On Saturday 11th November, our planned open day was unavoidably cancelled, so the Friends of Hemingfield Colliery and volunteers were not on site.
Nevertheless, we were cognisant of the date: Armistice Day, the end of the First World War, the so-called Great War. No town, village or community was left untouched. A generation removed, transported into foreign fields of battle, and lost, literally and figuratively.
Four villages united
On Saturday 3rd April 1926, Albert Wadsworth lifted a bugle to his lips to sound the Last Post. A crowd of people had gathered at Jump Cemetery from Hemingfield, Lundhill, Jump and Tingle Bridge to mark the unveiling and dedication of a War Memorial for the villages. Inspector William Huddlestone, M.C. of Sheffield unveiled the new memorial, a granite column, surrounded by laurel bushes.
Huddlestone was formerly a police constable at Jump, and a man who had served in South Africa. Addressing the assembly, he spoke of the names on the memorial, some of whom he had known personally, and some he had encountered in France.
He was joined by the Bishop of Sheffield, the Right Rev. Dr. Hedley Burrows (1857-1940) who was present to perform the religious dedication, joined by several other local clergy; Sydney Thomas George Smith (1867-1941), the rector of St Mary’s Wombwell; Rev Leonard Jeffrey Carter (1894-1962) and Rev Arthur Wilson (1866-1942) the then current and previous curates of St George’s Jump, together with Rev Lindsay Moore (1890-1926), the local Wesleyan minister .
The Bishop spoke movingly, of the significance of the memorial; he himself knew of the loss of war – his son having been killed in October 1915. A local reporter relayed his words:
“The memorial would afford comfort to the mourners, […] it would also indicate the hope and determination that there should be no more war.
War was a horrible thing, a mad thing, and every day because of the advance of science was becoming a madder thing. He could not imagine anything more horrible than the next war would be, and it was up to them to do all in their power to see that war in the future was made impossible.
Sheffield Daily Independent, Monday 5th April, p.6 column b
The memorial had been promoted by local groups, primarily the Jump British Legion (Women’s Section), with Miss Carrie Byford acting as secretary. Erected at a cost of £225, it was an unfortunate sign of the times that the balance had not quite been paid off a year later, due to the great coal stoppage of 1926.
Coal and Conflict
When the conflict broke out, there was great optimism, naive excitement for battle. Young miners of Yorkshire and throughout the country were drawn by the call to enlist, though this was tempered by the need to continue to produce coal to keep the industries of war, transportation and munitions going strong.
At a Special Conference of the Miners Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) held at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Southport, on Friday Nov 26 1915, Alderman House, Vice Chairman and delegate from Durham reflected on the situation at that time:
When the enlistment of miners arose, as most of you remember some time ago, there was what is known as Lord Derby’s scheme, there was a tremendous bustle in all parts of the country. Placards were posted at the pit heads, or large typed circulars, and each one went to show that when our men turned up for enrolment, or enlistment, or attestation, they were told they would go back to their work in the mines with armlets on.
Special Conference of the Miners Federation of Great Britain held at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Southport, on Friday Nov 26 1915, pp.10-11
7th Dec 1915 Chief Inspector of Mines Richard Redmayne addressed a letter to the secretary of the MFGB on reducing the frequency of payment of miners which reveals the challenges of war for industry when the administrative staff had been recruited. It also points, in its contemporary way, to the social changes to come:
You will be aware that clerical labour is not barred from being recruited, and it is not intended within the terms of the “Recruiting of Coal Miners” notice. As doubtless you know, the clerical staff at collieries has of late been very largely depleted owing to a great number of persons of military age having joined His Majesty’s Forces. Of course it is possible to substitute women clerks for men clerks in a great many instances, but in some cases it has been impressed upon me that this is not possible, more especially in outlying districts and at collieries which are some distance from towns, and where women clerks are not available or are inefficient.
p.10-11 Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, Executive Committee Meeting held at Westminster Palace Hotel, London on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, December 7th, 8th, and 9th 1915
Speaking just before the end of that war, Sir John Cadman reflected on the crisis of war and the critical value of coal as a fuel, the key to powering the fight:
Let me remind you that we are faced with an emergency to-day which is greater than any that has ever confronted us. I need not enlarge upon it, for you know the critical position we are in far better than I can tell you. It is our duty to ask ourselves the question: “How is this state of affairs to be met?”The real remedy can only be found by lifting the barrage and laying bare the truth – that coal is as vital and as essential a war commodity as men and rifles, and well-nigh as precious; in fact, coal may almost be looked upon as equivalent to human flesh and blood. By providing an abundance of coal, we can hurry forward the victory and save the lives of thousands of the splendid men who are fighting for us, and can permanently reap the fruits of victory which have been so dearly won. From the mine-manager to the pony-driver the country requires an almost superhuman effort this winter if the war is to be brought to a complete and satisfactory conclusion, and not drawn out with ever-increasing loss of human life. It is the duty of every man connected with a coal-mine today to do his level best to increase the output, and strive his hardest to maintain that increase, however great his personal sacrifice may be.
Sir John Cadman, Presidential Address, 4th November 1918 North Staffordshire Institute of Mining Engineers,Transactions of the Institution of Mining Engineers, Vol.LVI, Part 2, December 1918, pp.37-44, p.39
For those that served and died and fought and returned, for those at home and overseas, we remember you.