I mentioned a wee while back, that one of the reasons I struggled with my Allotment last year was due to me having to look after a back garden. When we moved to our flat in Woodford part of the rental agreement was that we maintain the large garden. By now you know me, I obviously was more than happy to do this, delighted in fact, and after a hesitant start, I set to it with gusto. I have been gradually adding some flower borders and digging out some of the weeds (yep more digging!) and I will show you (bore you with) the progress of that soon, but today I wanted to share something interesting I found lurking under the long grass on my first days gardening!
|Our back garden April in 2012|
Could this be the base of an Anderson shelter??
I spoke to Richard, my lovely next door neighbour, who confirmed that yes it is indeed the base of an old Anderson shelter. Richard's wife has lived in their now marital home since childhood and remembers the shelter standing there, its subsequent removal after the war and the filling in of the base by Ron the chap who lived in the house then. How interesting! I decided, seeing that I was now the current caretaker of this little piece of history, it was time I learnt a little more about these iconic wartime structures.
The Anderson Shelter was designed in 1938 and was named after Sir John Anderson who was the Home Secretary during the Battle of Britain. They were intended to provide families with quick access to emergency air-raid shelters during bombing raids as they could be installed in even the smallest of gardens.
|A lady hangs her washing out in front of her new Anderson shelter [source]|
|There were Six curved panels which were bolted together at the top which created the main body of the shelter, three straight sheets on either side and two more straight panels which were fixed to each end, one containing the door. [Source]|
So back to our garden in Woodford. When looking at our shelter the first thing that struck me as odd was its placement. If you remove the slightly more modern Cordyline tree the shelter is slightly to one side but pretty much in the middle of the lawn, it actually looks like the path was put in later and works its way around the shelter.
|It's hiding behind the Cordyline tree in the middle of the lawn|
"My Mum was angry because she had wanted the shelter put behind our shed and the apple tree, “out of the way as it will never be used”. There wasn’t enough room there, so she wanted it against the back fence. But the workmen discovered some buried lengths of pipe...the workmen simply dug their hole in the easiest place — destroying my Mum’s precious rockery. To add insult to injury they even used her rocks in the shelter’s concrete base! That Adolf Hitler had a lot to answer for, I wondered if he knew just how much trouble he was in?" [Source]So perhaps our shelter was put where it is because it was the easiest place - far enough away from the house, to avoid too much damage if the house was hit, and also away from any of the pipe work and water mains that reside under the back of the house. I know from speaking to Richard, that Ron who lived with his family in our house at the time, was serving in the army during the war, so perhaps it was installed for free by the council, as I wonder how many of the people who were building their own would have gone to the extra trouble and expenses of adding a concrete base!?
"As my Dad was serving in the army our shelter was free...our shelter, installed by the council, was just a tin box with a hole in it, in a hole in the ground — no door, weather or blast protection, not even a means of climbing down inside. The floor was concrete with a round dip sunk in one corner to collect moisture (!) and the sides were concrete up to three feet, ground level. Concrete was a rather grand name for what was little more than sand and water, I broke a piece off just by prodding it and was told off for ‘damaging’ the Air Raid Shelter! If I could damage it what would those Jerries do to it? If they dropped four-year-olds it didn’t look good. [Source]It looks likely to me that ours was also installed by the councils workmen, though I must say the concrete base on ours is much more sturdy than Brian's, it's lasted over 70 years and is showing no signs of decay, I've accidentally blunted many a mower blade on it so far!
Another thing I found interesting, was just how small this shelter was, it's partly what made me question myself when finding it - it seemed too small!
|The concrete base should go down about 4 ft.|
"I finally got inside our shelter that seemed huge to me. But for grown-ups it was a struggle, hitting their heads on the sharp edges of the small entrance, and the sticking-out nuts and bolts everywhere." [Source]
That's 5 Adults, 2 Children, 1 Baby & 2 Dogs, all squeezed into this little shelter, it's making me feel claustrophobic!
On the outside, well you could be a touch more creative
|A well camouflaged Anderson shelter 1940 [Source] |
How wonderful it this shelter!
|A lady tends to her rooftop crops [Source]|
One thing I'm sure of, no matter how much I love this era in terms of its history and its fashion, there is no way I would want to have actually lived back then, I could never have handled a single night in an Anderson shelter, especially when knowing as many did, just how little protection they actually afforded, the people's courage back then has to be admired!