I can’t for the life of me remember where we were billeted this week, but I’ll never forget the name of the place that we did our finest work – Coalville, a little town in Leicestershire I believe.
The only thing missing in Coalville was the Driftweed, absolutely nothing happened.Our job, as usual, was to protect the pit from striking miners, but I don’t think we actually ever saw any. Twelve hours a day on Fixed Points around the mine in the middle of winter, guarding something that was never threatened.
It was at Coalville that I personally first became aware of the politics and mind games that were being played out with the Police as the pawns.
It was a bloody cold week in mid winter. Everybody, Police, miners, be they striking or not, members of the public, was cold, very cold. At each of our fixed points we were provided with a brazier and a radio. Whenever we ran out of oak for the brazier we were to use the radio to call up the Control Room and the National Coal Board would supply and deliver a JCB bucket load of free coal. We, at least, were no longer cold.
The coal that was delivered was in its crudest state, fresh out of the ground and contained some strange grey bits. To this day I don’t know what those grey bits were but we quickly discovered that if you put them in the brazier with the coal then they exploded. It was probably best to make sure there were none as we put shovel loads of coal into our brazier.
The week went like clockwork. Every day, 12 hours standing by one of the braziers making sure it never went out. Not a striking miner anywhere to be seen.
Eventually we reached the end of a completely eventful week, and a coach load of Leicestershire lads arrived to relieve us. The main problem was that they were in no hurry to get off their coach and take over from us so that we could leave and return to London for our ‘free’ day off.
“Don’t worry lads, you stay there, we’ll Stoke up the brazier so you don’t get cold”. So into the brazier went a couple of shovels full of coal, a goodly helping of coal dust, so that it didn’t burn too quickly, and a liberal sprinkling of the mysterious grey bits.
Not long after that the Leicestershire lads debussed and relieved us, and I have it on good authority that about 15 minutes later the brazier exploded in spectacular fashion.
Honour was restored.
If you’re out there Sooty, reading this, I want to pay credit to one of the finest Sergeants I ever served with. Never going to set the world on fire, or maybe even make Inspector, but one of that rare breed that had mastered the art of being your friend, and at the same time getting you to do your job merely by asking you to.
To be continued………….