Minnie Pit Disaster

In the Minnie pit at Halmerend, North Staffordshire , on January 12 th 1918 the conditions prevailing at the time were, begging disaster.

A spark was all that was needed,and this was provided, resulting in the deaths of 155 men and boys.

On that fateful Saturday, Mr. Smith, the colliery manager, was in his office at the surface of No 3 pit.

He was informed that haulage lads were at No1 pit bottom and wanted to come out of the pit.

There had been a sudden gust of wind against the air current, and pieces of small coal and dirt had been projected out bye (towards the shaft) and they thought something was wrong.

At the same time his attention was drawn to the soot and smoke issuing from the fan chimney at the up cast shaft.

He went round to the fan house, where he found the fan running all right, but the fan attendant informed him that a few minutes previously, it had slowed down.

He then went into the hauling engine house, where the engineman said; that the haulage rope was fast (stuck) and the engine could not be moved.

In 1918, a total of 405 miners were employed underground and 248 of these were working below the surface on the morning of January 12th 1918. Unbeknown to them, 155 were destined not to return to the surface alive. It was a cold Saturday morning and snow was on the ground. At 9.45am Colliery manager Joseph Smith saw smoke, soot and dust issuing from the fan chimney. On contacting the fan attendant he was informed that the ventilation process had reversed for some minutes but was know working normally again. The powerful haulage engine had stalled completely, he knew that only a cataclysm could have caused these things to happen.