From the archive, 24 November 1931: Gallantry at Yorkshire pit disaster

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 24 November 1931

The inquest on 37 of the victims of the Bentley Colliery disaster was opened yesterday in the colliery offices. Forty-two men lost their lives in the disaster – 10 were brought out of the pit dead, 21 died in hospital, and five were not recovered from the pit, the affected section of which has now been sealed.

It was a sad procession of witnesses that came before the Coroner – widows, some of them, with seven or eight children, gave their evidence and were led away. The machinery at the mine was not working yesterday, and it stood out in gaunt relief against the murky sky. The scene was dreary and desolate. The men, who were wearing their Sunday clothes, came down the road mostly in twos and threes. Scarcely a word was spoken.

Mr. Carlile, in opening the proceedings, at once expressed sympathy with the relatives of the dead men. “We can only trust they will be given sufficient courage and strength to bear their loss and that the efforts of those who seek to provide for their welfare will meet with abundant success.” He paid a tribute to those who had worked so gallantly in trying to rescue the men. “It is always a matter of great satisfaction to know there are always plenty of men willing to risk their own lives to save the lives of others,” said Mr. Carlile.

Major Barber, one of the proprietors of the colliery, who himself played a courageous part in the rescue work, joined in the expression of sympathy. His voice was shaken with emotion, and he could hardly be heard as he paid a tribute to the workmates of the dead and the willing helpers who put forward almost superhuman efforts.

Mr. Phillips, general manager of the colliery, mentioned specially Mr. MacGregor, the agent, Mr. Longden, the manager, and those on the spot from the first.They risked everything. It was not a question of getting volunteers, but preventing them from taking unnecessary risks to rescue the men.”

Mr. Joseph Jones, secretary of the local branch of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association, brought to light another unknown hero of the disaster. “I should particularly like to mention Surveyor Temperley. Without rescue apparatus or anything to protect him, immediately he knew there were two men left and the likelihood that they might be alive, he dashed in and brought one out. This particularly courageous act stands out gloriously and shows the risks men were prepared to take.”

The funeral will take place about noon tomorrow. The long procession will pass through the streets of Doncaster and will be one of the most moving spectacles in the history of the town. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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