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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Anderson shelters in
1940s war-time Britain

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What an Anderson shelter was

Reproduction Anderson shelter

Reproduction Anderson shelter photographed in the Lincolnsfields Childrens Centre, Bushey. Note the essential chamber pot just peeping out.

An Anderson shelter was essentially a part dug-out for back gardens. The roof and sides were a sheet of corrugated iron bent into an inverted U, with the soil from the dug-out on top. The door and end wall were also corrugated iron.

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How Anderson shelters were made

Kits designed for up to six people could be bought, but - as I was told later - they were given away free by the Government to poorer families with enough garden space to accommodate them.

I suspect that digging out enough soil for the shelter was hard work, requiring either a young and fit man, or a family effort.

Our Anderson shelter was installed in the back garden, beyond the garden shed, about three feet of its height being underground and the top half above ground level, covered by the spoil of the excavation. It was made of 'Dolphin Brand' corrugated iron (showing many blue stippled trade marks of dolphins) and with the joints sealed with black bitumen.

The floor was of concrete with a sump to collect leakage and condensation (not that there was much). Along one side were two bunk beds and along the other was a single bunk with storage underneath. My father had run an electricity supply from the shed and we had a flat electric fire which would also boil a kettle, a mains driven night light for night-time use and a bright bulb for daytime. There was a sealed biscuit tin of emergency supplies (which fortunately were never needed) and some earthenware bottles of water. The shelter entrance was via a pair of two inch thick wooden doors and a set of wooden steps down. The doors had ventilation holes in them.

John Cole

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Inside an Anderson shelter

In some areas it doesn't matter what you do to try to make an Anderson watertight, it just carries on taking in water, like a trench.

from 'Last Rights' by Barbara Nadel

Inside our Anderson shelter, we had four bunk beds, a bucket with a seat as a chamber pot and another bucket for drinking water.

Peter Johnson

There were also candles or oil lamps. The night-light candles had to have a clay flower pot over them to reduce the light. The candles used to burn up the oxygen in the air and you got sleepy.

Tony Shepherd

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Problems with locations of Anderson shelters

Anderson air-raid shelter, World War Two, photographed in 1940

My grandfather in his family's Anderson shelter in World War II.

As Anderson shelters were installed in back gardens, there was not always enough time for everyone to get to get to one before an air raid began. My understanding of this is etched deeply in my mind because it was what happened to my grandparents and their grown-up family. It was early evening; they were preparing for supper, so had not yet settled into the shelter for the night.

Then the warnng sounded. The result was that my grandmother was killed instantly and several of my aunts and uncles were hospitalised. The house was a write-off.

The story of that Edmonton bombing was told to me in graphic detail over and over again as I grew up. The linked page describes it in my mother's words.

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