A1 and in the Pink – 100 years on

WWI as seen in the letters of Sgt GC Roberts MM of the 1/5th Welsh Regiment


March 2018

March 14th 1918 In the Field.

March 8th 1918 In the Field.

3rd/4th March 1918 In the Field


The Minnie Pit disaster was a coal mining accident that took place on 12 January 1918 in Halmer End, Staffordshire, in which 155 men and boys died. The disaster, which was caused by an explosion due to firedamp, is the worst ever recorded in the North Staffordshire Coalfield. An official investigation never established what caused the ignition of flammable gases in the pit.

On Saturday, 12 January 1918, 248 men were working underground when a huge explosion tore apart the Bullhurst and Banbury Seams. Within minutes 155 men died from the effects of the explosion, roof falls or inhaling poisonous gases. Rescue teams from across the North Staffordshire Coalfield were quickly mobilised to search for survivors. But during the rescue attempts, Hugh Doorbar, Captain of the Birchenwood Colliery No. 1 rescue team,was killed in the operation. His death brought the final death toll to 156.

The explosions caused severe damage to the underground workings. Large sections of the pit had collapsed and methane remained an ongoing problem. Search and recovery teams were at all times aware that further roof falls or explosions might occur. It took 12 months to recover all the bodies from the pit.

The disaster placed a huge strain on the mining community at Halmerend and its neighbouring villages because their livelihoods depended on the colliery and it related industries. With the First World War entering its fourth year, many families had now lost men at home on the Western Front. The Miners Federation Of Great Britain established a relief fund, 6s and 3d a week were collected from miners and boys at other pits around the country. Financial assistance came from other relief efforts. The Podmore company paid out compensation to bereaved families. Nevertheless, many families were forced into poverty due to loss of their main wage earners.

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