The recent unveiling of a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, dedicated to those who worked in British coal mines during the Second World War, was another reminder of the often unsung sacrifices made during wartime. By late 1943 coal stocks were running low and in order to ensure that the war effort could still be fuelled, the Minister for Labour and National Service Ernest Bevin was charged to enhance the mining labour force.
Bevin decided that a ballot amongst men aged 18-25 would be the fairest and most sensible way of selecting miners, and that the selection group should be as wide as possible. As Lord President of the (Privy) Council, though, it was Clement Attlee, Deputy Prime Minister of the wartime coalition, who circulated the Cabinet memorandum that forwarded the idea (CAB 66/43/31). Ballotees would attend a four-week training session, after which they would work in mines, in physical roles supporting miners (they wouldn’t actually mine the coalface).