On This Day in 1939 the first Anderson Shelter was erected.

anderson shelter
image credit: kim traynor [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m not so old that I can remember WW2 first hand! But Anderson shelters were to be found during my childhood in use as garden sheds.

Indeed, an Anderson shelter is still in use as a garden shed in the house next door to my very elderly aunt. When we visited her as children in the 1950s, the Anderson shelter was quite bare of any vegetation but now it’s densely covered all over in ivy.

My mother told us stories of sleeping in her family’s Anderson shelter and the attempts her father made to try and make it comfortable. Although, by all accounts, he wasn’t very successful.

In November 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had placed Sir John Anderson in charge of Air Raid Precautions.

Anderson immediately commissioned the engineer, William Patterson, to design a small and cheap shelter that could be erected in people’s gardens.

The first ‘Anderson’ shelter was erected in a garden in Islington, London on 25 February 1939.

Between then and the outbreak of the war in September, around 1.5 million shelters were distributed to people living in areas expected to be bombed by the Luftwaffe.

During the war a further 2.1 million Anderson shelters were erected.

An estimated 50,000 lives were saved by use of the Anderson shelters although critics think there were better alternatives and only 27% of Londoners actually had their own shelter. 9% of the capital’s residents used public shelters and 4% went down the underground while the majority were either involved in night work or just stayed indoors.

anderson shelter
image credit: By Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
anderson shelter
image credit: By Press Agency photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Anderson shelters were uncomfortable especially in cold weather prompting the government to issue advice to improve the situation.

I’ve lost count of the number of times media commentators have likened the current Covid pandemic to the Second World War and exhorted us to find that wartime spirit. Researching Anderson shelters for this blogpost has made me realise that the privations we’ve endured in the last few months come nowhere near those of the civilian population during the war years. Unless in that section of society that is living with homelessness and extreme poverty, most people seem to be mainly concerned with when they can next take a holiday in the sun.

Thanks for visiting my blog today. Hope you’re keeping safe, well and warm!