BBC News - 9 Mar 04

Prof. Robert B. Laughlin
Department of Physics
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
(Copied 24 May 09)

Striking Tales: A Policeman's Lot

BBC News, Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 18:28 GMT

David Adams during the miners' strike.

When the miners' strike began in March 1984, David Adams had been a South Wales Police officer for more than 25 years.

As the son and grandson of miners, he had sympathies with the strikers, but thought they were misguided.

During the strike, he ran a control room overseeing policing of the collieries of south Wales.

"The miners [in south Wales] were very loyal when they did come out. They had some rallies and marches, picketed all the collieries, and nobody went to work, basically. So it was relatively quiet.

"There were pickets going from south Wales to other areas [where miners were going to work].

"We had requests for assistance from these forces. We were expected to help and we did. By May and June we were sending officers to assist in other areas. My role was to make sure they were being catered for well.

"It was a busy time, as I was also setting up the new department [policing operations]. We were still having things like royal visits while the miners' strike was going on.

"Then about August, [striking miner] Monty Morgan decided he was going to work. I had a call saying, we have got a miner from Betws who's going to work on his own.

"The National Coal Board was supplying transport to work as usual and when the bus pulled up at the stop, he got on it and went to work.

"The problem we had was once he was in work, getting him out again.

"Pickets started to arrive in their bus loads from all over south Wales. We had to put on large numbers of policemen to control them.

"We had about 200-plus policemen in Blaengarw [where the colliery was] and about 80 in Betws to ensure his safety when he got home.

"The bus driver, when he saw the pickets, refused to drive the bus out of the colliery again.

"So we had to look for a police officer who could drive the bus, who had a PSV licence and was insured - and who was prepared to do it.

"A police Land Rover went first, followed by the bus, followed by me in another Land Rover.

"It was a hairy experience. There were bricks and stones hitting the side of the vehicle as we went through [the pickets].

"We managed to get him home, then we had to police his house overnight. The next day, he went to work again and we had the same sort of palaver we'd had the day before.

"Luckily, then he saw the error of his ways and decided he couldn't go to work. He certainly didn't do himself any favours.


"We had coke and coal being taken from Port Talbot docks to Llanwern [steel works] and they had to be escorted by police.

"There were demonstrators throwing eggs filled with paint on to the windscreens of lorries coming underneath motorway bridges on the M4.

"Things were starting to hot up from about then on.

"I used to get into work at about 3am. Once the miners [who were going to work] were in, we'd go back to the office and get on with our normal work.

"Then it would be back out to see the miners home. I would finish work about 7pm, go home for the evening and be back in at 3am.

"Having said that, we had the easy job compared to the police who had to go out in all weathers - so, to be sure, did the miners. They had the difficult job.

"By November, people started going back [at some collieries] but it was very low numbers and there were large numbers of pickets.

"We were fed up with it by this time. We wanted to get on with normal policing.

"By 22 January 1985, in the UK there were about 2,000 miners back in work but still only a handful in south Wales. But by early February, people were going back and by early March it was on the wane.

Mr. Adams retired from the force in 1992.

"I had had both my grandfathers and my father working in the mines as did, I would suspect, large percentages of policemen in south Wales.

"I never wanted to go down a mine and neither did my father want me to.

"I was very sympathetic although I think they were misguided in going on strike because the mining industry in Britain was on the wane.

"Coming from mining areas, we could relate to them and talk the same language. At the end of the day, it was their livelihoods they were fighting for.

"I think the miners from south Wales handled themselves remarkably well.

"Considering what they were going through with very little money and possessions, I thought they were remarkably restrained."