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At the outbreak of the Second World War the government short-sightedly allowed thousands of miners to enlist in the armed services. By 1943 the war effort was in danger of grinding to a halt because of a lack of coal. In answer Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour, sought service volunteers – and compulsorily sent 20,000 18-year-olds, who’d expected to fight for their country, down the mines with them. Some were so angry that they preferred to go to prison. The majority went to do their best. But some were psychologically, and others physically, unsuited to such dangerous work. Many were injured; some died. Called Up, Send Down is an enthralling oral and social history of an episode of war that has never been fully told. TOM HICKMAN has worked as features writer, features editor and editor on various national magazines, newspapers and for the BBC. He is the author of a number of successful 20th-century histories including The Call-Up: A History of National Service (Headline 2004). He lives in Cambridgeshire.