As part of our series of special reports in the week of the 40th anniversary of the start of the 1984-85 Miners' Strike, Gavin Havery speaks to a former miner about his experience at Orgreave.

On the field, near the coking plant, tents were pitched to give some shade from the blazing sun and to provide command centres for the ‘generals’.

Some 6,000 police with riot gear - helmets, shields and truncheons - formed the infantry while over 40 mounted officers became the cavalry division.

Even with flying pickets, including vast swathes from the Durham Coalfield, the 5,000-strong striking miners were still outnumbered.

The date was June 18, 1984.

The era-defining event became known as the Battle of Orgreave.  

The plan, three months into the Miners’ Strike, as it became increasingly bitter and divisive, was to prevent coking coal from reaching the steel industry.

South Yorkshire Police was well prepared, with extra officers drafted in, keen not to see a repeat of the Battle of Saltley Gate, a fuel depot in Birmingham closed by pickets in 1972.

The Northern Echo: Dave Temple, in the foreground, on the picket line during the strike Dave Temple, in the foreground, on the picket line during the strike (Image: Contributor)Dave Temple, who was 40 at the time and worked at Murton Colliery, said: “It was like a medieval battlefield.

“There were loads of horses and then the infantry, with their shields, standing there 200 yards wide and 200 police deep.

“To get all of those police in one spot with those horses is the sort of organisation you would get during warfare.

“You would need a lot of resources to do that.”

Dave, who lived with his wife, Jean, and their two children in Sherburn Hill, near Durham, at the time, said the police had laid ‘a trap’ for the pickets.

The Northern Echo: Murton Mechanics Lodge officials in the lamp cabin, from left: secretary Dave Temple, delegate Alan Napier, and chairman Dennis SmithsonMurton Mechanics Lodge officials in the lamp cabin, from left: secretary Dave Temple, delegate Alan Napier, and chairman Dennis Smithson (Image: Stan Gamester)He said they should have smelt a rat when they were ushered to the site instead of being turned around by traffic police en route.

He said: “When we came off the motorway on the slip road, just north of Sheffield, there was a copper and he stopped the bus and we thought: ‘Here we go, he is going to send us back’, but he didn’t.

“Instead, he gave us directions to get there and told us where to park the bus.”

Dave said picketing usually involved a ‘bit of pushing’ but Orgreave was different.

The Northern Echo: Mounted police in action at Orgreave Mounted police in action at Orgreave (Image: Contributor)He said: “The police were opening up their ranks and allowing half a dozen mounted police through.

“This is when everything was peaceful and the police on horseback were braying the lads over the head with a truncheon.

“They were being provoked and, of course, the lads picked up bricks and started hoying them at the coppers.

“But they were provoking them to get them to do that. What they wanted was a riot.”

The Northern Echo: Miners are arrested at Orgreave Miners are arrested at Orgreave (Image: Contributor)Dave said there came a point where the police changed their shields – from long ones to smaller and easier to handle – signifying a shift in tactics as they opened their ranks to allow their horses to charge at the miners.

He said: “Of course, the crowd panicked and ran away.

“I ran into a cornfield. I then jumped over an embankment which was not vertical but about 80 degrees and 18 feet high. I slid down that and went straight over the railway line and got up on the other side.

“There was a bridge. I looked over into the village and there was an Asda supermarket with a car park.

“By that time the horses had gone through the village and were chasing pickets around the car park. There were women and children with their trolleys trying to avoid the mounted police.”

The Northern Echo: Police detaining pickets Police detaining pickets (Image: Contributor)Get more from The Northern Echo and stay informed with subscription now available on special offer for two months for just £2. Click here 

Television news channels reported police were responding to pickets who were throwing missiles at them, but Dave said history would prove the sequence of events was the other way around.

In total, 71 picketers were charged with riot, which was punishable with life imprisonment, and 24 with violent disorder but the trials collapsed when the evidence given by the police was deemed ‘unreliable’.

Nine years ago, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said there was ‘evidence of excessive violence by police officers, a false narrative from police exaggerating violence by miners, perjury by officers giving evidence to prosecute the arrested men, and an apparent cover-up of that perjury by senior officers’.

In 2016, Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire Police admitted the force had been ‘dangerously close to being used as an instrument of state’.

The Northern Echo: A miner injured at the Battle of OrgreaveA miner injured at the Battle of Orgreave (Image: Contributor)Most read:

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The Northern Echo: Dave Temple pictured at the Murton Colliery site Dave Temple pictured at the Murton Colliery site (Image: Northern Echo)

Now 79, Dave appreciates he was lucky to escape unscathed.

He said: “I just remember this wall of coppers with truncheons and they were really laying into the lads that they caught.

“I was lucky because I was on the righthand flank, on the edge of a cornfield.

“I was still pretty fit at 40 and I made sure I was ahead of the game.

“Also, you realise how much strength you have got when there is a horse chasing you with a madman on its back.”