Box Flat mine memories burn deep still

Roz Tait, with great-granddaughter Rogue Hatfield, lays flowers in memory of her father Maurice Tait.
Roz Tait, with great-granddaughter Rogue Hatfield, lays flowers in memory of her father Maurice Tait.

FOR some, that awful low boom that blasted half of Ipswich out of bed early in the morning on July 31, 1972, is still as vivid today as it was 42 years ago.

The city's worst mining disaster came at an enormous cost, with 17 men killed and the surviving workers and mines rescue men left to deal with the trauma of losing good mates.

Families were torn apart forever.

The bodies of dads, brothers, sons or uncles had to be buried with the exploded mine, never to be seen again.

It will remain a tragedy that Ipswich will not forget - and for good reason.

The Box Flat memorial on Swanbank Rd has remained the main gathering place for the grieving families of the men lost on that fateful day.

A group of about 20 people gathered for a service commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the disaster last Thursday.

Among the crowd was Lance Waldon, 76, one of the men who could be considered very lucky to have survived the blast.

In the moments leading up to the explosion, Mr Waldon was at the mouth of the tunnel, filling sandbags with two other men in an attempt to seal off oxygen to a fire that had been burning since the day before.

"I could hear it coming - there was this noise," Mr Waldon said.

"All I saw was a big yellow tunnel full of flames - I can still see it now.

"Before we could run we were picking ourselves up off the ground. I remember reaching for my helmet."

Although the power of the explosion sent his body careening many metres through the air, Mr Waldon was not seriously hurt, and was actually asked to go back to the mine site later the same day - a request he was less than happy to receive. The anniversary was an emotional time for Margaret Cobbin, the niece of Box Flat casualty Ken Cobbin.

Ms Cobbin said the loss of her uncle made her family worry a lot about her dad, Ray, who also worked in the mines.

"Dad used to say it was scary to work in the mines after Box Flat," she said.

"I was always worried for him."

A group of former miners is leading the campaign to build a memorial to all the 186 people killed in Ipswich mining tragedies since 1882.

The memorial will be built in Limestone Park.

It is waiting on further funding arrangements and some further negotiations with the building contractor.

Topics:  memorial service

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