Bevin Boys

Bevin Boys were young British men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, between December 1943 and March 1948,[1] in order to increase the rate of coal production, which had declined through the early years of World War II.[2] The programme was named after Ernest Bevin, a former trade union official and then British Labour Party politician who was Minister of Labour and National Service in the wartime coalition government.[3]

Bevin Boys receiving training from an experienced miner at Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, February 1945

Chosen by lot as ten percent of all male conscripts aged 18–25, plus some volunteering as an alternative to military conscription, nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed vital and dangerous civil conscription service in coal mines. Although the last ballot took place in May 1945 (shortly before VE Day), the final conscripts were not released from service until March 1948. Few chose to remain working in the country's coal mining industry after demobilisation; most left for further education or for employment in other sectors.[4]

During their time at the mines, Bevin Boys were targets of abuse from the general public, who mistakenly believed them to be draft dodgers or cowards and they were frequently stopped by the police as possible deserters.[4] Unlike those who had served in the military, Bevin Boys were not awarded medals for their contribution to the war effort and official recognition by the British government was only conferred in 1995.[4]