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Miner saves evacuee child who fell into trench

Year 1942

Read by Lady Emma Barnard – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Bengough, Arthur, Miner, Craigwen, Pontypridd.
Brown, Bryn, Colliery Overman.

At 3.45 p.m. the 6th June 1942, Wendy Williams, an evacuee, with her aunt and other children was walking across the farm land at Llan Farm, Craigwen, Pontypridd. The child, playing, jumped into a small trench, where the ground gave way due to a colliery subsidence and she disappeared.The Police and Fire Services were called to the scene with ropes and ladders.

The hole in the trench was examined and found to be just wide enough to allow a very thin man or a small boy to get in. The earth was soft and loose, and there was definite danger of another subsidence if the hole was tampered with.

Leslie Richards, aged 14, volunteered to try and locate the child, whose cries could be heard. A rope was tied round his feet and he was lowered head first into the hole, but was unable to see anything and was hauled out. After a few minutes he was provided with a torch and was again lowered some seven feet, and when brought out said that he could not get any further.

Brown then volunteered and was lowered in the same way, but could not get very far and reported that the child was some way down. He suggested that an excavation should be made a few yards from the hole and after sufficient depth had been reached a tunnel to the position of the child should be made. This was started, Brown taking charge.Brown made another descent, later assisting in the final rescue.

Hazell, a youth, was then lowered head first, but failed to locate the child. He also descended later, assisting in the final rescue.

Digging was being continued through the night, with the aid of miner’s lamps, and reaching rock it was smashed partly with sledge hammers. The ground under the workmen caved in, but they carried on. About 6.30 a.m. next day they were 18 ft. down and had to exercise great care to prevent a further fall of earth. Jones now volunteered and was tied by the feet and lowered head first. When brought out he said the child was some 12 ft. below and near another crevice.

The child’s cries could still be heard. Archer was then lowered head first, going down nine feet. He shouted that he had got hold of the child and asked to be raised. He lifted the child about two feet. but, owing to an overlapping piece of rock, could not get her through and had to leave go. He was brought up, and at once made another attempt. The same thing happened again and Archer was brought up completely exhausted. The child was now silent.

Christopher was now lowered, and getting no reply to his shouts it was feared that the child had fallen further down. Bengough and others, who had just finished night-shift in the colliery, arrived, and, though the workings were now definitely unsafe, Bengough volunteered to go down. He was tied by his feet and lowered seven feet, then asking for a walking stick. With this he chipped away some earth and shouted to be lowered further. He was lowered another five feet. He then shouted that he had found the child dead or unconscious. When he grasped her she began to cry, and taking off his vest he wrapped it round her feet and called for a length of rope, which was lowered. Tying it round her feet he shouted for a pull to be given. Not being able to get the child past his body he asked for a thin boy to be lowered. Hazell was again lowered, and, after doing as Bengough directed, he was hauled out absolutely exhausted.

Bengough then gave instructions for the child to be raised slowly, but when she reached the position of his feet near rock it was impossible to get her head past. He then directed the men on top to lower him further. This was done, but the child was still jammed. Brown now again went down head first and with difficulty pulled her clear and she was hauled to the surface.

Bengough, still head first down the hole, was in a dangerous position. He was raised a few feet and his body became jammed, and it was only after a difficult struggle by the men on top and much wriggling by Bengough that he was finally raised to the surface. He was a mass of cuts, scratches and bruises, and though the pressure of the rope on his ankles caused agonizing pain he stuck to his task.

The child, taken to hospital, recovered.

Crevice: Mountain district. Subsidence 25 ft. deep; 2 ft. wide at the top narrowing downwards.
Rescue: 12 ft. down. Bengough head down in hole for half an hour. Child in hole 16 hours – throughout the night.

Silver Medals awarded to:- Arthur Bengough and Bryn Brown.
Bronze Medals awarded to:- Malcolm Hazell and George Archer.
Testimonials on Vellum awarded to:- Leslie Richards, Emlyn Jones and Thomas Christopher.

Arthur Benbough was also awarded the Stanhope Gold Medal for the year 1942.

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