During WW2, coal was one of the most needed ressource for the war effort. To ensure a regular supply of the ressource, did Great Britain forced its workers in the coal mine ?

I ask this here because I remenber they did, but i can't find any source, or no one talking to this. I remenber more or less of 500 000 workers for a period from 1940 - 1948

  • @sempaiscuba Thank you, that's what i was looking for, i just didn't have the correct name. (And I have overestimated the number of worker) Jul 31, 2018 at 7:37

1 Answer 1


Bevin Boys were young British men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, between December 1943 and March 1948. Chosen by lot as ten percent of all male conscripts aged 18–25, plus some volunteering as an alternative to military conscription, nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed vital and dangerous, but largely unrecognised service in coal mines. Many of them were not released from service until well over two years after the Second World War ended.

At the beginning of the war the Government, underestimating the value of strong younger coal miners, conscripted them into the armed forces. By mid-1943 the coal mines had lost 36,000 workers, and they were generally not replaced, because other likely young men were also being conscripted to the armed forces. The government made a plea to men liable to conscription, asking them to volunteer to work in the mines, instead, but few responded, and the manpower shortage continued.


Note that not all British coal mines would have been in England. Some would have been in other UK countries.

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    I was under the impression most of the coal mines were in Wales, but I haven't looked into it.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 31, 2018 at 13:57
  • @T.E.D. Neither had I. But en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_mining_in_the_United_Kingdom has a 1904 map that may be relevant. Jul 31, 2018 at 14:26
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    @T.E.D. There were several collieries in East Kent (Betteshanger, Chislet, Tilmanstone come to mind) and, the quality of the coal was high so it was preferred for the power stations so it was transported to those, while coarser or lower quality was brought down from the North or Wales for heating in houses...
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 31, 2018 at 15:35
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    In the 1940s South Wales was a major coal mining area but there were many other important exploited coal fields in England, especially in the North and Midlands but also elsewhere including Kent in the south-east, and in a belt stretching across Scotland. Britain's abundance of coal was probably one of the reasons it had a head start in the industrial revolution in the age of steam power.
    – Timothy
    Aug 1, 2018 at 18:43
  • @Timothy: In (the first half of) Road to Wiggan Pier (1937) George Orwell discusses the location of various coal districts still active in England. My copy is not at hand just now for reference. Aug 1, 2018 at 22:26

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