Tributes are being paid this week to those who lost their lives in one of Wales' worst mining tragedies. It has been 87 years since 266 men and boys were killed in the Gresford Colliery disaster near Wrexham. 

On the evening of Friday, 21 September 1934, miners descended into the Dennis section of the Gresford Colliery to begin their shift. It was busier than usual as many of them were ‘doubling up’ their shifts so they would be free to watch the Wrexham match on Saturday afternoon. However, only six of them would return.

William and Mark Prince lost their lives in the Gresford mining disaster. Source: Cllr Ronnie PrinceGresford Colliery

At 2.08am Saturday morning (22 September), an explosion ripped through the colliery, killing countless miners in the process.

Edward Williams, who was an engine attendant at the Dennis section, recalled: "It came nearer like thunder and then the place was all black. You couldn’t see anything.”

More than 200 rescue workers were sent down in an attempt to rescue the stricken miners but all they recovered were 11 bodies; three of those belonged to the first rescue team.

William and Mark Prince lost their lives in the Gresford mining disaster. Source: Cllr Ronnie PrinceRescue workers from other collieries arriving in Gresford after the mine disaster. The smiling faces probably show they are unaware of the scale of the tragedy they are about to experience. Photographer Geoff Charles. Source: National Library of Wales

William and Mark Prince lost their lives in the Gresford mining disaster. Source: Cllr Ronnie PrinceMembers of the rescue party at begin their search at Gresford Colliery

One of the rescuers described the situation as being "just like hell".

Once news reached town, crowds gathered around the colliery as women and children waited for news of their loved ones, who were never to return.

READ MORE: Remembering the Abercarn mining disaster, in which 268 died

After 40 hours of exertion, the rescuers decided to close the mine shafts at 6pm on Sunday evening. There had been nobody alive left to save.

The disaster left 200 women widowed, 800 children fatherless and 1,600 without jobs.

William and Mark Prince lost their lives in the Gresford mining disaster. Source: Cllr Ronnie PrinceThe men who survived the Gresford Colliery Disaster

Last Saturday, Wrexham AFC conducted a minute’s silence ahead of their 1-nil win against Dagenham & Redbridge.

Gresford Athletic AFC also observed a minute’s silence before their match against Llangefni Town on Friday evening, which ended 3-nil.

The current mayor of Wrexham, whose relatives lost their lives in the disaster, will attend a remembrance service in their memory on Wednesday.

Among the miners who were killed at Gresford Colliery were William and Mark Prince, the grandfather and great grandfather of Councillor Ronnie Prince. He said both men would be in his thoughts and said the occasion would hold even more meaning than usual as he wears his chains of office.

William and Mark Prince lost their lives in the Gresford mining disaster. Source: Cllr Ronnie PrinceThe Mayor of Wrexham, Ronnie Prince. Source: Wrexham County Borough Council

“This year I will be attending the Gresford Colliery disaster remembrance service like I have done on many previous occasions,” said Cllr Prince, who was elected Mayor in May. 

“266 men from all around Wrexham, which included both my grandfather William Prince and great grandfather Mark Prince lost their lives on that fateful day back on September 22nd 1934.

“This year for me and my family it will be slightly different owing to the fact that I will be attending as the mayor of Wrexham, making it an even more poignant occasion.

READ MORE: It's 10 years since four men died in the Gleision Colliery

“Many miners being passionate Wrexham FC supporters including my grandfather William, had switched their shifts to enable them to watch a home match against Tranmere Rovers FC.

“Tragically this resulted in them working the shift when disaster struck. Sadly, the rest is history.

“Our thoughts are with all the families and friends that were affected by this devastating tragedy.”

William and Mark Prince lost their lives in the Gresford mining disaster. Source: Cllr Ronnie PrinceThe memorial in Bluebell Lane, Pandy.

The remembrance service will take place at 11am on Wednesday, 22 September at the memorial site on Bluebell Lane in Pandy.

Additional reporting from Liam Randall, Local Democracy Reporter.

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