As regular readers will know I’ve long been of the opinion that conscription is slavery. And if a society can’t find enough volunteers to fight for it then that society doesn’t have much of a right to exist.
Which brings me to Bevin Boys. For some years (I think, maybe 4) those who were conscripted could be sent off to the coal mines. Bevin himself, I’m told, would pluck a number from a hat. And thus, weekly, those whose number ended in 08, 02, 03, dependent upon the number plucked, would, as part of that week’s conscription intake be sent off to the mines, not to the Army (the only armed service where conscription was a major feature of intake, at least in peacetime years).
And so there’s a bit I want to try and get my head around. Given that it’s conscription, and those plucked from the hat have to go off to some mine somewhere, how were they allocated? And how housed? And were they paid normal miners’ wages?
If it really was that lottery, so how was some 18 year old from Dorset set up with a mine job in Durham? And fed, lodged, trained and so on?
And the really important bit I’d like to know is what happened when someone said “Fuck You!”?
Sure, the Army’s got sergeants, jankers, jail cells. Coal mines don’t. So, no one could not turn up, because the police would arrest them, but how did they make sure that conscripts actually do anything? No, not going down the shaft. Or, if forced, not shovelling coal? What was the enforcement mechanism?