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Explosion and Escape

The night shift on Friday 21st September 1934 was busy. Many miners were "doubling up" so they would be free to watch the football, Wrexham against Tranmere Rovers, on Saturday afternoon.

It came nearer like thunder and then the place was all black. You couldn't see anything.

Edward Williams, Engine Attendant at Dennis pit bottom

Just after 2am Saturday morning a huge explosion shook the Dennis section. Fred Davies at the pit bottom heard the noise. He left his cabin to investigate and was completely enveloped in dust. Davies rang the surface to warn them of the explosion. A phone call to the men at 'The Clutch' (see plan) remained unanswered.

Something has happened down the Dennis. I think it has fired.

Fred Davies, first news of the disaster

Rescue men at Gresford Colliery

Bonsall and his under manager, Andrew Williams, came down the Dennis shaft immediately. Williams headed along the Dennis Main and met the only survivors coming out.

Gresford Colliery from the air September 22nd-23rd 1934.

John and Albert Samuels were working in the 29s district when they heard a thud. John Samuels knew something had gone seriously wrong in the 14s district. With the fireman, Dai Jones, they made their way up the face, gathering men as they progressed. They tried different roads off the face, but John realised heading into the airflow was pointless, if the 14s had gone up. The only way out was along the old 99s road.

The journey out was an endurance test: with only three lamps to provide light and the firedamp (methane gas) sapping their energy, the six survivors, led by John Samuels, made their way up ladders across the fault and crawled through narrow tunnels. They negotiated the return airway before following the connecting roadway to 'The Clutch'. Though back in a part of the mine they knew well, they had to clamber over several roof falls before meeting Andrew Williams coming the other way. They had made it. No one else did.

The survivors of the Gresford Disaster: Left to Right - Bert Samuels, Thomas Fisher, David Jones, Jack Samuels, Teddy Andrews. Cyril Challoner (inset top left) was the one other survivor. - © Flintshire Record Office

One fellow said 'Wait until somebody comes for us.' But nobody was coming for us at all. It was the last time we saw them.

Teddy Andrews, one of the survivors