Heroism in the Mine – Thrilling Rescue at Cadeby Main Colliery

February 1906

Mexborough and Swinton Times February 17, 1906

Heroism in the Mine
Thrilling Rescue at Cadeby Main Colliery
Men Work with their Lives in their Hands to save a Buried Comrade

We are generally informed, in large type of the heroism of soldiers in time of war, and with scarcely less display of enthusiasm for their gallantry, of the noble deeds performed in times of peace by lifeboatmen, sailors and fishermen, when they risk their lives to succour those who are face-to-face with some of the peril of those who go down to the sea in ships.

It seldom happens moreover that we fail to learn of the gallantry of those landsmen heroes of peaceful times, the firefighters who are big cities, when, at imminent risk to themselves, they save the lives of those who are in danger from fire.

But we hear seldom, and then very little, of the bravery of the soldiers of industry engaged in dangerous occupations. Yet it is possibly true that in the mining industry more heroic deeds, involving gallant self-sacrifice and calling for courage and presence of mind performed in one week, than could be described in a year’s annals of bravery by field and flood.

Cadeby Main Colliery was on Friday the scene of a particularly brave rescue by colliers, and in circumstances of extreme difficulty and danger. A collier named Albert Maycock, about 10 o’clock in the morning, was engaged in building a “pack” to support the roof where the coal had been taken out, when a fall of several tons of roof occurred, completely burying him.

The noise quickly brought his mates on the scene, but Maycock was entirely hidden from sight, and as shouts failed to evoke any response, it was feared he was dead the bare chance of saving is life, however, was sufficient to induce the men to attempt a rescue, they commenced the terrible task of digging out their comrades without delay. Mr Eli Croxall, the deputy of the district, arrived at the spot soon after the accident, and directed the rescue operations.

The all place where the accident occurred was “on weight,” a technical term meaning that he was on the verge of falling in, and the rescuers worked at tremendous risk to themselves, not only of a further fall of roof, but of the banks on either side of the fall which had already occurred toppling over on top of them.

Before any attempt could be made to remove the fallen mass of debris the roof had to be timbered, and the sides shored up, but even with these precautions, while the rescuers worked they were frequently only just in time from being crushed themselves by smaller falls of roof.

It was well into the afternoon before the rescuers were in a position to begin to remove the debris. Then a muffled shout was heard, informing them that Maycock was still alive, and their exertions on his behalf were redoubled. All the rescuers should have gone out of the pit at 2 o’clock, the finish of the morning shift, but they worked on until 4.15 in the afternoon, when they succeeded in reaching their comrades, whom they got out alive and comparatively uninjured, notwithstanding he had been buried by more than 10 tons of rock and rubbish. This providential escape was due to the fact that a large stone, weighing itself nearly a ton, fell across some timbers, and prevented the remaining debris crushing him when knocked down. His legs, which were bruised but not broken had been pinned down under the fall, but his head and upper part of the body had lain in a clear space under the stone, which in some measure also enabled the air to get to him during his six hours imprisonment.

He was conscious all of the time, and able to hear the progress of the operations made by his mates for his rescue.

Mr H. S. Witty , the manager of Cadeby Main Colliery, in describing the rescue to our representative, said if ever there was a case of heroic behaviour in the mine, this was one, as the rescuers had their lives in their hands during the whole of the time they were working to clear away the tons of continuous falling debris, and it was not until they had taken the terrible race for several hours that they were sure was a man they were striving to rescue was alive or dead