This week marked the 64th anniversary of the Six Bells colliery disaster which took the lives of 45 miners.  

On the morning of June 28, 1960, there was an explosion at the Arael Griffin colliery, that broke the hearts of families across the Gwent Valleys.  

Initial reports in the South Wales Argus said the blast had “killed at least two”, but it was quickly realised that 40 miners were trapped underground.  

The rescuers divided into two teams with one to make the roof safe and the other attempting break through a wall of rock imprisoning the men.  

It was a sight of anguish as hundreds of men, women and children stood outside the colliery waiting for any news. 

At this point two men were rescued, Clifford Lewis of Nantyglo and Michael Purnell of Abertillery and both were sent to the hospital.  

Lewis was discharged home, but Purnell was kept in for treatment of severe burns. 

An official from the colliery told the argus: “It’s not rock [falls] that are worrying me - it’s carbon monoxide from the explosion.” 

The death toll went on to rise to 45 and at the inquest two days after the disaster, the coroner told the relatives and loved ones that “the whole nation feels for the relatives of the victims in this moment of tragic sadness.” 

One of the survivors, Harold Legge, told the Argus: “I was about half a mile from the coalface. I heard a roar which it is a job to describe. 

“There was a flash across my eyes, and I couldn’t see for dust, I had a job to breathe, and I stumbled to the pit bottom through the dust. 

“Afterwards I discovered there was a man killed twenty yards from me.” 

The explosion reportedly took place in the older part of the colliery called the ‘W’ vein.  

A rescue worker told the Argus that some of the men were so badly burned it was difficult to identify the bodies.