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Whitstable at War - World War II

.... Private Shelters


In areas where there was no ready access to public air raid shelters, two types of private  facility were available - known as the Morrison and Anderson shelters. Brian Smith picks up the story with a range of articles... 


The Anderson Shelter
By Brian Smith


Over two million civilian Anderson air-raid shelters were built during the war.  Designed to offer some protection for families living in areas likely to be bombed, Anderson shelters were cheap to produce. Provided free of charge to those households with a garden and where the occupying family earned less than £250 per year.   The completed shelter measured 6½ feet X 4½ feet X 6 feet high although some wider versions appear to have been available.  The Anderson was relatively simple to erect once a rectangular hole was dug in the ground preferably up to 4 feet deep.  When installed the soil was intended to be used to cover the shelter with at least 15inches of soil.

The following illustration shows a typical installation where the shelter has been sunk about 2’ 6”, the soil nicely sculptured and grass grown over the shelter to prevent rain washing the soil away. 


Photo Reconstruction of Anderson Shelter
by Brian Smith


Not only did the soil covering give increased protection from the effects of bomb-blast, enterprising householders grew vegetables in the soil - supplementing their already rationed food.  Some even grew their seedlings inside the shelters. 

Often cold, damp and prone to flooding, particularly during winter, they were very effective shelters and undoubtedly saved many lives.

A few survive as garden sheds, two examples being shown below.....


Photo Reconstructions of Anderson Shelters by Brian Smith


Soil staining can be seen on the first example. The second appears to be a wider version with a later widened doorway and window to suit its role as a garden shed.  

Originally supplied with the end as shown below, an uncle told me the top corners were sometimes rounded off as children playing on the ‘mound’ could receive some bad cuts from the sharp edges.




The Morrison Shelter
By Brian Smith


The ‘Morrison’ was literally a double bed sized steel framed bolted assembly cage with a sheet steel top as illustrated below. 



 By the time a mattress was placed inside, the about 30” height, left little room for sitting up in comfort unless you were a young child.   All dimensions and structural details are from my childhood memory of the Morrison installed in my wartime home so dimensions in particular should be considered on a ‘looks about right’ basis.  I am uncertain what the bottom material was.  Given the shortage of steel, I feel sure it wasn’t sheet, more likely mesh of some design.  However I would think if it were the same mesh as the sides and ends it would have sagged considerably.  Perhaps the angle side and end rails were inverted and the mattress sat on the floor but that does not fit my ‘memory picture’.  

One would expect the edge of the mattress to sag as one got into or out of bed and then the edge of the steel frame would be felt.  I have no memory of that happening.  The dangerous lower edge of the top side rail probably impinged upon many memories – literally!

A limited number of two-tier shelters were supplied in response to concerns about the immorality of single men in a bed shelter with female housekeepers.   

The second illustration below demonstrates a typical installation inside a convenient room.  A range of colours was available to suit your choice as long as it was dark green (with apologies to Henry Ford.) Note the other wartime precautions.



Two men delivered our Morrison. I think local Councils had the responsibility of delivering them but I cannot recall if the men also did the assembly or that was left to the household. Until he enlisted, Dad drove a lorry for the W.U.D.C.. So, if they were Council workers, perhaps they assembled ours as a favour - Mum and I being alone may have had difficulty in doing so due to the heavy parts. 

Over 500,000 Morrison Shelters were delivered across the country by November 1941, an additional 100,000 shelters were ordered in late 1943, and 9,000 were distributed to London residents as late as January and February 1944. Morrison shelters were supplied on a similar basis to Anderson shelters – in this case free to families earning less than ₤350 per year and ₤7 to those earning more.

Was the Morrisson shelter effective? 44 representative "heavily damaged" houses were examined to assess shelter performance. Normally, the 136 occupants would have been killed. Nearly 98% were not. Just over 90% escaped serious injury. 12% were slightly injured.

Direct hits on the shelter by a bomb accounted for most fatalities although a proportion of fatalities occurred where the shelter had not been properly sited in the residence.

Brian Smith


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