World War 2 Air Raid Shelters: Facts and Information

Several different types of air raid shelters were used by the people of Britain during the Blitz of World War 2. Some of these shelters made use of structures and underground spaces which already existed, and some of the shelters were constructed from scratch.

Here are some details about some of the different types.

Cellars and Basement

  • Cellars were used as very effective underground bomb shelters. Unfortunately, compared to other European countries, very few houses in Britain had cellers – they were only built in large houses and older properties.
  • The basements of public buildings such as schools, hospitals, and the basements of businesses were used as shelters during the Blitz. The basements offered underground protection from bombs, but there was the risk of heavy machinery falling on top of the shelter if the site was hit.

Railway Arches and the Underground

  • Railway arches, constructed of brick, offered good protection from falling bombs and they were certainly used as air raid shelters in the Blitz. The only problem was that railway lines were sometimes targeted by the Germans in bombing raids.
  • The Government was against people sheltering in the Underground tunnels during air raids. They thought that disease would spread (due to the small number of toilets in some stations), people would fall on the tube lines and that people might be tempted to never leave the safety of the tunnels. All of these arguments were proved wrong and Londoners took matters into their own hands by forcing their way into the Underground stations.
  • The Government changed its views on this type of shelter and started fitting out Underground stations with bunks, first aid kits and chemical toilets.
  • Underground stations were not completely safe as bomb shelters – they were still vulnerable to a direct hit.
  • It is estimated that over 170,000 people used the London Underground as an air raid shelter during the Blitz.

Other Tunnels and Caves

Throughout Britain during the Blitz, people were making use of any underground spaces as a means of sheltering from the German bombs. Naturally forming caves and tunnels under castles, palaces and other historical buildings were frequently used.

Street Communal Shelters

  • The Government started a a programme of building street communal shelters in March 1940. These shelters were to be constructed by private builders (under the supervision of Government inspectors and surveyors).
  • The shelters were built with thick brick walls and a reinforced concrete roof.
  • They could house about 50 people.
  • Many street communal shelters were built.
  • Unfortunately, the shelters didn’t perform very well in air raids. The brick walls were often shaken down allowing the concrete roof to fall on those inside.
  • Improved designs were introduced, but public confidence in the communal shelters had been lost.
  • The trend moved towards individuals building shelters on their own property with materials supplied by the Government.

Anderson Shelters and Morrison Shelters

  • Anderson shelters were designed to house six people.
  • They used curved and straight panels of galvanised corrugated steel, and they performed really well in bomb tests.
  • Over 3 million Anderson shelters were put up all over Britain. They were free to all families who earned less than £250 a year.

Click the link to find out more facts about Anderson Shelters.

  • The Morrison shelter was essentially a reinforced metal dining room table that a family could sleep under during the nighttime air raids.
  • It was not designed to offer protection against a direct hit, but it was very effective at sheltering people from bomb blasts and falling debris. One study of bomb damaged houses showed that more than 80% of those sheltering in correctly positioned and constructed Morrison shelters survived without major injury.

Click the link to find out more facts about Morrison Shelters.

If you want to find out more about World War 2, please visit our WW2 links page.

36 thoughts to “World War 2 Air Raid Shelters: Facts and Information”

  1. Thank you!!! you really helped me with my homework. 🙂

  2. this really helped me with my assessment for history i was only meant to do 3 pages but done 7/8 so i think i will get a really good mark on it !

  3. Thanks a lot! This has helped me finish my school project (On the deadline night!)

  4. We have recently moved to a house in Bognor with a concrete underground air raid shelter at the bottom of the garden. Unfortunately, the stairs down have been partly infilled with soil and rubble. We were hoping to find out how far it goes underground and how big the space is. The local museum has no information and have asked for pictures when we find time to dig it out. Has anyone else got one of these in their garden and know what it’s like inside?

  5. thanks this was helpful for an english essay on ww2 shelters links v. helpful cheers 😀

  6. Great Info. Gotta Make one in DT sessions 🙂

  7. Very glad this helped you and others with homework. It gives me shivers to read all this. I was there . all through the blitz.
    next week I will be 80 years old and I am in the middle of writing a novel about a family of 4 ADULTS AND 3 CHILDREN AND HOW THEY LIVED DURING THE WAR. Do you think young people today would be interested? Anyone know a publisher I could send it to?

    congratulations to those who did their homework ,hope you got good marks… cheers from Patricia

    1. Good Luck with the Novel. I read a lot and I only know the big ones such as Puffin, Osborne, etc.

      Hope it works out,
      Liam Cassley (Year 6)

  8. wow im suprised it realy does help with information i need for stuff thank you to the people who put the website up thanks heaps =)

  9. This really helped me with my school work
    And saved me from getting detention thx!!!

  10. Really helped me with my school work and saved me fom getting lecture from my teacher miss lyttle she’s head of our school!!!!! Thank a looooot people!!!???!….waiting for your ww2links studying WW2 quite interesting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. this post really helped me with my school work! Thanks1 🙂

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