Going to war in a shared tin bath

The outbreak of the Second World War made life at the coalface even bleaker for Welsh mining families, a fact often missed out in history lessons on Britain's war effort.

Isabella Kaminski

But wartime tales of heroic endeavours and hardship of Welsh miners, including the experiences of the Bevin Boys - conscripts or conscientious objectors who ended up working in the mines - are becoming increasingly popular in the classroom.

Interest in the miners' plight during wartime Wales has increased with the second series of BBC Wales's reality TV show Coal House, say its producers.

The programme was a surprise hit when it was broadcast for the first time last year. It featured three families experiencing life "down the pit" at the beginning of the last century and living in cottages without running water or central heating. Viewers watched scenes of families, who had abandoned the luxuries of 2007 to live in cramped miners' cottages on the hills of Blaenavon, near Pontypool, sharing water in tin baths and going hungry when there was no work at the pit.

But life will get even tougher in the latest series, which began this week, because it is now 1939 and war has broken out.

Education officers at BBC Wales have produced more resources to help teachers bring history lessons to life in conjunction with the programme. The packs also include photographs from the period.

Three families from South Wales have already entered the Coal House, and will have to contend with food rationing and extra mouths to feed when evacuees arrive from London. The families will also welcome the Bevin Boys into their tight-knit communities.

Women will run the household, while the men and boys will walk every day to the pit for a punishing day of work under the mercy of the owner Mr Blandford.

Steven Sandrey, BBC Wales education officer, said: "We decided to try to really get schools involved this series. Packs have been sent out to all schools and there's been lots of interest."

The BBC's education department put together the free resource pack tailored to the history curriculum at key stages 2 and 3 with school history advisers.


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Isabella Kaminski

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