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When the air-raid siren went off during the Second World War, it was essential to get to an air raid shelter as soon as possible. At home, there was the Anderson or Morrison shelter, and schools and various buildings had their own shelters.
Sometimes, though, there was the need for a public shelter. This page is about how to get to one quickly before the bombs started to fall.
Dash for an air-raid shelter. Screen shot from an old film.
People who lived in flats or houses with no back garden for an Anderson shelters or no space for a Morrison shelter were usually allocated a regular bunk in the nearest public shelter. So when the siren went off to warn of an impending air-raid they grabbed their bundle of clothes, some blankets etc, and made a run for the shelter.
Everybody got to know where the local public shelters were. So when the warning siren sounded while they were outside, they could make a mad dash to get under cover.
Bus drivers too always knew the nearest shelters along their routes. When the siren sounded, they would drive their bus to the nearest shelter and all the passengers, the driver and the conductor would get out and squeeze into what was already an overcrowded shelter.
In a strange place, there was invariably someone to ask where the nearest public shelter was. In fact one only had to follow the crowd. There was always the large S to show when one had arrived.
In early 1940, bombing started in earnest in Leicester where my family lived. On one horrendous night we had the full force of the German bombing onslaught, probably trying to hit the railway. My mother took one look at what was happening and decided that our home shelter was not adequate. She bundled me quickly into a pushchair and we all ran the half mile down Wyvern Avenue to the large shelter which had been built under the playground of the school. As we ran we could hear the bombs whistling down and could see the flames from the burning buildings. The whole sky was lit up. Young as I was, that image has never left me.
Before a raid the air raid siren would normally sound a warning that we were about to be attacked, which would give us time to get to a shelter. On one occasion, though, there was nothing, The first we knew was when we heard the bomb whistling down. We all dived under the dining table. The family in the house that was hit was sitting having their evening meal when the bomb exploded in the middle of them killing them all instantly.