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Alaska.
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Posts: 1404



Despite what many may believe about World War 2, preparations were under way to contend with it should it happen. The Army and  the Airforce were building up supplies and strength, and the Royal Navy were building ships. This topic is about one arm of the navy, The Submarine Service. In 1938, a new class of boat was under construction, the T-Class. 268 feet long, and displacing over 1,575 tonnes, they were the largest boats built to date, and were designed to be crewed by 59 Officers and men. The latest one to be completed, by Cammel Laird, with the code number N25, arrived at Liverpool in May 1939, for her sea trials. The Navy had already assigned the boat a name, HMS Thetis, and a full naval crew had quietly settled in to begin the trials. Her diving tests were due to start on 1st June, and as she steamed out into Liverpool Bay, with a tug in attendence, no problems were expected.


Although in overall control, her Captain, Lt Commander Guy H Bolus, was very much in still in the hands of the Cammel's dockyard personel, Vickers engineers, and the Mersey Pilot, who had sailed for the trials. In total, including 2 caterers, there were an additional 44 men aboard, bringing the complement up to 103. Ordering the Tug, Grebecock, to keep clear, the boat began a dive. She refused to go down, which was not altogether a surprise, as she was not fully loaded with stores. Making some adjustments, her Captain tried again, and this time was partly successful. Steaming on to a point 38 miles from Liverpool, and 15 miles off the Welsh Coast, with no other vessels in sight, another dive was attempted. She did not go under, so in a fairly standard manouver, Bolus ordered some of the Torpedo Tubes to be flooded. This action was not entirely successful, and suspecting that one tube had failed to flood, a valve on the tube hatch was opened to check for water. Nothing came out, and assuming the outer tube door had jammed, the hatch was opened. The valve was faulty, it was fouled with paint, and now a huge rush of water, from Liverpool Bay, began to flood the compartment. There was no panic, the Torpedo room crew, simple retreated to the next compartment and closed the inner hatch. This hatch also failed to work, and the men from both sections were now forced to clamber into the next one, where the hatch this time was firmly closed. Thetis, now with two bow sections flooded began, to go down at a steep angle, Commander Bolus, with great presense of mind, ordered the blowing of all the boats ballast tanks. The submarines bow struck the bottom, 150 feet below, leaving 18 feet of the stern above the surface. The nearest escape hatch, was just 20 feet below the surface, but following standard practice, it was not used until the vessel had been located, and help was at hand. They all sat back and waited.


The surface tug, for some reason, had by now, lost track of the Submarine. It was some hours before a signal was sent, that contact had been lost. Despite the boats stern being above the surface, because of poor light conditions, it took over 17 hours, for the Destroyer " Brazen " to find the stricken Submarine. Normally, this would not have been too much of a problem, but with only an emergency supply of air for just 24 hours, the extra men on board used it up at twice the rate. They were in a desperate plight when the boat was found. With rescue ships now on hand, Commander Bolus sent through the escape hatch, a stoker named Oram, and one of his officers, Lieutenant Frederick Woods, to report on the boats condition, and to warn them he was sending the men up as quickly as he could. The stern of the boat was secured by howser to two tugs. The next attempt at escape involved four men, for time was running out, but something went drasticaly wrong for they arrived on the surface dead. All of them drowned. Bolus was informed of this, and the next attempt was made by just two men. How they were selected isn't known, but William Arnold, and Frederick Shaw, were the last to leave and survive the ordeal. On the next attempt, the hatches failed, and the rear of the boat began to flood. The tugs were forced to cast off the howsers, and Thetis sank beneath the waves, her remaing complement of 99 men now trapped and doomed to die. The poor air, further compressed by the pressure of the incoming water, would prove to be deadly. Bad weather follwed, making any attempt at salvage impossible, and it wasn't until 24th August that work began. There was another death, almost immediately, a diver, Petty Officer Henry Perdue, died after contacting the bends. The Submarine was finally beached near Moelfre, Anglesey, at Red Wharfe Bay, on the 10th September, and the grisley task of recovering the bodies began. 66 bodies had been removed, when the poisonous air in the boat became too much for the rescuers. Plans had already made though, and the call for specialist help went out to the Mines Rescue Team, at Cannock.


The team comprised 6 men, all trained to the highest level of Mines rescue, and far more used to the conditions to be found inside the boat, than the Navy men. It was a difficult, and very dangerous operation, working in the dark and in confined spaces, wearing breathing equipment. The recover operation took 68 days, there was a complete news blackout on the event, and not one of the Miners were ever rewarded, or recognised for their efforts. The War intervened a few months later, the men would have to wait, even for a handshake from the Admiralty big wigs. Not quite the end of the story though, because the Submarine was refloated, overhauled, and given a new name, Thunderbolt. It's not known if any of the new crew knew about her past history, but it's a bit unlikely that some of them didn't have at least a hint. Sent to the Mediterrean to join the 3rd Submarine Flottilla, she had a good start, and was doing well untill her 6th Patrol. Suffering heavy damage during a depth charge attack, she sank in over 3,000 feet of water, never to surface again. The only Submarine to sink twice, she cost the lives of 152 Officers and men, in total. There's a memorial to the first tragedy in Holyhead, which does not include her Commander, as he instructed in his will, Lieutenent Commander Guy H Bolus, was buried at sea.


The men who formed the Mine rescue team, went on, some years later, to win the National Award in a rescue competition. Their names are listed below.

Thomas Forsyth, who worked at the Brereton Colliery, and was the team leader.

Charles Holgate, who worked at the Mid Cannock Colliery, the second man in charge.

Jack Calow, who worked at the West Cannock No 2 Colliery.

Harry Wall, who worked at the Conduit Colliery.

Leslie Hayden, who worked at the Cannock and Rugeley Colliery.

Harry Saffhill, who worked at the Cannock and Leacroft Colliery.

There are three photographs in the Gallery, showing the rescue attempt, the beached Sub, and the Mine rescue team, should anyone be interested.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 13, 2011 at 4:40 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Cannock Chase, a part of South Staffordshire, 28 square miles in total, full of interesting plants and wildlife. The former hunting grounds of Lords, large tracts of it ended up as the property of the Bishops of Lichfield, who, around 1500, commenced a lucrative business, Coal Mining. In truth though, small scale mining had started way back in 1298, and quite possibly, long before that. The earliest recorded name was Beaudesert Park, where, in 1546, several coal pits belonging to the Bishops were established. As thye years rolled by, more pits came into being, New Hay and Red Moor, three mines at Cannock Wood, and the first mine at Hednesford, in 1603. Mines producing Ironstone and Coal were recorded at Cheslyn Hay, and Great Wryley, and were expanded by Lord Paget in 1688. Cannock Wood was a very productive area, with new shafts being sunk in 1775, and William Gilpon, who owned a local Ironworks, opened his own pit at Mill Walk, around 1816. Lord Hatherton sank a shaft at Romer Hill in 1832, which lasted until 1858, having reached a depth of 220 feet. Private ownership of most mines ceased around 1850, with the formation of the Cannock Chase Colliery Company, which was followed by both the East and West Cannock Colliery Companies. Expansion was it seemed, never ending, as first the Uxbridge opened at Chase Terrace, then pits at Rawnsley, Heath Hayes, and Pye Green. From 1872, Wimblebury, Mid Cannock, and Pool Pits all started to produce coal, and the areas overall tonnage leapt up. The Coppice, in 1894 at Heath Hayes, was followed by Wryle No 3, and then one of the better known ones, The Littleton Colliery, in 1899. This would become one of the deepest, at 1,694 feet, and also the last to close, in 1993. Some areas of the Chase still bear witness to the many mines that pitted the landscape, old spoil heaps, now overgrown, and a few rusty old warning signs can be also be seen. The area has provided jobs for many, both from the local towns and village's, and from parts of the Black Country, where the old mines had already closed down. Ther have of course, been many deaths as well, the worst being the 14 men killed in an explosion at the Grove Colliery, on the 1st October, 1930. ( See Topic; Mining, a dangerous job ) The last one was on 16th May, 1933, another expolsion, that killed six men. Back in 1911, at the Old Hednesford Colliery, an underground fire killed 5 miners. It was probably caused, by a young lad, who, having filled his Parrafin Lamp, discarded the used and still smouldering wick, on the floor of the shed at the bottom of the shaft. ( The Lamps, yes, they were still using naked flames, were used to light up the area for loading and unloading tubs from the cage ) 156 men in the mine all got out safely, one died from suffocation on the way out, and the other four stayed at the coal face, believing they would be alright. The fire raged for two days, the first body came up on the third day, but it took six days before the rest could be removed. Just out of interest, the names are below.


William Reeves, 48, Thomas Stokes, 41, Jacob Ward, 49, William Baugh, 28, and William Bradbury, 19.


What is really sad, is that if they had followed Henry Merritt, the Shot Firer, they would, in all likihood have survived the fire. It must have been a sad day, when the Littleton Colliery wound up its last miners, bringing, as it did, an end to over 600 years of mining on Cannock Chase. Still, its given the more suggestable of the population a new hobby, Big Cat/ Big Foot/ U.F.O/ and Warewolf followers, something to do.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 8, 2013 at 11:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

I have been asked for a list of Cannock Collieries between W.W.I, and W.W.2. This part of the South Staffordshire Coal Field, spreads out some distance, and of course, has a longer history than the Black Country. Where to start, thats the problem, for what some concider to be the limit of the field, others disagree. Very much like the Black Country discussion. Essington, north of Wednesfield, had a good supply of coal, hence the building of the Canal that linked many other places. The mine that springs to mind, is the Holly Bank Colliery, in reallity, a series of shafts, that over time, evolved into just the one pit. Cheslyn Hay had two working pits during the period, Great Wyrley Colliery, and one operated by the Walsall firm of Hawkins and Son.  There were a couple in Norton Canes, although after W.W.1, only the Conduit Colliery was still working. Maybe someone can pin point the location of the next three, Cannock Chase, Cannock Chase and Leacroft, and Coppice Collieries,although I suspect the last one was near Brownhills. The whole area around here and Hednesford, was also a busy mining area, but between the Wars, I could only find East Cannock, and West Cannock Collieries, and Cannock and Rugeley Collieries producing coal. Brereton Colliery, Rugeley, was also listed as working in the 1930s, as was the Walsall Wood Colliery, and a company called William Harrison were operating around Brownhills, but there's no mention of a Colliery name. The same company may have also worked the Broad Lane Colliery, Bloxwich, but once again, no name mentioned. At the extreme south of the coal field was the Aldridge Colliery, which had been established in 1874, and may have closed just before the second World War. Some of these mines went on to have different names attached, as they expanded after the war ended, and others were closed as being commercially uneconomical. If anyone wishes to add to the list, please let me know.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 4, 2013 at 11:19 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Pedro
Member
Posts: 25

Alaska. at January 8, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Cannock Chase, a part of South Staffordshire, 28 square miles in total, full of interesting plants and wildlife. The former hunting grounds of Lords, large tracts of it ended up as the property of the Bishops of Lichfield, who, around 1500, commenced a lucrative business, Coal Mining. In truth though, small scale mining had started way back in 1298, and quite possibly, long before that. The earliest recorded name was Beaudesert Park, where, in 1546, several coal pits belonging to the Bishops were established. As thye years rolled by, more pits came into being, New Hay and Red Moor, three mines at Cannock Wood, and the first mine at Hednesford, in 1603. Mines producing Ironstone and Coal were recorded at Cheslyn Hay, and Great Wryley, and were expanded by Lord Paget in 1688. Cannock Wood was a very productive area, with new shafts being sunk in 1775, and William Gilpon, who owned a local Ironworks, opened his own pit at Mill Walk, around 1816. Lord Hatherton sank a shaft at Romer Hill in 1832, which lasted until 1858, having reached a depth of 220 feet. Private ownership of most mines ceased around 1850, with the formation of the Cannock Chase Colliery Company, which was followed by both the East and West Cannock Colliery Companies. Expansion was it seemed, never ending, as first the Uxbridge opened at Chase Terrace, then pits at Rawnsley, Heath Hayes, and Pye Green. From 1872, Wimblebury, Mid Cannock, and Pool Pits all started to produce coal, and the areas overall tonnage leapt up. The Coppice, in 1894 at Heath Hayes, was followed by Wryle No 3, and then one of the better known ones, The Littleton Colliery, in 1899. This would become one of the deepest, at 1,694 feet, and also the last to close, in 1993. Some areas of the Chase still bear witness to the many mines that pitted the landscape, old spoil heaps, now overgrown, and a few rusty old warning signs can be also be seen. The area has provided jobs for many, both from the local towns and village's, and from parts of the Black Country, where the old mines had already closed down. Ther have of course, been many deaths as well, the worst being the 14 men killed in an explosion at the Grove Colliery, on the 1st October, 1930. ( See Topic; Mining, a dangerous job ) The last one was on 16th May, 1933, another expolsion, that killed six men. Back in 1911, at the Old Hednesford Colliery, an underground fire killed 5 miners. It was probably caused, by a young lad, who, having filled his Parrafin Lamp, discarded the used and still smouldering wick, on the floor of the shed at the bottom of the shaft. ( The Lamps, yes, they were still using naked flames, were used to light up the area for loading and unloading tubs from the cage ) 156 men in the mine all got out safely, one died from suffocation on the way out, and the other four stayed at the coal face, believing they would be alright. The fire raged for two days, the first body came up on the third day, but it took six days before the rest could be removed. Just out of interest, the names are below.


William Reeves, 48, Thomas Stokes, 41, Jacob Ward, 49, William Baugh, 28, and William Bradbury, 19.


What is really sad, is that if they had followed Henry Merritt, the Shot Firer, they would, in all likihood have survived the fire. It must have been a sad day, when the Littleton Colliery wound up its last miners, bringing, as it did, an end to over 600 years of mining on Cannock Chase. Still, its given the more suggestable of the population a new hobby, Big Cat/ Big Foot/ U.F.O/ and Warewolf followers, something to do.

I was interested to know more about Thomas Stokes and the Old Hednesford Pit disaster that occurred in December of 1911. My first port of call was the 'definative' book of the Cannock Chase coalfields published by the Cannock Chase Mining Historical Society. This gives a limited description of the accident and there is no mention of Thomas Stokes who died, and who along with Henry Merritt, received the Edward Medal and a Carniegie certificate.

 

A much more detailed account can be found from the Coal Mining Resource Centre (p 4) here...

 

http://www.cmhrc.co.uk/cms/document/1911_13.pdf

 

 

At the end of the description it is stated...

....The actual cause of ignition was not determined but it was thought that it had been caused by a smouldering lamp wick or snufter from the lamp of one of the lads employed at the pit bottom having fallen on the saturated floor. The cabin had been built with considerable care with brick walls and irons plates on which to stand the oil cans but the inspector thought that it was inadvisable to position it where it was. Mr. Hugh Johnstone (Mines Inspector) also commented-

 

“I am also of the opinion that if the fan had been stopped and the separation doors opened immediately the alarm had been raised, the fire would not had assumed the proportions that it did it could have been dealt with before it reached either of the shafts and that the men in the pit could have been brought out without loss of life.”

 

If you read the press report of the Inquest a few further relavent facts are stated. Firstly that it seemed common practice for the boys to throw their wicks on the floor, or at least it was well known. Secondly that a fire originating at the downcast shaft is a "most dangerous one", and therefore there was a question of the siting of the shukey. Thirdly Proffessor Cadman praised the man who opened the separation doors saying that it was entirely the right thing to do.

 

The Jury recommended that a man should be placed in entire charge of the shukey house, and sand ready for use in an emergency.

 

(I posted an article on Thomas Stokes that can be seen here...

 

http://brownhillsbob.com/2015/05/17/thomas-stokes-unsung-hero-of-the-old-hednesford-pit-disaster/

 

And a follow up here...

 

http://brownhillsbob.com/2015/07/23/the-old-hednesford-pit-disaster-a-question-of-merrit/

 

November 22, 2015 at 2:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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