When December arrived and Britain was becoming desperate for a continued supply of coal for both the war effort and a winter at home, it was decided that a percentage of conscripts would be directed to the mines. The colloquial name "Bevin Boys" came from the speech Bevin made announcing the scheme:
"... We need 720,000 men continuously employed in this industry. This is where you boys come in. Our fighting men will not be able to achieve their purpose unless we get an adequate supply of coal."
Since a number of conscientious objectors were sent to work down the mines as an alternative to military service, there was sometimes an assumption that all Bevin Boys were "Conchies", and, although the right to conscientiously object to killing was recognised in conscription legislation, as it had been in the First World War, old attitudes of discrimination still prevailed amongst some members of the general public, with resentment by association towards Bevin Boys. In 1943 UK Government minister Ernest Bevin said in Parliament: ‘There are thousands of cases in which conscientious objectors, although they may have refused to take up arms, have shown as much courage as anyone else in Civil Defence.’ The Peace Movement 1940-49
On 20 June 2007 Tony Blair informed the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions that thousands of conscripts who worked down mines in World War II would receive an honour. The prime minister told the Commons the Bevin Boys would be rewarded with a Veterans Badge — similar to the HM Armed Forces Badge awarded by the Ministry of Defence.
The first badges were awarded on 25 March 2008 by the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) at a reception at 10 Downing Street, marking the 60th anniversary of the last Bevin Boys being discharged.
|Jimmy Savile||DJ and charity worker|| "I went down as a boy and came up as a man."|
"If that's what we were told to do by the country to save the country, that's what we did"
|Jock Purdon||Folk singer/poet||Purdon stayed on in the Durham coal mines after the war. "For me there's three great generals - Geronimo, Alexander the Great and Arthur Scargill".|
|Dickson Mabon||Moderate UK Labour politician||On his discharge in 1948 he went to the University of Glasgow to read Medicine.|
|Brian, Lord Rix, CBE, DL||Actor/manager, and president of Mencap||Rix volunteered to leave the RAF to join the Bevin Boy Scheme. "I have never regretted the decision," he says.|
|Eric Morecambe||Comedian||Half of the British comedy double act Morecambe and Wise, Morecambe worked at a mine in Accrington for 11 months, which may have affected his health and led to heart attacks later in life.|
|Peter Shaffer||Dramatist||The author of Equus and Amadeus, he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge.|
|Alf Sherwood||Footballer||Went on to win 41 caps for Wales|
|Gerald Smithson||Cricketer||While serving as a Bevin Boy, Smithson was called into the Test cricket team for a tour of the West Indies.|
|Peter Alan Rayner||Numismatic Author||Rayner was conscripted into the mines during World War II.|
|Peter, Lord Archer of Sandwell||Former Member of Parliament||Represented both Rowley Regis and Tipton; and latterly for Warley West. Solicitor General for England and Wales from March 1974 to May 1979. Also chaired the Enemy Property Claims Assessment panel.|
|Sir Stanley Bailey||Police officer||Former chief constable of Northumbria Police|