Home Office Inquiry Into the Cadey Disaster – Monday Morning

August 1912

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 10 August 1912

Lessons of Cadeby.

Details of Home Office Inquiry into the Disaster.

An Extraordinary Pit.

Fifty-Six Fires at Denaby and Cadeby.

Great Engineering Difficulties.

A Tremendous Flame.

The Gob Fire Problem.

Suggested Solutions.

Rising Menace to Doncaster Coal Field.

Important Statements by Mr. W. H. Chambers.

Attempt to Recover Bodies this Week-End.

Killing Fire by Inert Gas.

An Ingenious Scheme.

Interesting Examinations by Miners’ Leader.

Full Report.

With the promised Home Office inquiry commencing at the Doncaster Guildhall on Monday, we come to the concluding bulge of the aftermath which followed the dreadful Cadeby Main disaster of July 9th, when 87 men were killed in two “gob ” fire explosions.

The inquiry started out with the premise that the explosions were caused by the ignition of gas at a “gob” fire and for several days Mr. R. A. S. Redmayne, H.N. Chief Inspector of Mines, has been pursuing diligent inquiry into the cause of this, and “gob” fires in general. Much of the scope of his enquiry, in the way of witness’s stories of scenes after the explosions, has already been covered by the Coroner’s inquest, fully reported two weeks ago in this journal and much of his research involved tedious examinations as to the positions and condition of the stopping., and other matters of detail with which the public are not immediately concerned.

Nevertheless, a close and searching inquiry has brought to light many interesting and even startling facts in connection with the calamity at Cadeby, which will be of value to mining engineers and students throughout the country, and to communities generally. There has, indeed, been a rich yield of experience from these investigations.

Mr. Redmayne was assisted by Mr. Beale (of Beale and Co., Birmingham), who has been appointed legal assessor for the purpose of the inquiry; and by H.M. Inspectors of Mines, Mr. J. R. R. Wilson, of Leeds and Mr. G. Poole, of Doncaster.

The Miners’ Federation of Great Britain was represented by Mr. R. Smillie (vice-president of the Federation, and also President of the Scottish Federation), and by Mr. Vernon Hartshorne (South Wales). The Yorkshire Miners’ Assosiation was represented by Mr. Herbert Smith. CC. of  Castleford (president), The Denaby and Cadeby Colliery Company was represented by Mr. W. M. Gichard, of Rotherham (solicitor), Mr. W. H. Chambers (managing director), Mr. G. Wilkie (secretary) and Mr. H. S. Witty (agent).

Mr. I. Chapman, of Manchester, watched the proceedings on behalf of the accident offices.

Details of Pit Workings

The first witness, Mr. S. J. Bridges, underground manager of Cadeby Main, occupied the Court the whole of the morning with his evidence.

Mr. Bridges said he was appointed underground manager six years ago last December, and he had charge of the whole of the work down the pit under the manager, Mr. Charles Bury, now deceased.

The colliery worked only one seam of coal, the Barnsley bed, which was there found at a thickness of six feet six inches. The top coal was inferior, and mixed with dirt, and they filled the top coal out of the “waste” as it broke down. The seam was 750 yards down from the surface, and dipped to the south-west at the rate of two and a half to three inches to the yard. The method of working was the’ long-wall system. The pack walls were seven feet six on either side the “gate.” and the “gob-packs” six feet. The material used for the “gob packs” was stone from the “waste” and from the “ribbing” in the gates. There was another seam of coal in the vicinity of the Barnsley bed, and that was forty feet up.

Mr. Redmayne: Would you call it a good roof?—Well, it is rather tender, but it is fairly good.

The pit is divided into how many main districts ?—Five—l and 2 North, East, South, and West.

The district in which the explosion happened is the South ?—Yes.

 The Dust Question

Witness stated further that the south district extended 1.100 yards from the shaft, and proceeded to explain in detail the system of haulage prevailing in the district.

Mr. Redmayne: What do you adopt for laying the dust?—Cleaning it up by shovelling it.

Is there very much dust made—No. not very much.

Witness went on to explain that the south district had been primarily driven through coal, and was now being driven through stone. There was practically no coal dust from the screens, for they had adopted means to prevent it.

Mr. Redmayne: Therefore the only dust there is would be from the tubs, plus the dust from the crushed-up stone—Yes. I think so.

Would you call it a “stony” dust or “coaly” dust?—A “stony” dust.

Mr. Redmayne: I might say I am having an analysis of this dust made in order to get at the percentages of stone andcoal. The sample was taken after the explosion, but still it may be of some assistance.

Witness, with the aid of a plan which was exhibited in the court-room, proceeded to describe the positions of the faults which cut the coal face at intervals. Answering the Inspector, he said they had not been much troubled with gas in that district. Dealing with the ventilation, he said the current of air lowed into the south plane at the rats of 18,000 or 20,000 feet per minute, of which half went into the fourteen level.

Mr. Redmayne: Why do you not think it necessary to ventilate the old workings ?— They were stowed up .

All of them?—Not all of them, hot the remainder were being stowed up.

The greater portion of this dirt has been developed since your time?—Yes.

Previous Gob Fires

During the period you have been undermanager, have you been troubled with gob fires?—Yes.

Where was the first gob –roughly? — The first was on the old 37 plane on the fault side.

How did you find the gob fire?—We dug it out.

Without any loss of life or an explosion? – Yes.

How long ago was that?—lt was in 1906 or 1907.

When was the next one? – Then we had another one about midway between 37 level on the fault side.

Did you combat that one— Yes, without any accident, and there was no gas present.

Where did those two gob fires occur—in what position of the seam?—lt was not coal that was on fire in the second; it was timber that had been in the “goaf”

You think other things may catch fire besides coal and timber?—There is bag dirt, which has a certain amount of coal in it. Bag dirt is seven or eight inches thick.

The Inspector: You have a shrewd idea what caused the two free. You say you don’t know. The bag pill takes fire. What is your idea of the cause of the timber firing?

Witness: In the first place the temperature being so high. I think it caused the timber to give gas, and possibly the friction of the fall side will increase the temperature sufficiently to set the timber on fire.

It is fairly dry?—Yes.

If it was fairly dry there would be no fermentation set up?—Of course there is always moisture in the hot air.

The Inspector: I want you to amount for the firing of the timber if you can. There are several other mines just as hot as this. I know a Laccashire mine where the temperature in one place is well over 90, and yet there are no cases of firing timber, and no spontaneous combustion.

Mr Redmayne: Can you give me any other explanation?—l wish I could: we should not have fires at Cadeby if I could.

Mr. Chambers has kindly handed me a section of the seam. He puts it this way:— Softs, two feet thick; hards, three feet four; softs, one foot eleven; bags (coal) one foot three; bags (dirt), six inches; and dry-beds one foot one.

Is that about correct—Quite correct.

A Previous Explosion

When you wrestled with the fires did you adopt the process of trying to “scour” them by driving roads to the seat of the fire and digging it out?—Yes.

When you dug it out what did you find ?— It cooled down. and we found burnt props. There was bag dirt and bits of coal which had been left.

Thu third fire was at 121 on the fault side on November 29th, 1911.

Tell us about it. Was it in the same sort of position in the immediate vicinity of the fault? – Yes

halt P—Yes.

And you drove scouring roads through to it?—Yes.

What did you discover ?—Fire in the goaf, from the fault to eight yards the goaf.

What was burning?—Debris—waste timber, dirt, and pieces of coal.

Any explosion?—Yes.

What happened ?- Four men were slightly burnt.

Are they alive!—Yes.

Their names ?–Gregory and Dovi; I don’t remember the other names. We wrestled with the fire from November till April this year, and these men were burnt about Janulary 20th.

Now do you think you have thoroughly scoured that fire out? – I do.

Where do you think the gas came from that fired them? -I should think it would come out of the fault side.

Looking for Gas

Where did the gas come from ?- I have no idea. There was no gas there when I was in the district last.

Seeing that you had had three fires you would be on the alert, and you would naturally think that gas would be generating, and you would have an explosion again?—Yes, we looked out for gas.

Whilst wrestling with the fire, had you no more explosions with that fire ?—We had no more explosions. On two occasion at was reported to me that there was a fire seen. I went on each occasion and found no fire. On one occasion a man who was “drawing off” said he had seen a flame come out of the pack. I went down and found nothing. On the 10th April Saunders reported that he had seen flames.

Is he alive?—No. I went down on the 10th April, and had the front part out to see if than was any fire. We could not discover anything. The temperature was about 94. That is the normal heat on the fault side.

That is very hot: what is it in the intake? —About 80; 96 is the highest. We have had it registered there when there has been no fire at aIl.

Witness stated, in reply to further questions, that the pit was worked with two shifts of coal-getters and drawers, three shifts of deputies, and a shift of repairers. The deputies in the south district were James Springthorns (morning), William Berry (afternoon) and Fred Richardson (night).

A Testing Method

Seeing there is this abnormal high temperature, do you regard this fault as a dangerous place?—Yes, and requiring careful observation.

How frequently dove the deputy or charge man examine and report on the place in the vicinity of the fault?—Twice in each eight hours, and they report to me direct.

By word of mouth?—No, they put it in the report book. I take the temperature.

How frequently?—Sometimes twice in a week. Sometimes it will be a month before I take it.

Seeing that is an abnormally dangerous zone, would it not have been wise to take it every two hours?—No. We have perhaps a better thing than that. Samples of the air are taken daily and analysed by a qualified chemist, Mr. Boulton, assistant to Dr. Hardy.

How long have you been taking these samples?—The whole of the year.

Where are these samples taken from? — From the fault side, out of the “gate,” and from fissures on the top.

These samples are taken at a considerable distance back from the fault?—And at the fault, too, but if a fault is giving off anything we find it some distance back.

There was no systematic observation taken at the fault?—Well, I have not any record of any.

You are aware that at some collieries subject to “gob fires” they systematically taken the temperature every four hours?—Yes, but I don’t think it is such an easy matter as taking samples of the air and seeing how the oxygen is being taken out of it.

No Fire to be Found

The only explosion you have had at that is the one you have first described?—Yes.

You found the temperature to be 94. Didn’t ,that convey the idea of danger to you?—No.

Did anything else occur between that time and the explosion we have now under investigation?—No.

On the 24th of April Springthorpe and I got over the top of the old scourings, through a road they were drawing off, and examined it for “fire stink,” or heat, or ‘gas, or anything. That was previous to it being stored up.

When you had heard from one of your responsible deputies that there was evidence of heating by fire, and from one of your charger men that he had seen a flash, how do you account for the statement of these men?

They must have seen it, or they were not speaking the truth?—There must have been some fire.

You are satisfied that the fire existed there in April, though you could not find it? —Yes.

Seeing that it was potential danger to have a fire in the pit, what precautions did you take?- The whole of the “gates” leading to the area were stowed up.

And that was the situation on the 1st of July?—Yes.

Where were you on the 1st of July!—I was round the whole of these workings.

At the time of the explosion you were away on holiday?—Yes, I went away on the 5th.

Who was in charge of that part of the pit when you didn’t go in?—My assistant undermanager, Cusworth, examined it occasionally, but the deputy, Springthorpe, was in charge of the operations.

Mr. Bury, the manager, went in sometimes, didn’t he?—Yes, he was down on the Friday and I believe he was down again on the Sunday or Monday.

A Great Cavity

Witness further stated that there was a great cavity on the top of the fault side. They did not know how far it went up, for they could not find the top of it. Stuff was always coaling down.

Was the stuff hot?— Yes, at one time it was. We got some fire from the top in one part of our experience.

You never got up there to see what it was? —No. I couldn’t.

There might have been a fire up there, and you didn’t know it ?—There couldn’t have been a fire in the coal, for we had got past , the coal.

What was there for the fire to be in then? Stone won’t burn, you know.—l don’t know.

That great cavity might have acted as a reservoir for the gas?—Yes.

And when it got surcharged with gas, that gas might have come down to the region of the fire?—Yes.

Did you, between the 1st and 5th of July, receive any reports or hearsay evidence as to indications of fire?—No.

Was there anything at all wrong or suspicious about seven ?—No.

Isn’t the point seven—the point you suspect as the origin of the fire which caused the explosion ?—No, I haven’t any idea.

What were they doing at sevens?—Getting coal in the ordinary way.

Hare you had any other fires back from the fault or in any other part of the pit?—Yes, we have had a fire down on the other side of the district, at a fault. We got it out in a month. There was another fire at a fault, about eight years ago, but I was assistant , then, and was not in charge of it.

Lines of Weakness

The faults here seem to be lines of weakness—That is so.

Where do you chiefly get fires in this pit? On this south district at faults, and in the west district at faults. I have had very few fires this last six years in any other part of the pit—only one, I think.

Have you had fires where there have been no faults?—l don’t remember just now; yes, I believe I have had one—a little one.

Seeing you bad had all this trouble with gas on a previous occasion, and a very recent occasion, too, would you expect that in all probability if you had another fire in the immediate vicinity you would have the same trouble with gas?—l mean it is a natural supposition?—Yes.

Well, did you issue instructions, or had you instructions issued to you, as to the precautions to be taken in the event of another fire occurring?—Well, we didn’t expect another fire there, but when this district was knocked off for coal-working we made a good air-way from number seven and brought the air back along seven cross-gate.

Colliers Frightened

How far did the explosion of January reach ?—I believe the colliers working in 121 felt it a little.

The effect was slightly felt 150 yards away? —Yes.

Did it stir up any dust?—l had not any reported to me. I met the men coming out that morning.

The whole district was aware that something was wrong, then?—Yes.

And the men were frightened?—Yes. Cusworth and I tested the air, and then went on, leaving Springthorpe and Prince posted to treat any men who came out injured. We met Billy Dove coming out with his shoulder burnt. We went on and found three or four men near where the explosion had occurred. Gregory, whose hair had been burnt a little, said a puff of gas had exploded on the fault side. We went and found, some burning, and put it out, and kept it out. That was all there was about that explosion.

I would like to put it to you as a general question. Are you now of opinion that there was a fire feeding along that fault-side for the last year or two?—l cannot think so. If I had thought so we should have scoured it out. We should have driven a road through to it.

Mr. Smillie: Is it your experience that gas is more likely to be given off at a fault than anywhere else?—lt depends on how It is ventilated.

How can it depend on how it is ventilated? Gas will be given off whether there is ventilation or not. I put it to you, is it not the experience of mining engineers that where you have a seam broken by faults, you are more likely to have gas than in an unbroken seam—l have nothing to do with mining engineers, but it is not my experience at Cadeby that we have.

News for the Miners’ Men

Answering Mr. Smith, witness admitted that the temperature had been as high 82 degrees at the pit-bottom.

Mr. Smith: Hadn’t there been complaints about that district from the men prior to July 5th—No.

Would you be surprised to know that it for the first time to-day that we know – even our local secretary as well that there had been an explosion prior to July 9th. We got no report at all!—I don’t know anything about that. It was put down in the report book.

Are these report-books here now ?—l don’t whether they are or not.

Mr. Smith: You are afraid that I am trying to trap you, and I am not trying to do anything of the sort.

Mr. Hartshorne: Was the Inspector notified of the explosion in January?—Yes.

Did he visit the district?—Yes.

Did he make any recommendation with reference to the men working in the district? No.

Mr. Gichard: Do you get out all the top coal you can—Yes.

Are these your instructions ?—Yes.

Is the object to minimise the danger, as far as possible from coal being left in?—Yes.

So far as you can, you see that these instructions are carried out?—Yes.

Have you any reason to believe that they have not been carried out?—No.

A Wise Precaution suggested

Mr. Redmayne: Did Mr. Bury discuss with you any scheme of operations he intended carrying out No, not there.

Short of stowing up those roads? —Not in that district.

Whatever was done, you are quite ignorant of it?-I am quite ignorant of what was done, and why it was done.

Mr. Beale: Didn’t it occur to you after the January explosion that you had had a very narrow escape. and that if the explosion had gone further it might have been infinitely worse — Yes.

Didn’t it occur to you to take special precautions and that it might be wish until you had stopped the fire and got it out, to withdraw all the men from that district save those who were working at the first—l have never seen the necessity for that.

You had got one warning, and, fortunately, not much damage was done. The next explosion did a great deal of damage. Of course this is after the event. I was just wondering if you had thought of any means for taking the other men out of the district while the fire was being got out—lf there was big body of gas near the fire. I should not have let anybody work in that part of the district. But we could not find any gas in that part of the district.

Mr. Redmayne: You didn’t find any on this last occasion.

The Court then adjourned for lunch.