HC Deb 05 July 1937 vol 326 cc33-6
Colonel Wedgwood (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he can throw any light on the disaster at the Brymbo pit, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and the heroic deaths of the rescue party?

Captain Crookshank

It is with very great regret that I have to inform the House that 30 men lost their lives and two men are lying injured in hospital as a result of a fire and subsequent explosions that occurred on the morning of Friday, 2nd July, at the Holditch or Brymbo Colliery, Staffordshire.

At about 6 a.m. men were engaged on coal-cutting operations mid-way along a longwall face in the Four Foot Seam, about three-quarters of a mile from the pit bottom, when a fire broke out where the coal-cutter was working. The cause of the fire is at present not definitely known. All the men succeeded in withdrawing except two who were working at the return end of the face about 100 yards from the site of the fire. The management were immediately informed, and the

number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

manager and his assistant descended the pit about 6.45 a.m. after arranging for a rescue team to be sent. On reaching the pit bottom they felt the effects of an explosion, but proceeded inbye, and on the way met under-officials who told them that the two men already referred to were missing, and that a third man who had gone to help with the fire had been caught in the intake airway by the explosion. The party was unable to reach the face owing to falls of ground, smoke and gas, but started exploratory work. They were soon joined by Mr. John Cocks, joint managing director, and by other officials, but the face was still inaccessible, and further exploration was suspended pending the arrival of a rescue team.

The first rescue team got to work about 8 a.m. and efforts were made to find the missing men and to make preparations for sealing off the fire. Mr. Finney and Mr. Bloor, His Majesty's Inspectors of Mines, arrived at the pit at about 9 a.m., and, after interviewing the manager at the pit bottom, proceeded inbye. By 10 o'clock there were about 40 men in the district, comprising officials, rescue teams, inspectors, and men who had gone to build the stoppings, and at this moment another and far more serious explosion occurred, and 29 of the men who had gone in were killed or seriously injured, but a few, notably the members of a rescue team who were in the return airway, escaped unhurt.

Following the explosion, additional rescue teams went below ground and succeeded in recovering 10 of the seriously injured and in locating the bodies of those who had been killed. Of the injured, eight have, I regret to say, since died. Further attempts were made during the course of the afternoon to recover the bodies, and further explorations were made until about 8 p.m., when a conference was held by all the parties concerned, and it was decided that: 1. there cannot be in the district any persons still alive; 2. to attempt at this stage to recover the bodies of the dead would be to expose the rescuers to serious and unwarranted danger; 3. by allowing water to flow into the workings the fire would be extinguished, but access to bodies lying in the main crut and in the cross-crut will not be affected.

Flooding was accordingly put in hand.

The whole House will join with me in expressing our deep sympathy with all those on whom this disaster has brought such terrible grief and suffering.

Colonel Wedgwood

I desire to thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for his words of sympathy and appreciation of these brave men. They went down the pit to save their fellows, and Staffordshire

will never forget them. I want to put one question about the two inspectors of mines, Mr. Finney and Mr. Bloor. They went down, knowing perfectly well what the danger was. They went underground, as near as could be got to the fire, knowing that every yard they went they were getting nearer and nearer to death. They did far more than their duty. The standards of our fighting Services have been established by men like Sir Richard Grenville, the Guards at Inkerman, and Chard and Bromhead at Rorke's Drift. These two men, Finney and Bloor, have done as much or more for England and for the Civil Service, and I would like to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman that their services shall not be forgotten, that their sacrifice shall be remembered, and that it shall never be said that we forgot their dependants.