When the Marvel Loch Mine Fell In

Recently Australia was shocked by the news that two men had lost their lives 500ft down a Broken Hill Mine. At the same time the name of Mazza appeared in the obituary notices of the local press. Probably it bore little significance to any but sorrowing friend and relatives – for few could cast their minds back to 1914. In that year World War 1 stated – and the Marvel Loch Mine fell in!!!

Back Row From left- Mick OBrien, Inspector Crabb, Frank Mazza, in front T Williams manager of the Marvel Loch Mine.

Back Row From left- Mick O’Brien, Inspector Crabb, Frank Mazza, in front T Williams manager of the Marvel Loch Mine.


Despite the rain that was falling steadily above ground, it was comfortably warm deep in the Marvel Loch Mine at Southern Cross Western Australia on November 13th 1914.  There, 60ft below the No.2 level, Tributers James Gorey, Michael O’Brien and Frank Mazza worked steadily at removing pillars and parts of the load left by the company which had been working on the mine some years earlier.

Suddenly, with a thunderous roar the roof caved in. James Gorey, struck by a falling timber and tons of earth and rock was killed instantly. Mazza, miraculously, was unhurt and free.  But O’Brien, one of his closest friends, was half buried beneath the fall and unable to extricate himself. Mazza then performed the act of bravery that earned the admiration of every Australian.

Despite crumbling ground which forced him back twice, he dug with super human strength to free his helpless and near unconscious friend. O’Brien pleaded with Mazza to leave him and get away from the danger area. Mazza ignored the advice, eventually dragged his mate clear only seconds before another fall which would have crushed them both. Mazza then returned to try to help Gorey but saw he was beyond aid. The two men then made for the end of the level where the ground and roof were intact. Gorey who was from Victoria was a father of four children and his wife was in poor health.

Frank Mazza in Uniform

Frank Mazza in uniform



In Darkness, the two settled down to wait. Occasionally, further up the level, timbers creaked and the sound of rock and earth falling from the roof could be heard. When darkness fell and the men failed to come to the surface rescuers flocked to the mine. Their task was difficult. The broken ground was more than 15ft wide and the huge hole that yawned before them threatened to take some of the rescuers into its depths. Yet they worked like demons in four hour shifts of eight men in each. Throughout the night and into the next day they toiled.

Late in the evening of the 14th near despairing miners shouted for joy as their disbelieving ears heard a faint knocking. Despite lack of sleep and extreme exhaustion they redoubled their efforts. Next day the two men could be heard calling out and on the morning of the 16th rescuers reported that they had spoken to Mazza and O’Brien. Later that same day they were brought to the surface. Without food, water or light the two men had been entombed for 84 hours.

Mazza, who was presented with a certificate from the Mines Department was commended for his brave conduct. Minister P Collier travelled from Perth to present the handsome framed certificate to Mr Mazza in person.  “Mazza was true to the best traditions of mining” the report said. “He stood by his mates to the last.” Mazza was to carry that tradition beyond the boundaries of mining. He had stuck by O’Brien in the crumbling depths and he stuck by him in the shell shattered days of World War 1.  His last act to his friend was to fashion a crude cross and place it at the head of O’Brien’s humble grave somewhere in France.

Further Reading:-  http://bit.ly/1A7ooFe

James Gorey is remembered on the Eastern Goldfields Miners Memorial at the WA Museum in Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie. The details can be seen at:- http://bit.ly/1KdRBSi

The Band of Rescuers

The Band of Rescuers

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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  1. Thanks for this article. James Gorey was my grandfather’s cousin. It’s good to know that he’s remembered.

  2. Thanks for this article Moya. My grandfather, Andrew Campbell, was in the rescue team for this mine disaster and was pictured with 60 or so others after the successful rescue of Mick O’Brien and Frank Mazza. I have obtained a copy of the photo from Jill at the Marvel Loch Hotel, which is different to those in your post.

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