THE PRICE OF COAL….
I found this among some documents recently. I believe it was given to every man and boy who worked in the coal Industry during the Second World War. My own father was a Bevin Boy and all his brothers served overseas in the British Army and Merchant Navy.
All saw active service and some were seriously wounded at Dunkirk and further into Europe and beyond during the conflict, these men played a big part in my education as a young boy, I learned from those who had first-hand experience of both the physical cost of war and the mental onslaught of the propaganda from both sides.
It makes interesting reading.
A Message to British Pitmen
How the miner can beat Hitler.
Will Lawther’s Call to YOU
Dai Grenfell, M.P., one of yourselves, as Secretary for Mines, appeals as a Miner to Miners for two things.
1. Constant attendance at your work.
2. The utmost amount of coal that could be obtained when you are there.
There is no need for me to stress the urgent necessity for this twofold task. We are at war against the menace described by Alexis Nikolenko, President of the Don Bas Miners, U.S.S.R., at the Annual Conference of the Mineworkers’ Federation at Whitley Bay on July 12th, 1938.
“Fascism,” he told us, “attempts to destroy all democratic liberties and to establish a regime of medieval barbarity and oppression of the toiling masses… Before the eyes of the whole world the Fascists are destroying with impunity the peaceful people’s, are inhumanely annihilating hundreds of thousands of defenceless children. Women and the aged, are razing to the ground peaceful cities and villages and are destroying priceless values of world culture.
“The working-class of whatever country, including the Miners of Great Britain, must grasp the simple truth that they have no guarantee that to-morrow swarms of Fascist chasers and bombers will not bomb workers’ quarters.”
What he forecast has come to pass. Put into your language it means that the ideas, the force, the venom behind Hitler has brought tragedy and disaster to your fellow Miners in Germany, in Austria, in Czecho-Slovakia, in Poland, in Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and France. Trade Unions are wiped out, the Co-operative movement destroyed. All that they had built over the years of sacrifice, of striving, went out when these hordes of Nazi murderers entered their lives.
To-day the Miners of all these nations live in slavery. In their hour of need you helped them with money, with goods; you provided some of them with new homes overseas. Who amongst you can ever forget that human document issued in 1935 by Ebby Edwards, the General Secretary of the Mineworkers’ Federation? He described the unspeakable outrage committed by the Nazi’s when they did to death Fritz Husemann, President of of the Miners International, who’s only crime was that he had kept intact the German Miner’s Union. Because there may be one doubter amongst you as to what would be your fate if the Nazi’s ruled, read this carefully.
This is how Ebby Edwards described Husemann’s death:
“His faithfulness to the principles of our movement was punished by the Hitlerites giving him a continuous journey from one concentration camp to another. On his release a while ago, he was reported to have made known the inner and most secret methods of terrorisms employed at the Nazi concentration camps, and he continued to fight to secure compensation for miners, who because of their independence, had been dismissed by the forces of Dictatorship. For this spirit of sturdy independence he was called to answer before the ‘Gestapo’. During cross-examination he said openly that he would permit none to usurp his right of opinion. The night following his examination before the ‘Gestapo’ a number if Nazi’s penetrated into the apartment occupied by out comrade Husemann, and beat him until he lost consciousness. The family, on arrival the next day, were denied the right to see him. They were sent away, being told that Husemann had made his will, and that he did not wish to see his family any more. It is supposed that in the middle if the night Comrade Husemann was beaten to death, and that in order to veil the brutal murders, his body was transported to the Bordermoor concentration camp. A few days later the family was informed that Husemann had been ‘shot while endeavouring to escape’.
That was what the Nazis did to a German ex-soldier five years ago. You know that they have not improved. Like vultures they seek more and more to devour all they hate. By the very liberty we cherish, the freedom we possess, the priceless heritage of Trade Unionism that has been handed down to us, we must do all in our power to resist. The line of resistance that we have been called to occupy is to see that nothing is left undone to produce more and more coal.
There is not a man or boy employed in the pits who would not offer all he possessed if his mate was in danger, whether it was from a fall of stone or an explosion. Your only thought would be: “How can I help?”
Your fellow miners in the continent have been overwhelmed by an explosion, the likes of which no man had ever contemplated. The gangsters of Hitler have let loose a fire that they imagine cannot be quelled. Your brothers, your sons have faced it, are facing it with a spirit and devotion that has stirred mankind as nothing has in our history.
The nation asks you to respond with the same grim determination to conquer. Coal is more valuable than gold in to-day’s conflict. Those of us who are entrusted with your confidence, face to-day responsibilities that others have faced in other spheres of leadership.
We know what a wonderful response there has been. It must be kept up.
There is no question of two different sides in this industry to-day. Owner’s of pits, miners and officials are in one side. Hitler is on the other.
Action, as always, is the deciding factor in these struggles. You cannot get a road through stone except by blasting it out. You will not get rid of Hitlerism unless we have the stronger force. Coal is one of the most decisive factors towards that end.
We cannot, and will not allow anything to stand in the way of having more coal.
In the days before September 3rd, 1939, you passed resolution after resolution urging your Trade Unions to do all in their power to make a stand against aggression. You sent a message to the German Miners:
“We declare that we will preserve our right, free association, our Trade Unions and pledge our support in your efforts to win back such freedom in your own country.”
You rant that when you sent the message to the Germans. You mean it now, because you know of their plight. You know the strength that rests in your liberty and freedom of association.
Terrible and fearful responsibility hangs over those who run away from these declarations. It would be a betrayal of every promise you have made and your word would never again be trusted.
But Miners never do that.
All that the nations asks of you is to stick to your job. Do it to the utmost when you are there – which must be very available day. Practically all of you are exempt from military service to do that job properly. The nation has granted that exemption and regards you as doing soldiers work.
Do it thoroughly.
Your difficulties and dangers in the pit none will deny are great, but no one is bombing you or shooting you while you are at it.
My appeal I know will not go unanswered. It is to hew more coal, fill more coal until victory is ours and the gangsters are no more. We say with Francis Adams:
“Who is it that talks of defeat?
I tell you that a cause like ours
Is greater than defeat can know;
It is the power of powers!
As surely as the earth rolls round
As surely as the glorious sun
Follows the great world noon-wave
Must our cause be win.
What is defeat to us?-
Learn what a skirmish tells
While the great Army marches on
To storm earth’s Hells !”
President, Mineworkers Federation of Great Britain.