Ben W. asked me if I was interested in becoming a member of the Pit First Aid Team. He said that a team from Middleton was being formed and that it would enter inter-colliery competitions. The team would meet every Wednesday evening for two hours training. Competitions were to be held at our mining area offices, or away at other area offices, on the last Saturday of every month. All training and competition time would be paid for. I liked the idea and agreed.
For two Wednesday evening we trained. Our captain, Bill B. was an experienced First Aider. What he didn’t know about first aid wasn’t worth knowing. He had experience of many competitions before and he really knew his stuff. For two weeks prior to our first competition I swotted up on my St. Johns First Aid Book.
I was beginning to find that my evening time was at a premium, Monday I went Boxing Training, Tuesdays and Thursdays were night school, and now Wednesday was First Aid training. I was finding time to do my courting very hard to come by.
We were a team of four and we travelled to Area Seven offices for our first competition. On arrival there were twelve teams entered and Captain Billie pulled out a number from a hat for order of play. We were to be fourth on. We were all dressed alike in boots, blue coverall, and pit helmet and miners electric lamp.
When our turn came we were led into a large hall where spectators were seated. At one end of the hall a large raised platform had been erected, and an underground mock up of a mining gate and face was portrayed. The scenario was that we as team had been called to this coal face and found a number of men injured. We had no prior knowledge of what had caused the injuries. We were to treat the patients as we deemed necessary. A doctor was on hand to answer any questions, and to award marks for the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Our captain soon showed that he was no stranger to competition. He aimed questions of the doctor in a staccato manner; it was to his own pre-formed plan.
“Has the surface been informed of the accident” Bill asked.
“No” replied the doctor.
“Jack,” he said to me “Inform Pit top by phone of the emergency and have them stand by to receive three injured persons. Have them organise stretcher bearing parties to meet us on route out of the pit. Tell them we will keep them informed.” A host of other instructions followed that I had to relay. I hoped I could remember them all.
When Bill asked of the doctor if one of the injured miners was breathing, he received the answered no. He then ordered another member of the team to commence mouth to nose artificial respiration. Mouth to mouth or nose artificial respiration had only recently been entered in the manuals and was comparatively a new procedure.
Bill continued his assessment of the situation in his fast and highly competent manner. At one point the doctor had to ask him to slow down he could not enter the points on his check list fast enough. By the time we had completed the first stage of the competition we were the leading team.
The team then had to answer verbal questions from a panel individually. I was not looking forward to this part at all as I did not feel competent enough. Bill tried and succeeded somewhat to put me at my ease. He said it does not matter if we won or lost as long as we had tried our best. On my individual verbal question I was asked to define the respiratory system. I was in luck in earlier training sessions Bill had suggested that we learn the respiratory and blood circularity systems as they are old chestnuts questions. They crop up in competition regularly. I began parrot fashion, “Air enters the nose and mouth and travels down the back of the throat to the”….etc.
The outcome of the competition was that we won. We each were awarded a First prize of Five Pounds. To me nearly a week’s pay, plus a small trophy each. I was over the moon.
In later competitions when I may have let the side down by being asked a question that I could not answer. “Don’t worry,” was the only comment Bill ever gave me on these occasions, “its all swings and roundabouts”
I had a very deep respect for Bill.