PART EIGHT: September 1984

LIFE ON THE FRONT LINE
In the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike

Bruce Wilson

 

PART EIGHT: September 1984

The NCB ‘back to work campaign’ is gaining momentum.

September was a very violent month on the picket line. The daily confrontations and clashes between police and pickets intensified. The picket lines at South Yorkshire pits were just ‘Battlefields’. 7500 miners arrested, nearly 50 locked up and imprisoned. At Silverwood colliery there were only two scabs going in to work and hundreds of police ‘scab protection force’. Silverwood has a workforce of about 1500 men. That’s 1498 men on strike and two working.

Thatcher’s private army. Strike breakers. That’s all they are. The Police are supposed to uphold the law, they are not above it, but yet they invade mining communities with their cavalry and riot squad, wearing boiler suits with no identification numbers on and run amok. They don’t like it when we put up resistance and fight back. We are entitled to fight back. I see more than a strike here. I see an assault on freedom and democracy.

 

Original ‘Strike orders’ placed on a table in the Baggin’. The next day’s picketing orders.
Original ‘Strike orders’ placed on a table in the Baggin’. The next day’s picketing orders.

 

Silverwood. Scab in a car leaving pit yard. Note police pointing his finger in a threatening manner at a miner on the picket line.
Silverwood. Scab in a car leaving pit yard. Note police pointing his finger in a threatening manner at a miner on the picket line.

 

Police warning striking miner. Top, middle of photo, striking miner attempts to escape from police clutches.
Police warning striking miner. Top, middle of photo, striking miner attempts to escape from police clutches.

 

Left on photo. The official picket line outside the pit yard. A police officer pointing his finger at the ‘Official Picket’ which allowed six men. You can make out ‘Official Picket’ painted on the wall.
Left on photo. The official picket line outside the pit yard. A police officer pointing his finger at the ‘Official Picket’ which allowed six men. You can make out ‘Official Picket’ painted on the wall.

 

 

Sunday, 2nd September 1984.

Silverwood Miners’ Welfare, 6pm. Me and Captain Bob walked into the club and were amazed! The club was absolutely packed. Word gets round fast. There’s a big picket on at Silverwood in the morning. There are faces here tonight who I have not seen for months, any doubts about people wavering at our pit were quickly dispelled. What a sight!

Me and Captain Bob had a job on finding a seat. Granville Richardson, our NUM president gave a marvellous and rousing speech. He is good, Granville. He calls a ‘spade a spade’ and is highly respected by all. We are left in no doubt to picket peacefully tomorrow. But we are also told to beware and take care.

Oh well, these formalities do make me laugh, after what we’ve been through for the last six months, I know we are not walking up the pit hill in the dark for a picnic at the pit gates. You just don’t know who is going to jump out of the bushes and get you and I’m not joking.

Looks like there’s going to be trouble up’ mill tomorrow. Me and Captain Bob made our way home. On the way back Captain Bob, with a cheeky smile on his face, asked me if I had ever considered making a will out. I just smiled at him.

 

Monday, 3rd September1984.

Silverwood, 3am. Picked lads up and parked at the Reresby pub, got out and walked up the railway cutting to the pit. Cars were arriving and pulling up everywhere. It was pitch black walking up the cutting, it’s deep and heavily wooded at each side, I can’t see the man in front of me, I can only hear him if he talks. But there’s not much talking this morning. We hear footsteps behind us in the dark, but we know they are miners, the police wouldn’t come down here.

We climb up the steep banking and onto the road at the narrow bridge on Hollings Lane. There’s a street lamp in the distance, it illuminated dozens of miners walking up the road. When we got to the pit entrance it was a sight for sore eyes. Pickets! Hundreds of them and more arriving by the minute, a heavy police presence as well.

We waited for a couple of hours then a scab came down the pit hill with his police escort. Lines of police in front of us, but it happened that fast, if you blinked you would miss it. No pushing no shoving, a very strange morning. After the scab went in a lot of pickets went home, we stayed. About 8.30am we made our way to the Baggin’ for breakfast. Read the ‘Yorkshire Miner’ and the daily ‘rags’.

 

Tuesday, 4th September 1984.

At the Baggin’ last night our orders changed, for the better! From now on its Silverwood, 3am to 11am. Police taking scabs in at different times. When they have gone in, we go flying to either Kiveton Park or Brookhouse Colliery near Sheffield. It’s thinning the flying pickets out, I don’t think there’s many of us left!

Arrived at Silverwood about 3am. Not a bad turn out, about two hundred pickets, a few more arrived later on. After a few hours some men go, but as the morning wears on they are quickly replaced. The ladies appear on the picket line later in the morning, I do smile to myself, as the women appear the swearing stops. To hear a miner telling how he had a good time Saturday night in the pub without swearing is comical. It just doesn’t sound right.

 

Wednesday, 5th September 1984.

Silverwood, 3.00am, then flying to Kiveton Park. Two quid petrol money and two quid picket money! Usual routine picked lads up and got to Silverwood at 3.30am. Nice and steady this morning plenty of pickets, quiet couldn’t get near the fire though and that tent they’ve put up! I can see the look on all the lads faces, talk about home sweet home. There is a settee and a couple of old chairs in it. If they got chance the lad’s would dive straight on them. And I would lose four good men.

6.00am, scabs gone in, the police escort ‘flew’ down the hill with the scabs in the middle, in an armoured transit van. That’s it, all over and done with in the blink of an eye. Nothing else for us here.

We’re off to Kiveton Park. Got there about 7.30am. We parked up on the main road and walked down the main road turning right towards the pit. It was all old brick pit houses here. As we walked to the Colliery entrance we passed an old NUM building, with a bloody great clock on the front of it. At the pit gates there was just the main road and across from the pit entrance a bloody great ditch full of water, no room to move or escape here.

As we approached the pit entrance about 50 Bobbies came charging out of the pit gates and chased us! We did a quick ‘about turn’ and ran. They meant business, we got chased up ‘hill and own dale’, right back into the village! That’s another pair of shoes worn out. For the rest of the morning the police tried to catch us, they had no chance. When they backed off we tried to reach the pit gates again. All morning we did this. I bet they ‘loved us’. It was fun though, playing cat and mouse with them. It’s nice to make them earn their money.

 

Peaceful scene at Silverwood Colliery. NUM offices [left]. Pit entrance [right] scabs came down the hill with a police convoy.
Peaceful scene at Silverwood Colliery. NUM offices [left]. Pit entrance [right] scabs came down the hill with a police convoy.
Letter sent to all Silverwood striking miners’ from the colliery manager.
Letter sent to all Silverwood striking miners’ from the colliery manager.

 

 

Thursday, 6th September 1984.

Silverwood. Quiet, too quiet. No trouble. We’re not used to this, mind you, it’s a break from being chased all over. Getting fed up with the daily fag routine. I bought ten fags out of my picket money this morning, we were stood round the brazier keeping warm. I lit a fag up, stuck the tip up my nose letting everybody see me. I got to smoke a full cig to myself! I was getting fed up of lighting a cig up, passing it round and getting a soggy tab end back, good lads but I had to do it. Daz is good, he can peel an orange in his pocket when it comes to getting a fag out for himself. Then there’s Shaun, he’s a magician, he pulls fags out from behind his ears. We made our way to the Baggin’ for breakfast at 10.am.

A few weeks ago me and the lads walked into the Baggin’ after a hard day’s picketing and Mick ‘Bushy’ came up to us with some Kent miners who were visiting. Mick introduced them to us, then looked at me and said, ‘this is Commander Bond of Orgreave’, the club was packed with miners’, everybody fell about laughing, especially Shaun who was stood next to me. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me, it was so embarrassing.

 

Friday, 7th September 1984.

Silverwood, 3.00am. A pound picket money and two pound petrol money. It’s double picket duty today. Got to Silverwood, did a long stint then left for Kiveton Park at 7 am. Same again this morning, we got within a few hundred yards of the pit entrance and fifty Bobbies come flying out heading straight for us! And they weren’t looking to take prisoners. I must have worn the equivalent of two pairs of shoe leather out this morning, chased by ‘the boys in blue’, they just would not let us near the pit gates. We had a couple of hours jogging round Kiveton village then decided to go to the Baggin’ for some breakfast.

 

Monday, 10th September 1984.

Destination Silverwood, then flying to Kiveton Park, a quid petrol money and a quid picket money. Set off early again, picked lads up and parked at the Reresby pub as usual. We walked up the railway cutting, when we got to the pit it was quiet, everyone smoking and supping tea. There’s a ‘tea hut’ next to the picket line, it’s a little shed, you can buy cigs for 10p each and you can get a cup of soup or a chip butty [it’s run by a retired miner].

There was a heavy police presence. When the scabs came we gave them some verbal abuse. They come down the hill in an armoured transit van at 60mph.Then for two minutes the silence of the night is broke by the most deafening noise of pickets shouting, then it all goes deathly quiet and everyone lights a cig up and queues up for a cup of tea. What type of ‘man’ sits in an armoured vehicle with a police escort and goes to work when hundreds of his fellow workmates are on strike fighting for their jobs and communities? And knowing full well how the police treat us?

Granville our union man, gave me an extra pound petrol money and each of us lads another pound picket money. We are off to Kiveton Park. We set off going through Swallownest etc, when we came to the main road we turned to the right and parked among some houses, then started walking down the pit lane.

As we got within a hundred yards of the pit entrance it was obvious that something had happened, dozens of pickets came running towards us, chased by a gang of police, as the pickets ran past us we joined them. We couldn’t stand there saying ‘we haven’t done nowt’. We would have been fair game and at the very least arrested! Run away and live to fight another day, that’s our motto. We have been lucky so far.

As we ran into the village, we all dispersed, I finished up running into a housing estate. The police began to thin out as they chased us to their limits and we were well away from the pit entrance. I went down an alleyway and peered out. Just in front of me I could see a picket at the top of a banking about 15 foot high. He was hanging onto a tree and four bobbies were trying to grab his feet, but every time they climbed up the banking they slipped back down, helped by a kick off the picket, one bobby got a kick in the head and his helmet fell over his eyes, he couldn’t see what he was doing, he slid to the bottom of the banking trying to put his helmet back on properly. When they did reach him the picket kicked for all he was worth, in fact one of his trainers came flying off, one of the Bobbies caught it and threw it away. They didn’t get him, he managed to pull himself up and get away. This incident made me smile for the rest of the day. I met up with Shaun on the way back to the car and we then waited for the rest of the team. Everyone arrived back safe and sound.

 

Tuesday, 11th September 1984.

Our instructions today are to meet at Silverwood Miners’ Welfare at 3.00 am. Destination, Kiveton Park colliery, for a 5.00am picket. I got 2 quid petrol money and a pound picket money. I started picking the lads up early, I got to Bob Wilson’s first at 2.00am. I stopped and had a cup of tea. When I got to Darren’s house he was worried because I was running late, he thought I’d done a runner with the picket money, having that cuppa made me late.

Things didn’t go to plan and we ended up leaving Silverwood miners’ welfare at 8am. When we got to Kiveton it was ‘good morning Mr Policeman!’ They had been caught out this morning, 3000 pickets and no riot squad for a change. Things looked like they were getting back to normal on the front line. It wasn’t long before we were having a push and a shove against the police lines, to the roar and shouts of ‘Zulu’ by thousands of pickets. At the front of the push against the police lines someone squirted something into a coppers eyes, he squealed like a little pig, the pickets then broke through the police lines in one big surge, but were stopped after a few yards by police horses blocking their way forward.

Things quietened down after this. We’d had our bit of fun and just stood on the picket front line. Then a high ranking policeman came to the front of the police lines and shouted for us all to disperse and go home and he wasn’t very nice about it. Bob Wilson offered to fight him and the two policemen stood next to him. The inspector told Bob Wilson to ‘cool it’ then he added ‘Bob was a marked man’. It’s a good job there wasn’t many police today or Bob would definitely got some fist off the police.

After our stint at Kiveton was over we had a steady walk back to the car, Bob Wilson took his coat off and reversed it, so it showed a different colour. The police might try to grab him on the way back to the car, when we didn’t have safety in numbers. We were well aware of police tactics now.

 

Wednesday, September 12th 1984.

McGregor and Scargill have been talking from 7.00pm, Sunday night. Both of them came out of the hotel. Arthur Scargill said to McGregor, ‘it’s a nice evening’. Mr McGregor turned round and said ‘yes I agree’ Hah Hah! Well, it’s a start.

Today we are meeting at Silverwood Miners’ Welfare at 3.00am. Johnny Dodd’s son and two others were arrested in Silverwood Colliery woods, they only went to chop some firewood with a bow saw. They have been charged with ‘conspiracy to murder’ chopping trees down into the path of working miners. They must have been tall trees, the lads were in the middle of the wood!

After a chat in the welfare we set off for Brookhouse Colliery near Sheffield. When we got there the police had full control of the bridge on the new relief road and completely blocked it, so pickets parked their cars up where they could. Everyone set off walking to the Pit, which wasn’t far, you could make the pit buildings out in the near distance and there was a fence running alongside a little road leading to the pit.

There was a full moon this morning, and it allowed us to see a few yards in front of us. A group of us broke away from the main body of pickets walking down the main road, we climbed over a fence, down an embankment, then walked across some railway lines and then into a field. But it wasn’t a field as such, just one big colliery spoil heap, it was fairly level but there was little mounds of muck and colliery spoil all over, there were dips and deep depressions. We advanced towards the colliery, across this lunar landscape lit by moonlight, it was very quiet and still, too quiet and still. There were about 20 or 30 of us walking across this strange landscape.

As we advanced further, closer to the pit, I saw something glinting in front of me, reflecting off the moonlight. There was no long grass, just an uneven series of spoil heaps, just high enough to hide behind, we still advanced thinking surprise was on our side, it was like we had ‘gone over the top’ All of a sudden, in unison, a long line of riot police stood up, shields reflecting the moonlight, they were about 30 or 40 foot in front of us. What a sight! When they all stood up in a line, the full moon behind them, all you could see were men dressed in black, big Perspex riot shields.

Then they charged us, no shouting, no noise just the occasional sound of a shield scraping the ground. A policeman on the bridge to our right put a searchlight on the lunar landscape, scouring the spoil heaps trying to catch us in his beam of light, when he did, we were already abruptly leaving, being chased by the riot squad. They weren’t taking prisoners today! We made our way back to the bridge and onto the main road, I looked back over the lunar landscape, you could see them, knelt down in the dark, their shields glinting now and then as they caught the moonlight, the searchlight or the streetlamps. I got the ‘Willy’s’ after this. I just had a quiet morning.

 

Thursday, 13th September 1984.

Picket our own pit, Silverwood for 3.00am. We’ve been waiting for the ‘big one’ at Silverwood. Will it come? At Silverwood we had a little push against the police lines, young Craig Dimbleby was arrested. Our N.U.M. treasurer Eric Cassidy had a word with the police and they gave him back.

The Deputies are voting today. The NCB are telling them to cross picket lines in armoured buses if necessary. A lot of Deputies in Yorkshire have had their wages stopped. Kiveton Park and Kellingley collieries are on strike. At the beginning of the strike MacGregor told the Deputies he did not expect them to cross picket lines if they were liable to intimidation or violence. The deputies at Silverwood pit reckon the two scabs going in at Silverwood will be transferred to Harworth pit near Maltby when the strike ends. From now on our picket duty is Silverwood first, 3.00am to 8.00am. The police are taking the two scabs in at different times. When the scabs have gone in, we then go to either Brookhouse at Sheffield or Kiveton Park.

 

September 12th Brookhouse colliery. Sheffield. It was like “We’d gone over the top” In front of us; in the darkness a long line of riot police stood up. Drawing by Bruce Wilson.
September 12th Brookhouse colliery. Sheffield. It was like “We’d gone over the top” In front of us; in the darkness a long line of riot police stood up. Drawing by Bruce Wilson.

 

Today, there’s a change of plan. Today we’re flying to Yorkshire Main at Edlington. We set off, just before the A1 motorway at Doncaster we turned right at the Cecil pub, approaching the pit from the Doncaster end. What a sight for sore eyes! I haven’t seen as many pickets since Harworth and Orgreave, must have been three or four thousand here today.

I had a right job trying to find somewhere to park the ‘battlebus’. I drove past the pit which was situated next to the main road and finished up parking in a housing estate. The lads couldn’t wait to get out. There were swarms of pickets walking down the main road to the pit so we joined them. We marched down the middle of the road towards the pit, in the distance, marching towards us were masses of pickets! The pit entrance was in the middle of both groups. It looked like no one was going into work today.

After half an hour a police convoy came up from behind us, a few dozen Transits, a couple of range rovers and some motorbike cops, all moving slowly. We parted to let them through- looks like they overlaid this morning! As they drove into the pit yard the driver of an articulated lorry came to a stand- still (the road was thronged with pickets for hundreds of yards). The lorry driver wound his window down and shouted to us, asking to be let through, everybody parted and moved onto the causeway, he got through OK. A police motorbike drove up following the lorry from behind, as he rode slowly past us, our kid gave his back wheel a kick, the police motorbike cop rode on, but he was wobbling all over the place and nearly came off his bike. It’s a good job there were thousands of us, or he would have been nicked for sure (see later entry, 14th December. The police have good memories. They got him).

Considering there were thousands of pickets today it was very quiet, not many police either, about fifty of them in the pit yard, but it was a good day’s picketing, no real violence. The police kept a low profile.

 

Friday, 14th September 1984.

Got to Silverwood for 3.00am, scabs went in at 3.40am. On the way to pick Captain Bob up I was stopped by the police, they told me my younger brother David had been arrested and was in custody and to let my mother know. That was good of them! When we got to Bob Wilson’s house he had a cuppa’ waiting, he had been tuned into the police channel on his radio. He heard the police asking if a brown Triumph 2.5 had been stolen.

It was quiet at Silverwood. Then we went to Cresswell in Derbyshire, about time! Mind you the police had all the roads well and truly sealed, we managed to get through though. About 200 pickets at Cresswell today. I think the union are trying to catch the police off guard.

Hope we go into Notts more regular now. In the papers it said police had turned back 600 pickets cars on the A1 heading for Bevercotes in Notts. They had re-elections after police would not let striking miners from Bevercotes through to vote the last time. Four lads were arrested at Silverwood last week. They are in Armley prison at Leeds. One lad come out a nervous wreck. Police got them to sign statements saying they were going to ambush scabs, the police are charging them with ‘conspiracy to murder’. Bleeding stupid! That’s what were up against. And that slimy bastard Leon Brittan. I heard today that the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire has banned shield banging!

 

Saturday, 15th September 1984.

Talks between the NUM and NCB broke down after a few hours on Friday. Arthur Scargill is right, Thatcher has got her finger in the pie. She’s got it to come one day. The Government has ordered millions of pounds worth of candles! I wonder if she will call the troops in to shift coal stocks in a month’s time?

Wonder which pits the scabs will be going into next time, I hope it’s a Scottish pit. If it is, Thatcher has picked a good adversary there.

There’s a big march in Barnsley today. Arthur Scargill and other NUM men. Looks like it’s going to be a long winter.

A man walking his dog in Parkgate [Near Rotherham] the other night. Four coppers went up to him, saying that they had seen his dog on the picket line at Silverwood. The man wasn’t even a miner. They told him if ever they saw the dog on its own, it was going straight to the fire station.

The other week one picket at Silverwood kicked a scabs car as he was going in to work. The police arrested the picket, but let him go or they would have got some right hammer. They were outnumbered, all their mates were up the hill. The scab told the police who it was. When the miner came out of the East Dene Club Saturday night, they were waiting for him. He was locked up, breathalysed and they gave him some fist.

MacGregor was on telly tonight. He says that he will not resume talks with the NUM until violence on the picket line stops. Ha Ha, the little fat b…..!

Princess Diana gave birth to a baby boy at 4.20pm today.

Who is going to get screwed into the ground? NUM or Thatcher, I wish people would open their eyes and really see what is going on – and I don’t mean the pickets.

 

Monday, 17th September 1984.

Silverwood, 3.00am. Got there on time. We stood round the brazier, same thing, smoking, supping tea. It’s like ‘home sweet home’ here, if you can get on the settee under the tarpaulin that is. You don’t want to move, it’s lovely. Lads exchanging stories about what they’ve heard about the troubles at Maltby pit. Bloody hell! I’m sat here listening to some right horror stories. I know what, they are not sending me to Maltby! I’m too young to die.

We set off for Kiveton Park at 5.00am. Very quiet this morning only about fifty of us on the front line. We decided to brighten things up and give it some ‘Zulu’ and have a push against the police, the picket’s at the front would not wear it and pushed back against us.

 

Tuesday, 18th September 1984.

Silverwood, 3.30am. Had a good run today. At the pit I couldn’t get near the fire for a warm. Quiet, not many pickets. Then we went ‘flying’ to Kiveton Park. When we arrived it was a mass picket! We gave it some ‘Zulu!’ all morning, we nearly broke through the police lines, but they sent cavalry in. There were six arrests, all lads off the front line that broke the police lines.

200 miners picketed a scab miner’s house, 100 yards from the pit. A police commander shouted at us, “GO HOME NOW.”

Bob Wilson shouted to the police Inspector, “YOU’RE STOPPING HERE YOU BLACK BASTARDS CUS’ WE’RE NOT GOING YET.”

The Inspector said, “what did you say?”

Bob, being at the front of the picket and in a very vulnerable position replied, “you’re stopping here, cus’ we’re going nowhere.”

What else can you say when in a very threatening situation like that? Bobbies left him alone after that. After a couple of hours we moved on and headed for Yorkshire Main at Edlington. 200 to 300 pickets here this morning, no trouble, five or six scabs went in on a bus. Went back to Silverwood Miners Welfare. Bloody hell wonders never cease! They’ve changed the menu! We had chips and soup. We heard today that eighteen police horses were being sold for dog meat.

ACAS meeting between the NUM and NCB to hear both sides of the story. Four men stopped going into work at the Selby Complex. Might see some new picketing soon. Thatcher had a meeting with her ‘War Cabinet’ the other day. A fight to the finish she says, it’ll be her finish, touch wood.

 

Wednesday, 19th September 1984.

Silverwood, 2.00am. 3 pound petrol money. Scabs went in early at 2.20am, no trouble went ‘flying’ to Kiveton. A small picket there, quiet there as well. We stayed for a while then headed for the Baggin’ and some snap.

 

Thursday, 20th September 1984.

Silverwood, 1.30am, then ‘fly’ to Brookhouse near Sheffield. 3 quid petrol money and a pound picket money. Got there on time, scabs went in early again, not many pickets. A few shouts of ‘scab’ when they drove past us.

We went to Brookhouse. When we arrived most of the pickets had been sent to Maltby. The scabs had gone in, we had missed them. As we stood on the small picket line that was left, the ordinary police were replaced with the riot squad. I don’t like the look of this, there was about fifty of us and as soon as the change-over was complete the riot police moved forward, pushing us right back up the lane. Any stragglers got some hammer, a few bricks went over, quiet though. We were then told to go to Maltby.

At Maltby we parked in the Lumley Arms pub car park and walked down the road to the pit. At either side of the road it was heavily wooded and every now and then there was a length of low stone wall. We got to the pit entrance, the entire road was blocked by a wall of pickets. It was quiet, no trouble.

The scabs went in from the Tickhill end of the road. Ten minutes later the police lines moved forward pushing us back up the road, and woe betide any one falling behind. Made our way to the Baggin’ for some snap and a nice cup of tea. I found it hard to believe all these horror stories about Maltby after this morning. It wasn’t too bad.

The picket line at Maltby. Police in the background with their white vans, pushing miners’ back up the road away from the colliery entrance after the scabs have gone in. This is where the police tried out their ‘New toy’ a transit van with wings. In the dark and hiding behind the ‘wings’ were boiler suited, jack booted policemen, with no identification numbers on their clothing. When I got home today, Gay the wife told me her Uncle Jim, a bobby from the Hertfordshire police has been drafted onto the South Yorkshire picket lines. He did not want to come. He says all the young Bobbies are fed up and want to go home and spend their money. He’s been up for a few weeks now, and he’s fed up and wants to go home and guess where they’ve posted him? Maltby! God bless him the poor bugger.

 

Friday, 21st September 1984.

Silverwood, 1.30am. 3 pounds petrol money and a pound picket money. Found out the police are going to Silverwood first, then Brookhouse, Kiveton and Maltby last. We’re all following each other around.

On the front line at Maltby, our last port of call this morning, me, Daz and Bob were in the woods passing out wood, trees, anything we could move and passing it out to other pickets who were constructing a barricade in the road. The police commanding officer who was stood behind his men on the front line gave instructions to shine a bloody great search light on the pickets. It blinded us all, he’s been doing this for a while now. They could run out and batter you, and you would not even see them coming.

But I’ve got an idea. The police would not come nowhere near the barricade, it was pitch black, woods on either side of us. They weren’t daft. We kept the police at bay for a couple of hours. Then they decided enough was enough. They’ve got a new toy, a Transit van with ‘wings’ a large wire mesh guard extending from the van’s front doors. The van drives slowly in the road towards us and behind the ‘wings’ police hide with truncheons drawn, usually with no identification numbers on their boiler suits. Their job is to clear the road and disperse the pickets.

I’m getting rather fed up all this running about, chased all over risking life and limb, or if you’re lucky just a bit of truncheon and arrest for a pound a day! I’m not complaining though, we are making the police get up early as well. On the picket lines after the scabs have gone in they just want to go back to their nice warm beds and we won’t let them, they hate it when we hang about and they do everything possible to get rid of us. Good day today, we gave them something to do.

A quiet morning. We all got back to the Baggin’ safe. To enjoy what was on offer on the new menu. Over the weekend two C.I.D policemen went in the Chinese take-away in Maltby, it was full of Maltby lads who beat them up. They got in their car and drove off and came back with a couple reinforcements. They all got another good hiding.

 

Walking back from the “front line” line at Maltby Colliery. South Yorkshire Police and their vans can be seen in the background.
Walking back from the “front line” line at Maltby Colliery. South Yorkshire Police and their vans can be seen in the background.

 

 

Sunday, 23rd September 1984.

There’s a big meeting today. 12 noon at the Baggin’ we have been waiting weeks for this ‘The Big One’ at Silverwood, is this the day? I picked Captain Bob up and we went to the Baggin’ as we walked through the door I thought yes this is it. Every Tom, Dick and Harry had turned out, the club was full.

We’ve waited weeks for this. We were told to be careful and arrive to picket our own pit, Silverwood at 1.30am. The atmosphere was electric, me and Bob went home, we didn’t talk much, I think we were all hyped up and ready for tomorrow. I told Captain Bob to be ready for half past midnight.

 

Monday, 24th September 1984.

Silverwood, 1.30am. I picked Captain Bob up first as usual, then rest of the lads, I told them where we were going, Silverwood!, I didn’t have to explain, we all knew the crack and what to expect, but did the police? It was deathly quiet in the battle bus, you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. The car radio was on playing boring music, then all of a sudden the theme music from the ‘A TEAM’ came on, I turned it up, bloody hell things changed quick. We were ready for anything and if Thatcher and her boot boys want a war, they can have one.

 

Pic 9

 

At the bottleneck bridge on Hollings Lane there were twenty coppers holding it and they would not let us through! I drove back down the lane and parked up in the Reresby pub car park. Fairly safe here and about half a mile from the pit entrance. We walked up the railway cutting that leads up to the pit, it’s pitch black, you can’t see your hand in front of you.

Always on our guard. Watching and listening for movement in the bushes. There’s only five of us and we feel very vulnerable. Last week we went the exact same way to the pit, it was about 3.30am, damp and foggy. Visibility down to about twenty foot, no camera’s about. Twenty pickets were sat peacefully on a concrete embankment across from the lamp room. Somebody shouted to an Inspector; ‘You should be out catching the Fox’. He did not find it funny. Two minutes later about thirty riot police came running towards us, truncheons drawn. They surrounded us and marched us down the pit hill, calling us ‘scum miners’ at the same time throwing punches and kicking us.

They kept saying “fight like men” then from behind some parked vans on the main road in front of us, thirty more of the bastards came at us. They ambushed us, literally. The pickets in front who could get away ran for the pit car park. It was dark and foggy. What they didn’t know was the car park was full of cavalry and police dogs. They had to run the gauntlet of cavalry, with 4ft batons drawn, and police dogs. You couldn’t go back for your injured mates because you would have definitely got the same. I was very lucky. I escaped unscathed, a lot didn’t.

Later that morning as more pickets arrived, they had heard what the police had done and they built a barricade on the bridge. No riot police coming down here this morning!

We finally got to picket line with no trouble, detouring past police through fields etc, they couldn’t see us in the dark. On the picket line it was quiet, everyone supping tea and smoking. We had missed the scabs, they’d gone in! We made our way back to the car and headed for Maltby. I parked in the Lumley Arms pub car park.

Full crew again today. We set off walking to the pit entrance. It was still early morning and pitch black, not very well lit here either, both sides of the road are heavily wooded, the closer we got to the pit entrance, the darker it got, no street lights. All of a sudden in the middle of the road I noticed something. We could just make out a bloody great boulder. It stood as high as my kneecap. That’s a bit silly, it could kill someone. It was nowhere near police lines, if it was, it wouldn’t be so bad. All of a sudden I heard a car approaching. I thought to myself, I hope he sees that bleeding great boulder. A little ford fiesta drove up. He swerved at the last second. The driver lost control for a few seconds, veering all over the road. We watched. The driver gained control and disappeared into the darkness. We carried on walking to the pit, and stood on the front line.

I had in my possession some polished aluminium plate, about 3 inches square and polished to a mirror finish. I dished some out to the lads and saved a few for myself. We had not been on the picket line long, there were a few hundred pickets here now and as expected the commanding police officer ordered his men to put that bloody searchlight on us. It’s terrible, it blinds you. Anyway, he’s had a good run, our turn now. I told the lads what I was going to do. We all pointed our polished plates at the searchlight and it worked! He switched the searchlight off! He turned it on us again, we showed our mirror, and he got the reflection back. After a few more goes with his spot lamp he gave it up as a bad job. Ha Ha, those few hours in the shed making them paid off.

It was still pitch black and quiet on the front line, row-upon-row of police in front of us. We turned round and there were hundreds of miners behind us. About ten foot away from me, Razzer [Silverwood lad] shouted,”WERE HAVING A PUSH, SO ALL BADGE COLLECTORS GET TO THE BACK,” there was roars of laughter.

Then a reply came back, “WHAT THA’ FUCKING ON ABOUT’ I’M HERE AREN’T I?” When the laughter died away someone shouted ‘Zulu’ that was it, all the front line pickets ran at the police lines (the distance between the police and miners’ was only ever a few feet, just enough distance to stop them reaching out and snatching you). Pushing and shoving against the police lines, a couple of lads next to me went down on the floor. This went on for about five minutes and the police don’t like it at all!

Several lads on the front line were ‘snatched’ and arrested, they disappeared into the dark behind police lines. Things heated up then, from the back of the picket line a few stones and missiles went over into the police lines, It went quiet again, then some more missiles were thrown into the police ranks. That was it, they charged, the first one of the day. I ran back up the road, but I could not get past the mass of pickets in front of me, so I jumped over a small wall, right into the laps of two riot police knelt down hiding, batons drawn, wearing boiler suits with no numbers on. They looked as surprised to see me as I was them. They did not get me, but nearly.

I met up with Shaun back on the road, it went quiet again, we were about 30ft from the police lines. We decided to have a look round and try and sneak round the police. We went into the woods across from the pit entrance. We had only gone a few yards when Shaun shouted to me ‘look at them rabbits’ we could see pairs of eyes looking at us in the dark. They were all over. The thing was, the eyes were about 3ft off the ground. We just saw the dog handlers in time. Retreating in the dark, I said to Shaun, “big bloody rabbits them mate!”

We made our way to the front line again. We stopped for a while, but then and I don’t know why, decided to go back to the ‘Battle Bus’ for drink out of my flask. We usually stay until the last. All the crew decided to go back with me. We were sat in the Lumley Arms car park supping tea when all hell broke loose, miners came running back up the road towards the village. We got out of the car and set off walking back to the pit entrance. We could see within spitting distance the police had done a dirty trick. The boiler suited ‘snatch squads’ had gone into the woods either side of the road, sneaking round the pickets in a pincer movement. Then they came out of the woods, back onto the road, trapping about thirty pickets. They were cut off and surrounded by riot police and nowhere to go! Dogs and their handlers were still in the woods. The poor bastards, the police went wild and truncheoned anything that moved.

Big bastards they were, not one under 6ft 4in. Yellow jackets on, no identification numbers. Police? More like the Coldstream Guards on manoeuvres. We came across one lad unconscious with a fractured skull, blood all over the place, a copper was stood on him while three others laced into him. A man went to help him, a copper grabbed him and threw him to one side, the copper told the man to leave him and ‘fuck off ’.

Riot police running about all over the place with no numbers on. Same old story pickets treated like criminals. Walking back to the car we passed Kevin Barron the Rother Valley MP. He was making his exit as well, he looked rough, looked like he had some boot and a bit of truncheon for good measure. The police grossly exaggerated what went on today. Their purpose is to slag the pickets down so they can get their ‘rubber bullets’.

Can’t call it heavy fighting today ‘IT WAS KEVIN BARRON, BADGE COLLECTORS AND PICKETS THAT GOT CLOBBERED THIS MORNING’. We found out later the badly injured man was probably Ian Wright from the Hammersmith miners support committee and the man that went to help was Kevin Clegg.

A Drawing by Bruce Wilson to explain events on the morning of Monday 24th September 1984 at Maltby Colliery.
A Drawing by Bruce Wilson to explain events on the morning of Monday 24th September 1984 at Maltby Colliery.

 

Courtesy of Sheffield Star.
Courtesy of Sheffield Star.

 

 

Tuesday, 25th September 1984.

Destination Silverwood, 3.00am. Did the usual round, picked lads up, but decided to approach Silverwood from the top end today (Cavalier pub end) we walked down the pit hill, got a nice spot next to the brazier. Quiet on the front line up to now. Someday soon – they’re having it too easy here the police and scabs. Ordered to go flying to Kiveton Park. Well! When we got there there was nobody around? The few pickets that were there told us all pickets re-directed to Barnburgh, near Mexborough.

When we got to Barnburgh at 6.00am the scab had gone in. There were about 500 pickets here. From what I saw here, it looks like an ideal battleground, probably another Orgreave, plenty of open fields and woods. I wonder if the police are thinking the same as me? This could be a nightmare for them. We never went there again.

I wonder when we turn the clocks back? Deputies voting tomorrow, according to sources at Silverwood the majority will be for strike action. If all the North votes a majority then all that is needed in moderate coalfields is an even vote, then they’ll be out. Have to wait and see. Energy secretary Peter Walker says on television, with a complacent smile that the deputies will be back at work in a few days, he will probably give them what they want, yet with the NUM? “Well, that’s a different matter!”

 

Letter sent to Rotherham Advertiser by Bruce Wilson.
Letter sent to Rotherham Advertiser by Bruce Wilson.

 

 

Wednesday, 26th September 1984.

Does your feet reach the end of those boots lad?

Silverwood for 2.00am. Quiet this morning, no hassle, no chasing about, nice and steady. As we stood on the picket line this morning, Barney had got his new boots on. Someone had given him a pair of steel capped pit boots, miles too big. Barney, a Silverwood lad was 4ft 10in tall, he spoke with a high pitched voice, he did not give a f**k and had the heart of a lion. Everybody knows Barney.

The police were all lined up facing us, one opposite Barney looked down at his boots and asked him if his feet reached the end of his boots? Quick as a flash Barney replied, “does your head touch the top of your helmet?” It shut that bobby up! Howls of laughter went up.

We were then told by a senior bobby to refer to scabs as ‘bounders’ and if any one shouted that terrible word ‘scab’ they would be arrested. The senior officer turned round and walked away, someone at the back of the picket line shouted out, “oh fuck off” and shouted that terrible word out again (scab) the officer looked round, but could not see who said it. He turned away and walked back into the pit yard.

We left after the scabs had gone in. When I got home I parked up as normal outside our house. There was a police car parked up at the end of the road. This was strange. It was only about ten foot away from me. As I got out of the car and locked it, one of the policemen shouted at me, “shift that car!” I ignored him and set off walking away from my car, the bobby shouted again, “I’m not going to tell you again, move it!” I bit my lip and asked him why? He replied, “double parked” (there was a car across from mine but there was still plenty of room for another car to get through). The copper said, “move it or you’re nicked.” The clever bastard! I jumped in the car took the handbrake off and let it roll forward a couple of yards. The bobby shouted, “Oh! Clever b*** eh! Get back in the car and move it, if you don’t you’re nicked” and added I would get 5 years hard labour as well! And he wasn’t smiling when he said it. So I moved my car down the road about ten yards. Never mind tomorrow’s another day.

Sat watching telly at home later on. BBC Look North interviewed a scab who had gone back to work. The interviewer asked him why? The scab replied, “my neighbours sent a bag of bones round for the dog. I cooked them for the family and we ate them. That’s why I went to work.”

 

Thursday, 27th September 1984.

Silverwood, 3.00am. Operation ‘Bent Nail’. A few days ago one of the lads gave me a bag of bent nails. When you threw them on the ground one end stuck up. Me and the wife spent half the night sorting them out. This one’s got to work and slow them down. Co-pilot Bob was totally unaware!

Daz and Shaun off this week. Me, Captain Bob and Bob Wilson set off. I picked Bob up early from Greenpiece cottages, Manor Farm. When I knocked on his door he wasn’t very pleased, not with me knocking him up, but he had been burgled the day before. All they took was a food hamper he won in the pub tote draw, it’s a bit bad when some bastard nick’s the only food you have in the house. Anyway we set off for Silverwood. Bob was totally in the dark, although he did query the route we took to Silverwood. Usually we went through Thrybergh and up Hollings Lane. But today we drove to the pit from the Cavalier pub end, down the hill towards the pit.

As we came to a slight bend in the road, across from the terraced houses, I drove into the right hand lane, wound the window down, gave Bob Wilson two brown paper bags and told him to drop them out of the window, they dropped on the road in the left hand lane. Bob said, “what the bloody hell’s going off? What the bleeding hell was in those bags?” He thought I was emptying the ashtrays! I explained to him, laughing. But I wasted no time in getting away. I put my foot down and parked up in the pit car park. I was still laughing, and had a job getting out of the car.

We walked up to the picket line and stood around the brazier with a nice fire in it, dead across from the pit gates, next to the tea hut. I had butterflies in my stomach, would it work? Would it slow them down? It was not long before things started to happen. All of a sudden all hell let loose! There was shouting, flashing lights, vehicle noises and dogs barking.

After about ten minutes Razzer pulled up outside the NUM office with a flat tyre. He came and stood round the fire with us, he told us he’s just come past the scab convoy, the police have got out of their vehicles and surrounded the scab van, truncheons drawn, waiting anxiously in the dark looking at the woods waiting to be attacked! Then Razzer said, realizing what we had done ‘it was worth it, a brand new tyre that was’. There were only six of us on that picket line and nobody knew about operation Bent Nail. We heard later from a reliable source, the police and scabs shit themselves, thinking they were going to get ambushed. Another job well done, slowed them down this morning. Captain Bob well pleased. Leon Brittan eat your heart out!

We stopped for another ten minutes then said our goodbyes to the other pickets. We thought it wise to bugger off. The other pickets understood. The next day and for a couple of weeks after, at 2.00am the police had to walk half a mile in either direction of the pit entrance. Down to the Reresby pub one way, and the Cavalier pub the other way, with torches checking the road for foreign objects. They were not very pleased at all. They made it hard for us pickets for a while, even putting the fire out in our brazier with buckets of water.

 

Police blocking the road to Harworth Colliery Notts. Maltby pit in the distance.
Police blocking the road to Harworth Colliery Notts. Maltby pit in the distance.

                                       

 

Friday, 28th September 1984.

Ambush at Silverwood.

Destination Silverwood, 1.30am. I picked the lads up and went to the Baggin’ it was full of striking miners. We set off at 1.00am, I parked at the rear of the Reresby pub. There were convoys of picket’s cars all over. We had to wait ages at Aldwarke Lane for all the cars go by!

From the Reresby we walked up the railway line, avoiding the road. We could hear a right commotion going off on the bridge in front of us. We climbed up the banking and onto the bridge. Pickets were well on the way, building a barricade! We bumped into some pickets who informed us there was heavy fighting going off all the way up to the pit. Yes! We stopped and helped build the barricade for a while, then set off walking to the pit. Daz was enjoying himself building the barricade so we left him to it. We bumped into Mick Tracy and Robin Walker [Silverwood men] I don’t think they liked the action.

We got to the NUM office across from the pit entrance. Only stood there ten minutes when the uniformed police were withdrawn and riot police took their place. They made one arrest as they went, dragging him off for swearing. “I think it’s time to move on.” We decided to make our way up the pit hill, we passed some pickets building another barricade. Wall’s came down etc, etc. Two pillars off a wall were placed in the road. I carried on walking up the hill for about a hundred yards in the darkness. Several hundred pickets went into the woods towards Sunnyside. And there were still hundreds of miners on the pit hill!

A police convoy started coming down the hill, a never ending stream of them. There must have been 70/80 different vehicles. Motorbikes, Transit vans and brand new Range Rovers. All with their sides and doors dented from an encounter with pickets further up the hill. This was an opportunity not to be missed. Everyone must have thought the same, and there were hundreds of us. All of a sudden the police convoy were met with a barrage of missiles. Motorbike cops were kicked, one nearly fell off his bike, Transit van windscreens were smashed, one idiot put an ambulance window through (mind you, the last mass picket at Silverwood a dozen riot police jumped out of the back of one).

Then our dreams came true! In the dark and with all their interior lights on, green coaches came. Coach after coach, full of the London Met. Pretty boys we call them. All of a sudden, and in unison. The London Met got it!! Every one of the coaches copped for it, they couldn’t escape. From every angle, front, back and both sides, every bleeding window was put through. The noise from the glass shattering was unbelievable. The macho Met had their heads between their knees. It was still dark and the coaches had their interior lights on. You could see everything. Their uniforms and pretty white shirts all mucky and covered in glass. Neither them or their uniforms were smart this morning.

As the convoy of police vehicles reached the pit entrance they could not get in fast enough. All the vehicles at the back of the convoy had to slow down and were sitting ducks. It was not planned, just an opportunity not to be missed. And did we take it! Then suddenly, from out of the convoy, a police Range Rover with a high ranking officer driving came speeding at me! He mounted the causeway and drove towards me. He tried to knock me down! I jumped over a low wall in front of the terraced houses, he just missed me. The offside of his vehicle scraped down the wall making an irritating noise. Then the short shield riot police came charging up the hill, we retreated. Some of us went back into the woods. When we got to the top of the hill there were hundreds of police.

 

Hollings Lane. The place of the infamous ambush at Silverwood.
Hollings Lane. The place of the infamous ambush at Silverwood.

 

They vastly outnumbered us. They split us into two groups. They then started pushing us about, trying to clear the road. We were forced all the way back up to the Cavalier pub. Many pickets got in their cars and went home, or got out of the way.

After clearing the road the riot police pushed the few of us that were left down Braithwell Road. A police range Rover came up behind us, he didn’t last long. I heard the screech of brakes as he stopped. He quickly reversed back up the road doing 50mph, escaping a hail of missiles.

We made our way back to the pit through fields and woods. When we got near the pit entrance an elderly miner was sat on the small wall near the pit garage (about two foot high) a riot copper told him to move. The elderly miner refused, so he got a smack on the side of his face. I did not see what the copper hit him with, but whatever it was the old man dropped like a stone. The copper wielding his truncheon was stood over him.

Twenty or so pickets witnessing this lost their rag and charged the copper, he ran back to his mates. The pickets then ripped up walls and gates and made another barricade! Well, obstructions in the road. Me, Captain Bob and two other Silverwood lads tried to make for the pit gates, we kept in the fields near the road. We crossed the road at the bottom of the hill, it was dark, misty and police were all over the place. It was swarming with them! In the darkness we came to a bunch of riot police, about a dozen of them. Bob shouted out, “go and count your dead!”

We then made our way back into fields at the bottom of Spencer Drive. We were a bit scared of going into the pit woods situated at either side of the road. Finally we crept in. We came to a van full of riot police waiting? We laid down in the grass and waited. Didn’t have long to wait, all of a sudden they shot off. We then set off, crawling in the grass. We could not see anything, but could hear. We kept meeting groups of men in the wood and would shout, “picket?”

Earlier on we lost Captain Bob. We thought he had been taken prisoner, we found him up a tree, hiding from the riot squad. There’s still some battling going off at the bottom of the hill, we can hear the noise. Shouting, banging and the sound of metal clanging. When we got on high ground, you can see a red glow in the distance from a fire. We finally made it to the pit gates. We had not been stood there long when the police came out of the pit entrance in strength, some of them marched down to the bridge on Hollings Lane. We bumped into Granville Richardson and Jim Divine (NUM officials), they gave me some petrol money. Everyone’s ‘flying’ to Maltby from here but not us lads I’m going home to bed!

Superintendent Nesbit came out of the pit entrance shouting orders at us. He got hit with a paint pellet on his shoulder, he cried like a baby and ran off with a WPC. Where do they get these people from?

We are told about the heavy fighting going off at the scrap yard near the Reresby pub. It has been going on all morning. We left Daz down there! The scrapyard has been raided! Paul Burke nicked a road roller, started it up and couldn’t stop it. Shopping trolley’s littering the road. The Landlord of the new pub came out brandishing a shotgun.

We decided to make our way back to the car. It was still early morning and dark. We passed some lads who told us Kate Adie, a BBC reporter was here. We should have known it would be a battle zone if she was here. Had a steady walk back, first chance we get it’s ‘into the fields’. We will have to watch ourselves now. Making our way down the road we came to the pit car park. It was full of cavalry and police with their truncheons drawn. There’s something going off on the bridge a few hundred yards in front of us?

We dodge, duck, dive and weave around the police in the dark, Daz must still be on the bridge? We manage to reach the fields, some lads with us didn’t make it. The police got them. Police were rounding pickets up and any stragglers they got hold of. Then, on both sides of the bridge the police formed an ‘arch of truncheons’. The police then pushed all the captured miners down the road and through the ‘arch of truncheons’. The poor bastards got some right hammer. Kicked, punched and truncheoned. Two Silverwood lads got pushed through. Ian ‘Mitch’ Mitchell and Daz Goulty. They did not get us. We kept on walking in the darkness, managing to get down into the railway cutting.

We kept bumping into stragglers (pickets) we would shout, “picket?” I don’t trust these coppers. They’ve developed a liking for jumping out of bushes at you, then giving you some truncheon. I got back to the car. The lads were waiting for me. Captain ‘tree climber’ Bob and Daz, who looked none the worse for his walk down the aisle ‘surrounded by truncheon wielding policemen’.

What a morning! The London Met. Neither them or their uniforms were smart this morning. A fleet of windowless coaches. I bet there wasn’t a clean pair of underwear in that convoy. A lot of them did not have their double breasted jackets on. I can still see their faces, with just their white shirts on (The London Metropolitan police wear smart double breasted uniforms with silver buttons). They wondered what hit them! Coppers make me laugh. Their attitude is ‘we can do it to you, but you can’t do it to us’. First time they get some hammer they squeal like little pigs. Good in numbers, clever with their riot gear. The trouble is, the law is on their side and they can’t do any wrong.

Casualty list: 6 coppers. A couple got bit by their own dogs. 4 pickets. A police dog got one picket.

 

Silverwood Colliery. September 28th 1984. Diagram drawn by Bruce Wilson explaining the events of that morning.
Silverwood Colliery. September 28th 1984. Diagram drawn by Bruce Wilson explaining the events of that morning.

 

Silverwood. 28th September 1984.

The bridge on Hollings Lane. Underneath the bridge is the railway cutting which went right up to the pit. We used to walk up it from the Reresby pub and climb onto the road next to the bridge, making our way to the picket line at Silverwood Colliery avoiding police on the road and in the woods.

We left Darren Goulty here building a barricade on the morning of 28th September. The woods on the right are where we played cat and mouse with the riot police and found Captain Bob at the top of a tree, hiding from the marauding riot police. In the distance is where the media described the ‘ambush’ on the police. When both pickets and police got bit by police dogs.

This is the same bridge that police rounded up and forced ‘captured miners’ through. The ‘arch of truncheons’. As we found out later the police were ambushed twice that morning. But only one incident was reported in the news? The police never owned up to owning a fleet of windowless coaches. And the London Met never owned up to getting their smart uniforms spoilt.

 

Pic 16a

The Bridge on Hollings Lane where miners were forced to walk through an ‘arch of truncheons’.
The Bridge on Hollings Lane where miners were forced to walk through an ‘arch of truncheons’.

 

Saturday, 29th September 1984.

The Sun newspaper was not published. Print workers refused to print the headline ‘Scum Miners’.

 


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