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1938 Disaster Reporting from the Sheffield Star

Researched by Local Historian Sandra Struggles:

Reproduced from  “Star” Newspaper May 1938 –

PART OF PIT SEALED OFF

Two hundred to three hundred men, comprising the day shift, who were about to descend the pit shaft were turned back at the pit-head when the terrible news reached the colliery management. The whole of these men would have been involved in the disaster had it occurred a few minutes later. They literally escaped death by minutes. The explosion occurred shortly before 6 o’clock, only a few minutes before a change of shift to relieve the night workers on duty below was about to take place. It is understood that about two hundred men were working on the night shift and were about to cease their work when the explosion occurred. It was early feared that the death roll would be large. Many of the injured were terribly burned or were suffering from the effects of gas, which is caused when explosions of this nature occur. With the heroism which characterises miners, men who would have been on the day shift immediately volunteered to descend the pit as rescue workers and an emergency rescue squad was formed from among these men.

CALL FOR RESCUE TEAMS

In the meantime the news was telephoned throughout the Derbyshire coalfield, and nine rescue teams from Chesterfield, Mansfield, Bolsover and from the Markham and Ireland Collieries rushed to the scene. The same pit was the one which was involved in a disaster eighteen months ago, seven men being killed outright in an explosion in January 1937. There were heartrending scenes in the pit yard, near the ambulance station where women and girls were waiting to learn news of their husbands, fathers and brothers who had gone to work on that ill-fated shift. The suspense for them was terrible, but they bore their ordeal stoically and stood pathetically trying to comfort one another and all the time hoping for the best. It is believed that the explosion originated on No. 2’s level. Appalling as is the catastrophe, it would have been of greater magnitude had it  occurred a little later. It happened between 5.30am and 6 o’clock when a sheet of flame flashed along the workings followed by a rumbling roar which shook the pit violently. The explosion was terrific. It wrecked the roof and the working stalls and sent to their doom a large number of men. It is stated that one of the first men to be rescued alive volunteered immediately to assist in the rescue work which he knew only too well was necessary.

40 CASES ADMITTED

At the pithead might be seen members of the rescue teams wearing their breathing apparatus. They had come up the pit after an arduous spell underground.