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Interview with Roy Swannick - 14 November 2005
Roy William Swannick.
A place called
Criccieth, North Wales
When I was two month old.
A place called Wargrave, near Earlestown.
Round about, yeah.
I worked on the railway.
'Til I got my calling up papers.
I were 18 at the time.
Well, what happened was, 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.
I went to the pit, Cleworth Hall and I stopped there ‘til it closed in nineteen... I can't remember when that closed, but from there I went to Gin Pit colliery as a stoker, and I stayed there until it closed down in 1966.
I worked on the Council, gardening, and I retired in 1982, through illness. I'm still ill.
Yeah, on top.
Yeah. But they used to say it took six Bevin Boys to make a miner.
(laughs) No, no. It were hard work, especially when you'd never been down the pit before.
Yeah, oh yeah.
We used to catch a bus, six o'clock in the morning to get to Ifton colliery, and we used to be going down about half past six. And we used to be going home in the dark and going to work in the dark, sometimes. A job I didn't like.
No, couldn't do anything about it. Either that or imprisonment! Better be down the pit! (laughs)
Well, yeah, I mean, I weren't the only one. There were 50,000 of us. I mean, they didn't want to go down the pits. But what happened, they took all the pit men in the Army, you see, so that's why the Ministry of Labour did that.
There were four, four of us together. But where I lived in Oswestry I think there were about ten Bevin Boys living in Oswestry, the others were round Chirk Green area.
He were, yeah, aye Natty, aye.
He did, yeah. He'd probably tell a few tales.
No, not really, no.
Yeah, they used to pay us in cocoa tins. Money was in a cocoa tin, empty it out like that, what a shock.
Fifty two shilling a week.
No you had to go queue up at a window. They'd shout your number out and they'd give you this tin with this money in like, you know. (laughs)
Yeah, that's only place I got get a job, you see, there. So I worked there, Cleworth.
It were yeah. The only bomb I heard were in Wargrave and I sat on a school wall, and then it went off with a bang.
I think you could come home about once every five week or something like that, but you had to pay your own way.
Nothing, no, you had to get your own, aye.
Oh, I've no idea.
Oh a lot more yes.
I suppose that they were paying us Army rate.
No, really speaking, I reckon it should have been more money and a leave, like they used to have, like in the Army, you know, paid leave. Nothing like that
Yeah, well Brian Clare said yesterday: ‘Swanky medals.' I said , ‘That cost me £116' ‘Never' he said, ‘The skinny buggers!' They should have done something about it shouldn't they? After all this time. I mean, Land Army, they've never had nothing, and they were all doing like a national service weren't they?
No, it was a few miles away.
Yeah, I lived with a Mrs Cheeseman, it were somewhere near the bridge as you go into Oswestry, the railway bridge, and yet I'd all relations in Oswestry and I'd never go and live with them.
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