The 1921 census in the UK was originally scheduled to be held on 24 April but it was delayed until 19 June due to civil unrest and strikes.

The census was taken during a coal strike which ended on 28 June and reveals that many military personnel were deployed to mines around the country. The entry for No 3 Blackrigg Colliery near Armadale in West Lothian gives only three words of explanation for why they were there.

Snip from 671/02/002/S/11

In the faintest of handwriting it reads: “Military protecting Colliery”

These 26 military personnel at Blackrigg are not listed as soldiers in the census: they are electricians, gardeners, labourers, ship riggers and one 51-year-old coal miner named Edward Morgan from Ayrshire. There is no mention of what military unit the men were serving in, just their ranks: one Lieutenant, one Sergeant three L-Corporals and the rest were Privates. It’s likely they were army reservists.

We can see this again at Cowie Colliery in Stirling. This time, the unit is headed by a Captain, 30 year old Edward Armour, an ironmonger from Campbeltown.

Snip from 488/01/007/45

The census from Pencaitland Colliery in East Lothian tells another story, with 29 Naval Personnel stationed at the mine. They are all employed by the Royal Navy and are stokers, seamen and petty officers.

Snip from 716/00/003/0017

There is no clue as to the conditions that these military personnel were living in but we can see that those who were posted to Methil in Fife were living in part of Denbeath School and their commanding officer was Sir Robert Drummond Moncrieff, Colonel of the 6th Battalion the Black Watch.

There will be more entries in the census from mines around the country, and this is just a snapshot of what is in the archive.

If you are unable to find your ancestor in the census at home with his family it may be worth widening your search. Perhaps he was in the army reservists and was deployed to one of the mines.

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