One countermeasure to the 'deep shelter mentality' and to ensure the widest possible dispersion of civilians during a raid was by distributing shelters which could be erected in householders' gardens.
The development of the Anderson Shelter is usually attributed to the Home Secretary of the time John Anderson, later Sir John Anderson. The idea of producing a cheap domestic shelter, for the protection from bombing of families, had been a concern of his for some time.
On the 10th of November, 1938 John Anderson presented his problem to the engineer William Paterson who, along with his co-director Oscar Carl Kerrison, produced within a week the first blueprint and, within a fortnight, the first model.
It is reported that John Anderson, in order to test this model, promptly jumped on it with both feet! Having thus satisfied himself he turned the model and designs over to the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers for evaluation by three experts: Mr David Anderson; Mr Bertram Lawrence Hurst and Sir Henry Jupp. Their report was favourable, and by the end of February 1939 the first 'Anderson' shelters had been delivered to householders in Islington, North London.
Consisting of fourteen sheets of corrugated iron, the shelter formed a shell 6 feet (1.8m) high, 4½ feet (1.4m) wide and 6½ feet (2m) long. It was buried to a depth of 4 feet (1.2m) and then covered with at least 15 inches (0.4m) of soil.
The Anderson shelter was issued free to all earning less than £250 a year and at a charge of £7 for those with higher incomes. Eventually 2 250 000 were erected and, in British fashion, made homely with bunks inside and flowers and vegetables planted in the protective bank of earth.
After the end of the Blitz, in the summer of 1941, an American journalist wrote that
'there was a greater danger of being hit by a vegetable marrow falling off the roof of an air-raid shelter than of being struck by a bomb'.
At the outbreak of war, many people were glad to have them but, when the weather broke, they became less enthusiastic. The thought of turning out from a warm bed into a cold, wet shelter was not an inviting one.
That first winter of 1939/40 the shelters were not needed though, when the rains came and they flooded, they provided valuable training to the Auxiliary Fire Service in the use of their suction hose.
Although the Anderson shelter was liable to flooding, it proved itself to be remarkably effective during the blitz.
Copyright © 2002 Peter N. Risbey.