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Inside public air raid shelters
in 1940s war-time Britain

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This page about inside purpose-built Second World War public air-raid shelters is due to Peter Johnson, who, being a few years older than me remembered experiencing them. As I was born three months before the war, my own recollections are limited to Anderson shelters and Morrison shelters, both for families, and school shelters.

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'Furnishings' inside public air raid shelters

The shelters I remember had a bucket for a WC fitted with a seat, usually in a corner. Modesty was protected by a cloth curtain. My experience was that during an air-raid we sat there in fear as the bombs came screaming down and the last thing we thought of was going to the toilet.

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Air quality inside public air raid shelters

During an air-raid when the doors were shut, the air inside these shelters became very smelly. A combination of people smoking, body odour, the toilets, and the rank condensation all added with fear of dying stays with you for ever.

After an air-raid, ie after the 'all-clear' sounded we would go outside to breath in some fresh air even if it was laced with the fumes of burning buildings.

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Community spirit in public air raid shelters

We were all in the same boat; we were all friends in adversity. Somebody would bring a large tea pot, the mug was passed round. Sometimes we had a sing song. Life went on.

Community spirit grew as the war dragged on because we all got to share a public space, and there was always somebody with an accordion or a mouth organ. They would start playing and we would all join in singing the popular songs of the day. As a bomb came whistling down we would all stop singing. Then if it fell somewhere else we would all start singing again.

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Keeping public air raid shelters clean

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

During the day volunteers would empty the buckets and sweep out the shelters. Everybody 'mucked in'.

Peter Johnson

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