a keen schoolboy Warwick Taylor had signed up for the Air Training
Corps, and served three and a half years in preparation for joining
in 1943, aged 18, his number came up in a government ballot that
meant he was sent to work down a South Wales mine for two years.
Taylor has mixed feelings about his time at the South Wales colliery.
Taylor, now aged 77, was one of nearly 50,000 'Bevin Boys' called
up to help produce enough coal to keep the war effort going.
had wanted to be in the Air Force, then this wretched scheme came
along," said Mr Taylor, who lives in Dorset.
shortage of miners had resulted in desperate measures from the then
Minister of Labour and National Service Ernest Bevin.
the government failed to prevent experienced coal miners being called
up to serve in the armed forces, Bevin resorted to putting numbers
in a hat every two weeks and drawing out two digits.
I don't think, at the time, we really felt like we were making
men whose National Service Registration Number ended with that digit
were sent into coal mining, and any refusal to comply meant a heavy
fine or imprisonment.
was very fed up and cheesed off about it," said Mr Taylor,
who has an MBE and is vice president of the Bevin Boys Association.
appeals we made fell on deaf ears."
their work formed part of the Home Front effort, the celebrations
of which have this week been given a boost with lottery cash.
no experience of mining, the men were sent to one of 13 training
camps for four weeks.
Taylor and hundreds of others were put up in a purpose-built hostel.
first time we went down the mine was called our 'initiation drop'.
There was a regulation speed in mining of 30 feet per second. They
let us drop at 70 feet per second.
was horrible. I kept thinking the rope was going to snap."
group has regular regional and national reunions for old Bevin
eight hour shifts down the mine were physically demanding and mentally
men suffered from terrible claustrophobia and were discharged, he
Taylor had an illness of his own to contend with.
contracted double pneumonia three weeks into the training course.
sent me in a taxi to Newport hospital, and on the way the driver
said we had to pick someone else up.
young woman got in - she was in the final stages of labour. I couldn't
do anything because I was drifting in and out of consciousness."
six weeks in hospital and a life-saving dose of a new drug - penicillin
- Mr Taylor was sent back to the colliery where he stayed until
after the war ended.
played up a bit. I said I'd had enough because the war was finished
and we were still there.
said I had to complete my national service, so I eventually made
it into the RAF."
hindsight, says Mr Taylor, the part played by those who stayed in
the UK was a vital one.
don't think, at the time, we really felt like we were making a contribution,
but now I'm glad I went through what I did.
was an experience and it taught me a lot, especially about the miners."
work with the Bevin Boys Association has taken him around the country,
giving talks and holding reunions.
has also written a book on the subject, the Forgotten Conscript,
and it has helped him appreciate the fate that could have befallen
I was recovering in hospital from the pneumonia I was in a ward
with five other soldiers who had been critically injured in the
remember thinking that could have been the outcome for me."