Sussex Military Research Projects

Air Raid Shelter

Project ID: SMR1023

Location: Worthing, West Sussex

Project date: 2016



Description: A privately-constructed air raid shelter based on the official Government Anderson Shelter.

The shelter was in the garden of a bungalow built c1939 and lived in by the builder himself. He was also responsible for the air raid shelter in the garden a few metres from the house.

The current owners had always known the shelter was there, but had never investigated it as it had been sealed up after the war. They had, however, dug a hole to expose the entrance, which was found to have been bricked up. We were invited to excavate and record.

Before removing the brick wall sealing the entrance, it had to be recorded as it formed part of the history of the structure. It took just over an hour to break it down, although entry into the shelter was possible halfway through the demolition. This helped to loosen the brick by chiselling from inside as well.

The interior was comparitively clean, if somewhat damp, not helped by heavy rain all morning. The original metal-clad wooden doors and escape hatch were found lying on the floor. A small sump had been let into the centre of the floor to assist baling out floodwater.

The interior comprised a concrete floor with low walls, on which sat domestic corrugated iron, curved over in the same manner as the official Anderson Shelter. The rear wall was of wood construction and incorporated an emergency exit, again mimicking the Goverment shelter design.

While the interior was being cleaned for recording, work began on excavating the steps. It was quickly found that the stairwell had been backfilled with rubble and earth. The treads of the steps were extant and comprised thin sheets of mortar that had been laid directly onto earth steps and revetted with wooden risers. The wood had all but rotted away, so the steps were not used during the dig, to avoid breaking the mortar treads. The stairwell was revetted with brickwork.

In the afternoon the rain held off, allowing recording to be done. The two entrance doors were positioned in place to see how they originally looked. Unfortunately the wood was too rotten for them to be reattached in their current state.

The house was soon to be put on the market, so we hope the new owners appreciate the history in their back garden!

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