Arthur Bernard Clifford

Arthur Bernard Clifford, born 13 July 1894, son of Walter Clifford. Educated at Barnsley Grammar School and later studied at the Technical College in North Staffordshire.

By 1912, at the age of 18, he was appointed Assistant Instructor to his father in North Staffordshire and had become an expert in the use of Proto breathing apparatus.

Somewhere around 1914, Arthur travelled to Mexico, where he applied his expertise in breathing apparatus at a huge oil well fire. The exact date is not known, nor is it clear whether he was sent or chose to go.

He returned to the UK in 1915 and promptly received a telegram from Sir Robert H Davies, of Siebe Gorman, suggesting that his talents would be of use at the Western Front in Ypres.

The Great War had, by this time, stalled into a stalemate position on the Western Front and both allied and German armies had adopted the age old tactic of tunnelling under the enemy lines to plant high explosive charges. Whilst mildly successful this constant process of blowing mines, and being countermined by the enemy, resulted in many casualties from the combustion gases produced in the explosions. It was recognised that modern breathing apparatus, in trained hands, could effect many rescues of the sapper miners so a call was made to find a source of such apparatus and personnel. (for more detail, see also Mines Rescue and the Great War)

Within a few days of receiving the telegram Arthur, with the rank of Lance Corporal in the Royal Engineers, accompanied Corporal Ellison to France . He assisted in the establishment of the 1st Army Mines Rescue School at Strazeene and later in Armentieres. His task was to train sappers and miners to use the Proto breathing apparatus in the tunnelling operations which occurred between 1915 and 1918. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for "Services to the Army in the Field" and became a Sergeant with the Royal Engineers.

In 1918, when most of the tunnelling and mining operations had ceased, he was sent for by the Home Office to return and assist with, and later take control of, the recovery of the Minnie Pit which had suffered an explosion, on January 18th, resulting in the loss of 155 men. Recovery of the pit took some 19 months and ranks as one of the longest operations of it's type in the world.

Arthur, known to his friends and colleagues as 'AB', moved on to train Rescue Teams in the Forest of Dean where he became one of the countries leading Instructors in Mines Rescue. In 1922 he compiled a book called The Rescue Man's Manual, this being probably the first printed reference manual for the mines rescue industry. This book covered the subject of how we breath, use of breathing apparatus and the gases found in mines before and after disasters, together with the Do's and Don'ts of mines rescue.

As a keen photographer he also produced, in 1937, a series of underground photographs, taken mainly in the Lightmoor Colliery (see example), which he used as training aids. Such underground photography was unusual given the obvious dangers of using flash gun to illuminate the subject matter.

He continued as Superintendent Instructor until his retirement in 1959. He remained active in rescue work throughout this period and was involved most notably in the flooding of the Arthur & Edward (Waterloo) pit in 1949

Arthur, like his father, possessed the 'Staffordshire Knot' medal including 5 bars for rescues at:-

Jamage, 1911
Norton, 1912
Silverdale, 1913
Crackley, 1914
Podmore Hall (Minnie), 1918

He also possessed a cluster of 4 Military medals.

Arthur died on 1st February 1961, at the Dilkes Memorial Hospital, Cinderford, having been diagnosed as suffering from Myelomatosis.

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