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Bevin Boys bid farewell
CHEERS: Members of the Southern Counties branch of the Bevin Boys Association hold their 70th anniversary reunion at the Hotel Miramar in Bournemouth.
MEMORIES spanning seven decades flooded back yesterday when the Bevin Boys reunited in Bournemouth for the last time.
The cliff-top Miramar Hotel provided the setting for a luncheon marking the 70th anniversary reunion of the Southern Counties Group.
But the nostalgic occasion was tinged with sadness for some of Britain’s “forgotten conscripts.”
Vice president and chairman Warwick Taylor MBE, 86, from Poundbury, Dorchester, said: “We’ve lost a lot of our members recently and this is our last official get-together. Organising the reunion has been a labour of love.”
The Bevin Boys were given their name after Minister for Labour Ernest Bevin introduced conscription into coal mining because of a severe shortage of miners who had gone into active service.
Some 48,000 young men were recruited, by ballot, with more men in the south entering the scheme than anywhere else in the country.
Widower Gerald Gibbs, 86, from Ensbury Park, Bournemouth, said: “I remember going down the pit as if it was yesterday. My father was a guardsman for the Queen and I wanted to follow in his footsteps and go into the army but I don’t have any bad memories of my four years down the mines. It’s a pity this is our last get-together.”
Keith Bunday, 86, from New Milton and Les Wilcock, 86, from Winchester worked down the same pit near Manchester in 1944.
They have kept in touch since meeting up again at a Bevin Boys’ reunion four years ago. Keith said: “It’s probably the last time we will see each other, which is sad, but we will still exchange Christmas cards.
“We didn’t recognise each other when we met up after all those years; when I last saw him Les had a mop of jet black hair. Seeing him is like taking a trip back in time.”
John Breeden, 86, from Havant, Hants, said: “Working down the mines was very scary; I still keep in touch with a Bevin Boy in Australia. These events bring back very happy memories.”