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1947 William Pit disaster Whitehaven - ex Border deaths

PostPosted: Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:16 pm
by plbramham
On 15th August 1947, just two years after the end of the Second World War, 20 members of The Border Regiment Association were killed in The William Pit disaster at Whitehaven. Most of them had served in the 5th battalion and two had been awarded the Military Medal. The explosion happened at approximately 5.40pm and of 107 men trapped behind roof falls, 104 died within twenty minutes.

The regimental publication “The Border Magazine” (which was published twice yearly in March and September) records the names of the ex-Border men in its March 1948 edition:

V. McSherry 1st and 5th Bn; H. Shilton 1st Bn; J. Brannon 2nd Bn; J. Bridges 5th Bn; J. Barwise 5th Bn; J. Cartmell 5th & 7th Bn; J. Calvin 5th Bn; J.H. Doran M.M. 5th Bn; S. Devlin 7th Bn; R. Glossen 5th Bn; J.N. Garner 5th Bn; W.H. Lee M.M.5th Bn; J. Moore 5th Bn; J. Murray 5th Bn; F. Murdock 5th Bn; W. McMullen 5th Bn; S. O’Fee 5th Btn; W. Pilkinson 5th Bn; J.J. Renwick 5th Bn; & A. Raby 5th Bn.

(Being only 1947 it occurs to me that some of these men may have been Border Regiment soldiers in the First World War, as they could easily have been working miners aged in their late forties)

The Mines Inspector’s report stated: “On 15th Aug 1947 there was an explosion, firedamp propagated by coal dust, with ignition caused by shot firing in waste.”

This is the first account of the incident issued by Mr J.G.Helps, the National Coal Board Area General Manager, who was in charge of the operation:
“At approximately 5.40pm on Friday, an explosion occurred in William Pit. A hundred and twenty-one men (a figure later altered to 117) were in the pit at the time.
Of these, three men have come out of the pit and seven others are known to be safe and are assisting in the rescue work.
The Agent, (Mr.MacPherson) and the Colliery Manager (Mr. W.McAllister) are in the pit with the rescue teams and are endeavouring to travel along the main roadway of the working.
There are a number of large falls behind which the remainder of the men are trapped and it will be some time before they can be released. So far there is nothing to indicate the seat of the explosion or its cause”

A good website for the incident is: or there is a Pathe film clip: ... t-disaster