Sunday 16 February 2014

Shelter from an Air-Raid

2014 is the 75th anniversary of the start of the 2nd World War which began in Europe on the 3rd September 1939. 6 months previously, on the 25th February, the first Anderson air-raid shelters were delivered to households in the Islington area of London.

Anderson Shelter at Bedford Museum

Designed a year previously by William Paterson and Oscar Carl Kerrison, they were named after Sir John Anderson – the Lord Privy Seal - who was responsible for preparing British air-raid precautions before the expected outbreak of war.

Each shelter was designed for 6 people and was a simple structure of corrugated steel panels that had to be bolted together and then buried a metre underground, with a layer of soil and/or turf on top. They came similar to flat-pack furniture, i.e. the families were expected to construct the shelter themselves from a set of instructions.
Before hostilities broke out and during the conflict, approx 3.5m Anderson shelters were built and they were distributed free to those with annual incomes of less than £250 (£5 a week), or at a charge of £7 for everyone else.

The Anderson shelters performed their task efficiently, but in winter they were unpopular, being cold, dark holes in the ground, that often became flooded in wet weather. Their unpopularity led to the development of the more user-friendly, indoor Morrison shelter.

At the end of the war, households were expected to dig up their shelter and return the corrugated iron, but many were allowed to keep it in return for a small fee. Many shelters were converted into garden sheds and indeed, many actually survive to this day.

Have you seen a surviving Anderson shelter?

What use does it perform today?