THE Bevin Boys were among the unsung heroes of the Second World War. With the then Minister of Labour, Ernest Bevin, ordering that young men be selected at random to mine coal for Britain’s war effort, many were wholly unsuited for the work and would have much preferred to serve in the Armed Forces.
As a result, the recruits often found themselves subjected to hostility down the pit, while above ground they were accused of cowardice by those who had no concept of the danger and hard work that the job of mining coal involved.
To this country’s shame, their treatment was only compounded after the war by the fact that they received no official recognition of their efforts.
The memorial dedicated yesterday to the Bevin Boys at the National Memorial Arboretum has gone some way towards rectifying this. Many will say, however, that it has come 70 years too late.