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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Guarding the Coal

by sonofREME

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Herbert Chester
Location of story: 
Prince of Wales Colliery Pontefract
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 November 2003

My father was born with poor eye sight in his right eye. This meant he could not follow the family tradition and join up as a regular , his eyes even stopped him from becoming a 'terrier' like a lot of his mates. In 1939 many of his friends were immediately called up and shipped out to the first or second Btl's of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He had again hoped to join the TA but was again turned down because of his eyes. He was left behind to carry on working at the pit where he work on the pit top on the screens where the coal is sorted and washed.

His mother was quite glad he had poor eyes as she had lost 5 members of her own family including her first husband in WW1. My dad was not so pleased and when offerred the chance to guard the pit he and one of his mates willingly agreed.

He had to report at 10.00 pm each night to do guard duty after a long day on the screens.

As weapons they were given the choice of an old .22 air rifle and a new pick axe handle. My dad chose the pick axe handle reasoning he knew how to swing that.

One night the sirens went and aircraft flew over. As they went round the pit yard they heard a scuffling from behind an old shed.

Quaking in their boots thinking it was a german paratrooper loaded up with tommy gun and grenades they crept up on the shed and jumped 6 feet as a cat screeched at them and ran off. They ran in the other direction to the lamp room . Living up to the Home Guard epithet .. LDV Look Duck and Vanish.

A few months later he received his call up papers and after many adventures he found himself moved from his original posting to the Pioneer Corp to the REME.

He always talked of the good times, but not the bad.

On another occassion he was given the task of emptying a ten ton coal truck on Portsmouth Dockyard. He was given a shovel and told to get on with it by the orderly sargent. Dad set to willingly and soon got into his old rythm as this was something he was used to. The orderly sargent came back about two hours later to find dad sitting down on the job and commenced to give him an earful. He then looked in the wagon to find it empty. How did you do that he asked . My dad said he was feeling homesick and the coal reminded him of home. He was told the job was supposed to last all day so he'd better make himself scarce
for the rest of the day and to keep his mouth shut. Which dad did in the local pub.

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