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MRS Training & Rescue Wales – Then & Now

Rescue Teams

Locals in Dinas Rhondda – refer to the MRS Training & Rescue centre in the village as the ‘Mines Rescue Station’. This is because, our training centre has been part of the community since 1912 – when it was opened by King George V and Queen Mary. In this article we’ll share the history of our Wales centre – and images from our archive.

Doors Open in 1912

As mentioned above, the location was opened by royalty and was purpose built to serve the coal mining industry in the local area – and to provide a ‘Mines Rescue Service’. The location of the building was chosen because of its close proximity to the first coal shaft sunk in Rhondda by Walter Coffin. 

The Royals visiting our Dinas station opened in 1912   

Dinas, in the Rhondda Valley, is an area which used to be surrounded by coal mines. In fact, there was a coal mine every half a mile or so, back then. Sadly, the area is also known for the Aberfan disaster.

When opened, the station featured underground training galleries to train part-time colliery rescue miners, so they could deliver underground rescue and first aid. Today, the station still features purpose built training facilities which are designed to allow us to teach specialist training courses to delegates from a range of industries – including those from the oil & gas, ship building, construction, nuclear, aerospace and utilities professions.

The Centre Today

When we changed our name from Mines Rescue Service to MRS Training & Rescue – the name of our building changed too. Our centre in Wales is now the only rescue station left in South Wales – and still features many of the original features as seen in the images below.

Our team in the Dinas have attended many emergency calls to coal mines years – including the Aberfan disaster in 1966, and more recently, the disaster at Gleision colliery – which led to its closure in 2011.

At the station we keep a book in which we record every emergency call our team has responded to – since 1912.

The MRS Training & Rescue Wales Teams

Back in 1912, the Mines Rescue team were there to respond to emergencies that occurred in the many coal mines located across South Wales. They were stationed on site and on call 24/7 with a five-man rescue team always available for when emergencies were reported.

The Dinas Mines Rescue team in 1912  A historic photo of the Dinas training centre when it first opened

  A man stood next to an apparatus van in 1912 A row of  Villa housing which surrounded the Dinas station when it opened in 1912

One of the first incidents the team attended was the explosion at Senghenydd which killed 439 miners in 1913. Everyone in the team then was an ex mine worker, and all had completed a minimum of 5 years at the coal face before being considered for the rescue team.

Mines rescue team members could only work until the age of 45. After that, they would normally return to the pits or collieries but in a higher rank due to their experience as part of our rescue service.

Fast forward 100 years, and today our Dinas training centre employs 21 people – and provides health and safety training and rescue cover across the UK and world.

11 of our current team members are ex-miners, with real-life experiences they can share with delegates on our courses. Team members today do not have to have underground working experience – but we do recruit from a wide range of related industries such as the military, emergency services, teaching and the prison service.

All trainers have real-life skills and expertise of working in hazardous environments, and this operational experience allows them to understand issues and relate to the delegates on our training courses.

Gerwyn James, Assistant Operations Manager says:

“We’re able to share real-life stories with those who come on our courses, this helps bring the theory to life.”

The team still continue to support the wider mining sector with specialist on call rescue arrangements, specialist equipment and training in use of rescue techniques in major hazard environments, but the core business is training, supporting industry with a range of regulated and non-regulated training delivered to the same quality. Specialist rescue services, on our customers sites supporting high risk activities with medical and rescue capability and Consultancy, working with organisations on various aspects of effective safety management, also form part of our core offering today.

Despite the changes over the years, the purpose has remained unchanged – to keep people safe at work.

The Dinas Mines Rescue Team back in 1912     The MRS Training and Rescue team in Dinas, Wales today

Rescue Cover Today

Since the mines closed in the local area, we now focus on providing rescue cover for a wider variety of industries and sites across the UK – including rescue cover for power stations and confined spaces such as railway tunnels.

We are one of the leading private sector rescue companies in the UK today – providing cover and services for those working in medium or high risk confined space situations and environments. Our team can be on hand, with equipment, to provide cover and should it be required – life saving rescue services.

Training Courses in Wales

As well as rescue, our other main focus in our Wales centre is providing high-quality, practical safety training courses.

Our purpose built training facilities include tunnels which allow us to recreate confined space working conditions and emergencies. We are able to fill tunnels with smoke and raise the temperature. This, and the ability to alter the layout of the tunnels means we are able to train delegates in conditions which reflect what they might face in real-life working situations.

In addition to our confined space training tunnels – we have also recently opened new working at height training facilities in Wales. Our working at height facilities include internal and external ladders, hatches, roof top anchor beams, handrails, slopes, gates and a range of internal furnishing – which allows us to recreate real-life training conditions. The outdoor facility is covered by a roof – which means it can be used in all conditions.

We Can Help

If you would like to learn more about our Wales training centre, team or the services we provide – please don’t hesitate to contact us:

Roy Hamer and Ceri Thompson, Curator Big Pit   A portrait picture of Walter Coffin 

  The main Dinas Station office and officials in 1912  The Dinas main office and officials today  

The Royal Visit to Mines Rescue's Dinas Station in 1912   

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