Londoners Shelter from Nazi Bombing During Blitz

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1576) Liverpool Street Underground Station Shelter: A man and woman asleep under blankets in the tube tunnel. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194646

 

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1580) Liverpool Street Underground Station Shelter: Londoners sleep under a row of sand buckets and fire extinguishers suspended from the underground tunnel wall. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194650
AIR RAID SHELTER UNDER THE RAILWAY ARCHES, SOUTH EAST LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1605) A small group of shelterers knit and read the evening newspaper in this small section of an air raid shelter under the railway arches, somewhere in South East London. Makeshift beds have been constructed from crates and planks of wood. This photograph was probably taken in November 1940. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197836

 

SANCTUARY: AIR RAID SHELTER IN JOHN KEBLE CHURCH, MILL HILL, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1431) The curate of John Keble Church in Mill Hill in London tends to one of the many shelterers staying in the make-shift shelter in the nave of the church. Many homeless and orphaned children are sheltering here. The nurse adds details to the sick bay records. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197819

 

AIR RAID SHELTER IN THE BASEMENT OF DICKINS AND JONES, REGENT STREET, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1658) A wide view of the public canteen of an air raid shelter in the basement of Dickins and Jones department store in London’s Regent Street, in November 1940. Shelterers can be seeing buying cups of tea and other refreshments from canteen staff. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197853

 

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1503) Southwest London Garage Shelter, Pimlico: Old lady asleep in a makeshift bed, her silver handled umbrella safely stowed away behind her. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194613

Anderson Shelter Bomb Proof Yet Cold & Wet

Usually tougher than nazi bombs,anderson shelters, were named after home secretary  John Anderson. He also served as MINISTER OF HOME SECURITy, A WARTIME DEPARTMENT, ATTACHED TO THE HOME OFFICE.

 

AIR RAID SHELTERS IN LONDON, 1940 (HU 63827A) Mrs Alice Prendergast of 3 Western Lane, Balham, is not at a disadvantage through building an Anderson shelter where her vegetables grew. She planted her vegetables on top of the shelter, and now has lettuce, beetroots and marrows growing. Mrs Prendergast is seen watering the vegetables on the top of her shelter. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205070170

 

“While a properly installed Anderson shelter could withstand the effects of a hundred-pound bomb falling six feet away, Anderson shelters often leaked, were cold, dark and cramped and amplified the noise of falling bombs.”

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-to-do-during-an-air-raid

While given free to people of limited means, others had to pay £7.  Anderson shelters were useful only to the middle class because one had to have a garden (backyard in the US) as usually referred to in England. More than three million were eventually erected in gardens throughout those cities in England often bombed by the Nazis. (source: Warrior Race: A History of the British at War, by Lawrence James. 2003)

BOMB DAMAGE IN BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND, C 1940 (D 4127) Although some debris has been cleared on this site on James Street, Aston Newtown, Birmingham, brick rubble can be clearly seen. Dominating the photograph, however, are the twisted remains of several Anderson shelters, one of which is still standing and intact, although warped. In the background, all the houses in row of terraced homes is missing a roof. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205198720

Unfortunately, the fourteen galvanized and corrugated steel plates which were bolted together to create the Anderson shelter weren’t waterproof. Unless one took extra measures, as many did, to make the shelter more comfortable, it wasn’t easy to get a restful night’s sleep. The shelters were often damp or even had standing water in them. They were cold. People waited until bombs got close to run to their Anderson shelters because they didn’t like being in one.

 

AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS DOG AT WORK IN POPLAR, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1941 (D 5949) An Anderson shelter remains intact amidst destruction and debris, after a land mine fell a few yards away. The three people that had been inside the shelter were not hurt. The effects of air raids in this area of London can be clearly seen behind the shelter. This photograph was taken on Latham Street in Poplar. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205198906

 

The reference to the landmine falling a few feet away is slightly inaccurate. What the Germans dropped were heavy sea mines which could break through heavy roofs, even ones made from cement, and the go off, creating a powerful explosion. Having learned this technique from the Germans, the Allies dropped sea mines on Nazi Germany.

 

A WORKING CLASS FAMILY IN WARTIME: EVERY DAY LIFE WITH THE SUTER FAMILY IN LONDON, 1940 (D 778) Doris and Alan Suter step down into the Anderson shelter in the garden of their home at 44 Edgeworth Road, Eltham, London, SE9, sometime between June and August 1940. Their mother, Mrs Suter, can just be seen behind them outside the shelter. Alan is carrying his gas mask box with him. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195781

Obviously, this was an upper working class family given how well the children are dressed and that they have a back garden which provided enough room to dug in the Anderson shelter. The box around the boy’s neck is his gas mask.

AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS, 1940 (HU 104527) Sir John Anderson, the Home Secretary, examines hosing equipment used by the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) in Southampton, 25 February 1940. His visit coincided with a large-scale Air Raid Precautions (ARP) exercise in the towns of Portsmouth, Gosport and Southampton. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205229899

 

An Anderson shelter stands intact amongst a scene of debris in Norwich, c.1941

(photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

“Anderson shelters – named after Sir John Anderson – consisted of two curved corrugated sheets of steel, bolted together at the top and sunk three feet into the ground, then covered with eighteen inches of earth. If constructed correctly, they could withstand the effects of a hundred-pound bomb falling six feet away. However, many Anderson shelters leaked, were cold, dark and cramped and amplified the noise of falling bombs.”

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-to-do-during-an-air-raid

 

 

Anderson Shelter Tougher Than Nazi Bombs

 

An Anderson shelter stands intact amongst a scene of debris in Norwich, c.1941

(photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

“Anderson shelters – named after Sir John Anderson – consisted of two curved corrugated sheets of steel, bolted together at the top and sunk three feet into the ground, then covered with eighteen inches of earth. If constructed correctly, they could withstand the effects of a hundred-pound bomb falling six feet away. However, many Anderson shelters leaked, were cold, dark and cramped and amplified the noise of falling bombs.”

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-to-do-during-an-air-raid

 

A Morrison shelter in a dining room, 1941 (photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

“Morrison shelters – named after the Home Secretary Herbert Morrison – were produced from January 1941. They consisted of a rectangular steel and mesh cage which could accommodate two adults and two children. The Morrison was intended for use indoors so was suitable for those without gardens. Though more popular than Anderson shelters, they were less effective as they provided no lateral protection. They could also be used as a dining table during daytime.”

Women Conscripted First Time Ever

Women Conscripted in Great Britain

The first country in the Western world to conscript women

An Auxiliary Territorial Service spotter with binoculars at an anti-aircraft command post, December 1942. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

BBC: “In December 1941, the National Service Act (no 2) made the conscription of women legal. At first, only single women aged 20-30 were called up, but by mid-1943, almost 90 percent of single women and 80 percent of married women were employed in essential work for the war effort.”

Motor Mechanic Princess Elizabeth
WOMEN AT WAR 1939 – 1945 (TR 2835) Auxiliary Territorial Service: Princess Elizabeth, a 2nd Subaltern in the ATS, wearing overalls and standing in front of an L-plated truck. In the background is a medical lorry. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194945

 

WOMEN OF THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE VISIT A FACTORY, UK, 1942 (P 1092) Two women of the ATS watch a woman war worker welding during a visit to a factory, somewhere in Britain. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205202761

The government avoided conscription of women as long as possible relying on what Minister of Labour Ernest Bevin called “voluntaryism.” Eventually that didn’t produce the large numbers of people required to keep the country at war. When conscription of women came about, it didn’t cause much comment. There was simply no other way to keep factories working. What surprised the men in charge, was how competent women were.

bbc.co.uk Women Conscripted

‘ATS girls’ operate a mobile power plant on an anti-aircraft gun site at night. (photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Until the advent of radar controlled AA fire, which did not come until much later in the war, and radar equipped RAF night fighters, which took years, the ack-ack barrages during German bombing attacks didn’t shoot down many German planes but were a major boost to morale.

ANTI-Aircraft command faced critical shortage of personnel

Anti-Aircraft Command and its subordinate commands such as Balloon Command (barrage balloons) were a key component of the combined arms formation known as “Air Defence of Great Britain” which came under the operational control of RAF Fighter Command.

THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE AT AN ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN SITE IN BRITAIN, DECEMBER 1942 (TR 474) ATS girls operating the height and range finder. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205188353

 

The British armed forces had been compelled to abandon an enormous number of their anti-aircraft guns in France after they fell back on Dunkirk and were lifted off by the famous “little ships.” (Actually, the Royal Navy lifted off 80% of British soldiers rescued at Dunkirk but the myth is more interesting and inspiring).

THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE AT AN ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN SITE IN BRITAIN, DECEMBER 1942 (TR 478) A battery of 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns firing at night. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205188356

 

As more and more anti-aircraft guns were manufactured and put in place to protect British cities from German bombers, a critical shortage of personnel developed in Anti-Aircraft Command. By the end of 1940, Sir Frederick Pile, Commander-in-Chief of AA informed the government he was short of more than 100 officers and almost 18,000 enlisted personnel or ‘other ranks’ as known in the UK.  (Wartime: Britain 1939 to 1945 by Juliet Gardiner)

“Something drastic had to be done. I suggested… that women should be employed in large numbers in an operational role…” Sir Frederick Pile, Commander-in-Chief, Anti-Aircraft Command, 1939 to 1945.

 

A member of the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) serving with a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun battery, December 1942.

THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE AT AN ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN SITE IN BRITAIN, DECEMBER 1942 (TR 480) ATS girls using an identification telescope. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205188358

Military and labour requirements of World War Two could not be met by solely by males or by women volunteers.  Great Britain thus became the first nation in the Western world to conscript women into both industry and support functions in the Forces.

Great Britain mobilized a larger percentage of its population, 55%,  for war-related work either in the Forces or in supporting roles than any of the Western powers including Nazi Germany. We assume that a totalitarian state such as Nazi Germany would be able to compel its citizens to work in a larger percentage than a democracy but that wasn’t the case. The National Service (#2)  Act became law on 18 December 1941 thus marking the UK as the first nation in the world to conscript women.

Because of their ideology that women belonged in the home raising the next generation of National Socialists, the Nazis hesitated to compel German women to work. Eventually they were forced to but nonetheless, they never reached the 55% civilian mobilization of the British.

Of course, the Nazis used slave labor conscripted at gunpoint from nations they had conquered and the British did not. The National Service (#2)  Act became law on 18 December 1941 thus marking the UK as the first nation in the world to conscript women.

 Women producing bullets and cannon shells in an underground munitions factory on the Wirral, Merseyside, 1945
Photograph: Ted Dearberg/IWM/PA

Land Army members sawing larch poles for use as pit props at the Women’s Timber Corps training camp at Culford, Suffolk, 1943.
Photograph: IWM/PA

There 5,000 women in the Timber Corps at it largest. They referred to themselves as “polecats.” Timber was an urgent wartime need of the British. Prior to the war, the Great Britain had imported a much of their wood including telegraph poles and pit props for use in coal mines. Pit props were especially critical because an adequate supply of coal was crucial since the country ran on coal.

Railroad engines, electric generating plants required immense amounts of coal. Further, combustible coal gas similar to natural gas was produced from coal and used for cooking and heating and for various uses by industry. Many householders and building owners used coal either in boilers or directly into coal burning fireplaces.

Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) plotters at work at Coastal Artillery Headquarters in Dover, December 1942
Photograph: Ted Dearberg/IWM/PA

While not well known, Great Britain had a number of heavy artillery pieces mounted in fixed positions along the coast of the English Channel. Some of these were meant to help repel a German invasion and others were used to fire on German ships using the English Channel. (Germans had coastal artillery on the French side of the Channel). Coastal artillery was never very effective.

Men and women at a war workers’ canteen watch lunchtime entertainment. Millions of women were conscripted into factory work. 

Comments Charles McCain: The British version of the USO was known as ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) and had the responsibility of supplying entertainment of all types to the forces and the civilian workforce. Programs were of mixed quality and there were many who said ENSA was an acronym meaning “Every Night Something Awful”

HRH PRINCESS ELIZABETH IN THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE, APRIL 1945 (TR 2832) Princess Elizabeth, a 2nd Subaltern in the ATS standing in front of an ambulance. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205124047

Now Queen Elizabeth II, she trained as a mechanic and was supposedly quite good at it.

 

THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE AT AN ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN SITE IN BRITAIN, DECEMBER 1942 (TR 452) An ATS spotter with binoculars at the anti-aircraft command post. A 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun can be seen in the background. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205123845

 

THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE AT AN ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN SITE IN BRITAIN, DECEMBER 1942 (TR 465) ATS girls working the Kine-Theodolite, which photographs the shell bursts, thereby checking the results of the Predictor crews. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205188347

A Beautiful Englishwoman Prepares to Blast Nazis Out of the Sky

Englishwoman with the 1st Anti-Aircraft Division, which controlled the searchlight and gun batteries defending London.

An ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) ‘spotter’ at a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun site in Britain, December 1942. On her shoulder can be seen the badge of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Division, which controlled the searchlight and gun batteries defending London. The ATS was established in September 1938, to provide for women volunteers to serve in non-combatant roles alongside the military. In 1941 it was fully incorporated into the British armed forces. As the war progressed conscription was introduced, and duties expanded from cooks, clerks and drivers to more varied and technical roles. The ATS reached a peak strength of 210,208 officers and other ranks in June 1943.

(Caption and photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Winston Churchill’s daughter, Mary, served on a Anti-Aircraft battery during parts of the war.

 

 

Underground Stations When Bombs Dropping

Taking shelter in the Underground stations wasn’t a great experience. Early in the Blitz there were few sanitary facilities and people who lived through the era often write about the stench of underground stations.

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1568) Elephant and Castle London Underground Station Shelter: People sleeping on the crowded platform of Elephant and Castle tube station while taking shelter from German air raids during the London Blitz. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194638

 

While no more than 3% of Londoners used the tube stations as bomb shelters, photographs such as these became iconic images showing the determination of Londoners not to let the Nazis break their will.

SHELTER PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN IN LONDON BY BILL BRANDT, NOVEMBER 1940 (D 1571) Elephant and Castle Underground Station Shelter: The station performs a dual wartime role: travellers enter a train while, in the foreground, other Londoners attempt to sleep. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194641

(The sign in the window to the right of the tube car door informs passengers that this is a non-smoking car. In 1940)

THE LONDON UNDERGROUND AS AIR RAID SHELTER, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1677) One of London’s most popular shelters is that which is to be found in a section of the London underground system which has been converted by tearing up the tracks. The advertisements remain pasted on the wall. Hats and coats are hung on nails which have been driven in between the bricks on the wall. People sleep on the platform and on the space which was formerly the track, this part stretching fo… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205221918

This is probably a section of the Picadilly Line which was no longer in use when the war began.

THE LONDON UNDERGROUND AS AIR RAID SHELTER, LONDON, ENGLAND, 1940 (D 1678) Shelterers sleep along the walls of the passageway leading from the lifts to the platform at a London Underground station, probably Aldwych, in November 1940. The shelterers lie on thin mattresses and suitcases have been used to partition off areas along the tunnel to provide some privacy for shelterers. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197856

London Blackout Fashion for Use During Blitz

For fear the German Luftwaffe would be able to use the smallest pinprick of light as an aiming point, a blackout lasting from sunset till dawn was imposed on 1 September 1939 throughout the United Kingdom (with the exception of Northern Ireland).

For most people in the Great Britain this was the first tangible effect of the war and it had wide ranging effects from an increase in motor car collisions to large numbers of people being run down by trams to depression. For many months nothing actually happened but when the London Blitz began people were happy they had stocked up with various items.

BLACKOUT ACCESSORIES FOR SALE, SELFRIDGE’S, LONDON, ENGLAND, C 1940 (D 66) A sales assistant, using a stuffed toy, demonstrates a blackout coat for dogs to a customer at Selfridge’s department store in London. The coat would make sure that the dog was visible to car drivers and pedestrians during the dark nights of the blackout. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197491

 

These photos of the era are fascinating since they show only well-to-do middle and upper middle class people shopping for blackout items at Selfridge’s. This was a high end department store with its flagship London store on Oxford Street where these posed photographs were taken. No allowance was given homeowners or renters to purchase blackout materials or paint.

BLACKOUT ACCESSORIES FOR SALE, SELFRIDGE’S, LONDON, ENGLAND, C 1940 (D 75) A female shop assistant displays a white raincoat for use in the blackout. The colour of the fabric of the coat would mean that the wearer would be clearly visible to other pedestrians and to motorists in the dark streets of the blackout. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197497

 

It is difficult for us to picture what it would be like to live in a urban area such as London and once night fell, discover it was almost impossible to see anything. Literally. Unless there was moonlight, you could barely see your hand in front of your face. People tripped and fell constantly and many injured themselves badly. While the street curbs (kerbs to the Brits) were eventually painted white that didn’t help a lot.

Worse, in many areas the residential voltage was decreased by almost 50%. When you finally made it home from work, put up your blackout curtains and turned on the lights, they only burned dimly. You couldn’t see very well and even reading could be difficult.

The blackout was enforced by ubiquitous ARP (Air Raid Precaution) wardens who would issue you at summons if you were violating the very strict blackout regulations. This included the smallest chink of light from a blackout curtain improperly closed. 300,000 people throughout the UK were taken to court for committing blackout offenses. (source: Wartime: Britain 1939-1945 by Juliet Gardiner)

Gardiner also wrote that “Shopkeepers who transgressed the lighting regulations were made an example of…” and fines exceeding £50 were imposed on some at a time when a small car could be purchased for £120.

In the early 1930s Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin declared “the bomber will always get through.” This turned out to be a statement as stupid as Stanley Baldwin. There was great fear among the authorities that the bombing of London, for instance, would reduce the citizens to panic, lunacy or lethargy. The government theorized that 600,000 people in London would have nervous breakdowns after one or two bombing raids and the city would be filled with gibbering idiots. It was though that even a small tonnage of bombs dropped by the Nazis would wreck London.

None of this turned out to be true. It is quite amazing the circumstances in which people are able to carry on.

BLACKOUT ACCESSORIES FOR SALE, SELFRIDGE’S, LONDON, ENGLAND, C 1940 (D 68) A blackout walking stick on sale at Selfridge’s in London’s Oxford Street. The light in the tip of the walking stick would illuminate the ground sufficiently for the user to see more clearly in the blackout, and to make the user more visible to pedestrians and vehicles. These walking sticks sold for 14/6. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205197493

 

The price of 14/6 translates for us Americans as 14 shillings, six pence. Until 1971, British currency was not on the decimal system. Instead it was based on 240 pence to one British pound (£). Twelve pence made a shilling and twenty shillings made a pound. There were a number of coins such as farthing, half a crown etc which were worth a certain number of pence.

An unskilled working man would be lucky to make £1 for a fifty hour week. So this walking stick would cost an entire weeks’ pay for a unskilled worker. Women made less.

The walking stick would cost about £40 pounds today which would be approximately US$51.00 dollars based on the exchange rate of of May 2017.

Slang for pound is “quid,” thought to come from the Latin phrase “quid pro quo” defined by Merriam-Webster as “something given or received for something else.”

“The derivation is interesting. According to Merriam-Webster, “In the early 16th century, a quid pro quo was something obtained from an apothecary. That’s because when quid pro quo was first used in English, it referred to the process of substituting one medicine for another—whether intentionally (and sometimes fraudulently) or accidentally.”

www.merriam-webster.com/quid pro quo