On Tuesday, March 1 st, 1927, fifty two men died in the Marine Colliery at Cwm.
The colliery was established by the Ebbw Vale Steel Iron and Coal Co. Ltd., in 1893 and sunk to a depth of 414 yards. It was named "Marine" after the Marine Compound Engines used underground. The name is also connected with the coal, which was used by the Admiralty in Royal Navy warships, in the first world war.
Marine was a modern pit compared with others in the district, and the people of Cwm and Company officials were shocked when the explosion occurred. The night shift of firemen and maintenance men had only been down a few hours before the explosion took place. It was due to fire damp which had gathered in the Black Vein area and then swept with devastating effect through the return, to the upcast shaft. There were about 140 men underground at the time, and it was believed that fifty men had been trapped by the fall.
Officials and rescue teams used the downcast shaft and pumps were set up to force ventilation through the workings. This would prevent further explosions and allow rescue teams to get to the trapped men. The first three officials who went down were F. P. Hann, the Managing Director, H.' McVicar, General Manager, and W. H. John the Colliery Agent. These were overcome by carbon monoxide gas, commonly known as "black damp", and were brought back to the surface.
Relatives and friends waited anxiously for news as miners with light injuries arrived at the Ambulance Room, but by 2.30 a.m. and it was obvious that many of the miners still underground must have been killed.
Doctor Florance O'Sullivan lived nearest to the pit, in Wood vi lie Road, and later wrote an account of the disaster. He led one of the rescue teams and was joined by other local doctors, including Doctor Alan P. Brown.
The rescue team which Dr. O'Sullivan led, consisted of two ambulance men, two stretcher bearers and a guide. The team made its way into the affected area, slipping and slithering down shafts and pitches and met a fireman, with a linnet in a cage. They arrived at a point where the bird stopped chirping and died, and they quickly returned to the surface. They then went down again to an area where trapped men
had been located. This time there was no risk of gas, but they were in danger of being crushed by rockfalls. The team rescued two men, but it was nearly two days before all the bodies were recovered. When the men were found, they all appeared to be alive, for the effect of the gas had made their cheeks red.
Relatives and friends stood in the mud and driving rain and waited anxiously for news. Fifty two men had been killed and several families lost two or more members.
Workers in the same heading were killed. William Matthews, and his two collier sons, Trevor and Herbert were lost. There followed days of comforting the bereaved and identifying the bodies as they were brought to the surface. On Wednesday the Prime Minister, Mr. Stanley Baldwin and his wife, visited the scene of the disaster and called on many bereaved families.
On the day of the funeral in Cwm, a bus carrying sightseers and mourners, turned over as it was travelling over the bridges near the colliery and several of the passengers had to be treated in hospital
There was a seperate funeral for the Ebbw Vale , but most of the the forty one victims from were buried in a special section of Cwm cemetery. On September 29th, 1927 a momerial tablet to those who died was unveiled at Cwm Institue by the general manager, Sir Fredrick Mills
Marine Colliery was one of the last fully operational colliery in the Blaenau Gwent area and during the last ten years of its life the surface works was expanded and modernised. At the time of its closure the coal seams had not been exhausted, and in the interests of economy the collieries at Six Bells and the Rose Heyworth, Abertillery, were linked to Marine underground.