Bolton Remembers the War Logo
Roy Swannick - Bevin Boy
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Roy Swannick
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Roy Swannick

14 November 2005

Roy was born in 1926 in Criccieth, North Wales. He moved to Wargrave, Earlstown, near Warrington, and went to school at Newton le Willows. When he left school he worked on the railway and when war broke out he wanted to follow his family’s tradition of Naval service, having been in the Sea Cadets for five years. However, he then got his calling up papers to work as a Bevin Boy in the mines, and was sent to Ifton Colliery near Oswestry. He was demobbed in 1948 and went to work at Cleworth Colliery, and then at Gin Pit Colliery, Astley Green, until it closed in 1966. After that he worked as a gardener for the Council, retiring in 1982. Roy has lived in Bolton for forty years.

There were 50,000 Bevin Boys, who were conscripted to work in the mines rather than go into the armed services. They were, as Roy describes, the Forgotten Heroes, chosen at random for this vital but still largely unrecognized service.

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Unwillingly down the pit...

They sent me these calling up papers, and about a fortnight after I got the buff paper that come through the door saying that I had to go to the pit, so that were it then, all pit work. And we were called the World War Two Forgotten Heroes. After having signed up to go and fight for my country, a number was drawn at random by the Government Secretary. I was deemed to spend the rest of the war in the mines. We were named Bevin Boys after Ernest Bevin, the Minister of National Service and Labour. I felt I was missing out, because I had done five years in the Sea Cadets and trained on several naval ships. I wanted to follow my family's tradition of naval service, of forty years, but I had to go in the mine. You couldn't refuse, or you were sent in prison. So I went to Ifton colliery, my wage was 52 shilling a week, and my lodgings was 30 shilling a week, not much left to live on. I worked alongside vicar's sons, college students, all the time I were there. After all these years the government have decided to recognise us with a service medal. We had to pay for it ourselves! But servicemen released from the Army or the Navy or the Air Force had de-mob suits, paid leave and medals, we had nothing. The Bevin Boys were given no rewards at all, and all the information was destroyed in 1950.