80 years on, the incident known as the Holditch Colliery mining disaster is being remembered yearly at North Staffordshire, England. That significant morning, July 2, 1937, will forever be remembered as a day of mourning. 30 lost souls perished in one of England’s most tragic mining accidents.
That day, 2 miners were left trapped underground because of a coalface fire. A total of 28 men set out to rescue them, and the story began.
A Rosy Future
The Holditch Colliery was also known by another name—the Brymbo Colliery—began its operations in 1912. It was only one of a number of mines located in Staffordshire and was also the biggest employer of men in Chesterton for a time. In addition to coal—which, in 1947, hit its biggest amount to around 400,000—the mine also yielded ironstone.
A Disaster Waiting to Happen
That fateful morning, Herman Payne and William Beardmore was working at around 5:45AM when one of them—Beardmore—noticed a flame was lit. It spread quickly along the coalface and, before both knew it, a wall of fire erupted. The two actually survived the initial spark as both managed to fled.
It was two other men—W.Hystead and Arthur Stanton—who were unaccounted for when miners were counted. Fearing the worst, the overman ordered stone dust to be dumped into the blazing inferno. It wasn’t effective; that was also the time when they noted the two men were missing.
The dayshift officials arrived on the scene after having been informed of the fire. Dayshift official H. Bentley called for John Hassell at the right hand gate. This was the first accident—an explosion left Bentley with burns while Hassell was unfortunately killed.
Blasts occurred as men worked against the clock to seal the mine and fight the erupting fires. At about 10:10 in the morning, a seventh blast happened followed by an eighth. This last blast proved deadly, as 30 men who had been working was killed on the spot with 8 suffering severe burns.
Rangers FC and Stoke City commemorates
The event reached as far as Scottish shores and, in an act of solidarity, Scottish football club Rangers FC decided to visit Stoke City. The team included George Brown and Moses McNeill. While the match ended goalless, it raised the needed £2,000 for the families of the lost miners. For their efforts, Rangers FC received a limited edition Loving Cup, one that belonged to a number that had been made to celebrate the silver Jubilee of King George V.
The event proved that men know no boundaries or bitter competition through sports. The Holditch Colliery disaster was instrumental in proving this, although the hope remains that no further accidents occur on such a magnitude as what happened there.