World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                      Ernest Jeffries


A Conscript Bevin Boy

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Ernest William Jeffries
Location of story: Abergwynfi and West Glamorgan (Wales)
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Ernest Jeffries.
I was born in the SE17 district of London and was working as a spectacle frame maker when I received my call up papers at the age of 18, in October 1944. I was devastated; I had dreamed of being in the desert army with General Montgomery.

To go abroad seemed a great adventure after training at Oakdale Colliery. I was sent to live with Mr and Mrs Davies, and to work in a pit in the next village called Glyncorrwg.
On my first say underground, I was put to work on the coalface as assistant hewer to Dai Edwards, aged 65 (tough as old boots).

He turned me from a boy into a man. It was a primitive pit, with pit ponies, no coal cutting equipment – just pickaxes, shovels, axes, saws and sledgehammers. There were no pithead baths and the pay was £3.00 for six shifts. Had it not been for Mrs’ Davies treating me like a son, I wouldn’t have survived.

In April of 1946, I obtained my discharge. I had worked conscientiously for eighteen months for the £3.00 each week. The war was over and coal miners were coming home from the services. Then I was promptly called up to serve in the army for two years. Sixty years later, with a feeling of nostalgia, I made a visit to Abergwynfi. With a stroke of luck, I was reunited with Mrs. Davies’ niece, Glenda Watkins whom I last saw as a three year old. Now of course, she’s a grandmother. I visited the graves of Mr & Mrs Davies, paid my respects then left Wales a happy man.

Looking back, I realise that I’d had a wonderful adventure. I survived the blitz (I had never been out of London before). Now working with real men, my life depended on, facing death every day underground and cutting a mineral that was formed millions of years ago, with the most primitive of tools. I’m sure I did my bit for king and country.