Long awaited Miners tribute unveiled at National Memorial Arboretum

The legacy of the Senghenydd coal explosion is still felt by many in Wales today Rupert Evelyn reports

On October 14 1913 Britain suffered its worst mining disaster when 439 people died in an explosion at the Senghenydd coal pit, over 100 years later the legacy of the disaster is still felt by residents of the Welsh valleys.

The mine near Caerphilly has been out of operation for decades but the impact of the coal industry had on the area can still be felt.

Both of Hillary Barbrook's grandfathers died in the explosion.

She said: "We should never ever forget, 439 people is a lot of people to have died in such a small community.

Members of the Lea Hall & Brereton Collieries Memorial Society observe the National Miners' Memorial. Credit: PA

"Every house in the valley had three to four bodies waiting in their houses to be buried."

On Friday miners were awarded a place at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire alongside tributes to Britain's armed forces and important members of civic life.

Designed by artist Andy DeComyn, the £100,000 memorial was unveiled on Friday at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, near Burton-on-Trent, by the Duke of Gloucester.

Among the specially-commissioned bronzes which form a frieze around the memorial are ones depicting members of the Mines Rescue Service, pit ponies, and so-called Bevin Boys who were conscripted to work in UK coal mines during and after World War Two.

The National Miners' Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum. Credit: AP

Speaking at the unveiling, Chaps member Len Prince, a former miner, said it was “only fitting” that the miners’ memorial was near those honouring the RAF Regiment and an Army artillery regiment.

Mr Prince said: “The Industrial Revolution was bought on the backs of the hard work of miners.

“Men women and children worked in coal mines up until 1842. Then they changed the law so that women, girls and boys under 10 could not work in the coal mines.

The Duke of Gloucester revealed the tribute to the mining community. Credit: PA

“In the First World War, half a million miners volunteered to fight and a lot of them were sent digging trenches, but a proportion of them were sent tunnelling under the German lines.

“It was top secret work and one of the most dangerous things you could do – so the memorial has got plaques representing that.”