8th October 1940. Take Shelter.
In November 1938 Neville Chamberlain put Sir John Anderson in charge of Air Raid Precautions (ARP), who promptly commissioned Scottish engineer, William Patterson to design an air-raid shelter for use in gardens: the Anderson Shelter.
Government preparations for war in the late 1930.s were made on the assumption of thousands of casualties immediately on the outbreak of war: instead we had the ‘phoney war’.
Despite severe casualties when bombing did arrive, Churchill was optimistic Today in 1940 when he reported to the Commons: ‘deaths and serious injuries have decreased from 6,000 in the first week of intensive raids to 3,000 in the fourth, and up to last Saturday 8,500 were killed and 13,000 seriously injured’.
He went on: ‘Nearly 400 long-range heavy bombers have on average visited our shores every 24 hours…(1)
…we were told that last Thursday 251 tons of bombs had been discharged on London in a single night’, and compared the lessened death rate, with World World I, to the ‘vastly improved shelters that have been adopted’.
It was back in February 1939 that the Home Office announced they were to provide personal air-raid shelters two years after the Commons had voted to erect shelters in all the major cities; this despite the Labour Party saying they might increase the ‘local rates'[taxes].
Firstly came the corrugated-iron Anderson Shelter costing about £7, though families earning less than £250 a year received their shelters free. It ‘could be erected by two people’, in a pit in the garden, to be then covered with soil.
1.5 million, of a total of 3 million, were distributed free by the outbreak of war, expected to protect six million people, with about 50,000 being turned out a week.
Thousands in London possessing no garden took to the Underground (Tube), despite opposition from the authorities. However with such mass concentration when a bomb did penetrate it resulted in catastrophic casualties.(2)
As the garden Anderson Shelter proved damp and cold, the internal, portable Morrison Shelter, housing two adults and two young children were issued free to those whose income was less than £350 a year, otherwise they cost £7/12/6 and came just in time for the January 1941 mini-blitz.
By November Churchill was able to report that the casualty average had dropped from 4,500 in September to 3,500 in October and declared that the U-boat menace, with its attack on food and supply convoys, was now more important.
One refuge for many, including the Author, on an air-raid siren warning, was underneath the stairs where even as an infant one was conscious of one’s mortality.
(1) Reported by the Daily Telegraph’s, Westminster Representative.
(2) In Stepney, London where the first big raid was centred on 7th September 1940, 200,000 still lived in Victorian slum tenements.
spartacus-educational.com.anderson-shelters.John Simkin 1997.Pic of shelter.
homesweethome.co.uk. Daily Express. May 1940. Cutting Pic.
andersonshelters.co.uk/Pic of shelter delivery.