Bevin Boy, 97, who was branded a 'coward' after being forced to dig coal rather ... trends now

Bevin Boy, 97, who was branded a 'coward' after being forced to dig coal rather ... trends now
Bevin Boy, 97, who was branded a 'coward' after being forced to dig coal rather ... trends now

Bevin Boy, 97, who was branded a 'coward' after being forced to dig coal rather ... trends now

A Bevin Boy branded a 'coward' after being forced to dig coal rather than fight during World War Two has finally been honoured for his service - 80 years later.

John Avery, 97, was one of thousands of men who were made to work in the mines to increase coal production - even though they put themselves forward for the military.

While the young men were drawn for the roles by ballot, the general public often looked down on them - wrongly believing that they were draft dodgers.

But eight decades on, John - who is known as Jack to his friends - has finally received a Defence Medal to acknowledge the importance of his national service to Britain's war effort.

And the great-grandfather of seven dedicated the award to other brave men and women who went unrecognised while serving in civilian roles during the conflict.

John Avery, 97, who was branded a 'coward' after being forced to dig coal rather than fight during World War Two has finally been honoured for his service - 80 years later

John Avery, 97, who was branded a 'coward' after being forced to dig coal rather than fight during World War Two has finally been honoured for his service - 80 years later

John Avery and his wife Brenda on their honeymoon in Blackpool in 1953

John Avery and his wife Brenda on their honeymoon in Blackpool in 1953

John Avery being awarded his Defence Medal to acknowledge the importance of his national service to Britain's war effort

John Avery being awarded his Defence Medal to acknowledge the importance of his national service to Britain's war effort 

He said: 'This medal is not just for me but for all those who served on the Home Front and were never recognised.

The Bevin Boys: How thousands of young men were conscripted into the mines during WWII

The Bevin Boys were a group of 48,000 young men who were conscripted into the mines during WWII. 

The scheme was run on a ballot system whereby young men aged 18 to 25 years, upon registering for National Service, would be selected according to the last digit of their registration number.

The Bevin Boys kept the country supplied with energy - getting their nickname from the then Labour and National Service minister, Ernest Bevin, who created the policy.

But their crucial contribution to the war effort was only recognised in 1995 by the government.

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'I think of all those who were killed during the bombings on the Home Front, especially the firefighters and just count my blessings I have had such a long and happy life.'

John grew up at a Fenham barracks, in Newcastle, where his hero dad John William Avery - who served in both world wars - was stationed as a groundsman.

But when he applied to follow in his footsteps, he was instead conscripted into the role of a miner, becoming one of the 48,000 young men known as 'Bevin Boys'.

They kept the country supplied with energy - getting their nickname from the then Labour and National Service minister, Ernest Bevin, who created the policy.

But their crucial contribution to the war effort was only recognised in 1995 by the government - with John unaware that he could even qualify for a medal until recently.

He was finally presented with it at the Guildhall, in his home city of York on April 5 by his local MP Rachael Maskell.

John said: 'It means a lot. It is something that I can wear when I go to the parades and it's something I can pass on to my son and grandson.

'I didn't even know there was a medal

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