. It was ironic that until the ending of National Service in 1960 many young men went into the mines to avoid serving with the armed forces.

As a keen schoolboy Warwick Taylor(above) had signed up for the Air Training Corps, and served three and a half years in preparation for joining the RAF. But in 1943, aged 18, his number came up in a government ballot that meant he was sent to work down a mine for two years.

Bevin Boys came to North Staffordshire from the whole range of classes and professions. No one was given preference and all were treated the same.

Were you a Bevin Boy, or were any men in your family Bevin Boys? Did you fall in love with a Bevin Boy? If so, we want to hear from you. .