ANDERSON SHELTER: United Kingdom. 1938-1945.  The Anderson Shelter resulted from an initiative by the Lord Privy Seal, Sir John Anderson, to develop and produce an inexpensive shelter that could be used to protect families from aerial bombardment.  On 10 November 1938, Anderson passed the problem to engineers William Patterson and Oscar Karl Kerrison.  Blueprints were finished with one week, and within two weeks a working model.  This model was reportedly tested by the Home Secretary jumping on it with both feet.  Successfully passing this test, the design was then evaluated by David Anderson, Bertram Lawrence Hurst, and Sir Henry Jupp of the Institution of Civil Engineers.  Their favorable report sent the design to production.

The Anderson Shelter design was based on sheltering 4 persons, or in emergencies up to 6, as the minimum shelter for a typical two story terraced house or cottage.  The size of the shelter was specifically chosen to allow easy entrance and avoid having to crawl into the shelter and either crouch or lie down to use it.  In addition, it was intended to allow sufficient air supply for residents to survive until rescued if the door was blocked.  A final consideration was that the shelter would have some value for other purposes after the termination of hostilities, a requirement that was to be seen in many of the later designs for nuclear fallout shelters. 

The Anderson Shelter design used an arch of corrugated iron sheeting to form a space 6 feet high, by 4.5 feet wide, by 6.5 feet long.  The front and rear of the shelter had vertical corrugated sheets, and the front formed a characteristic rectangular facade with the upper corners cut off at a 45 degree angle.  The doorway was open and blocked only by sacking or a blanket.  A total of 14 sheets of corrugated iron was needed for each shelter.  The shelter was erected in a 4 foot deep pit and was covered by at least 15 inches of earth.  Interior furnishings included benches, beds, or bunkbeds, a small table, and a cupboard, and, in some cases, raised flooring for protection from water seepage.  Typical supplies in the shelters included a hurricane lamp, spare clothing, nonperishable foods, a canister of water, books, and boxed games.  Health officials recommended that toilets not be placed in the shelters, but a bucket or chamberpot for sanitary purposes was not an unusual fixture.  On the exterior it was not unusual for residents to use the added earth surface for raising foodstuffs or as a flower plot.

In February 1939 the first Anderson Shelters were delivered to householders in Islington, North London.  The Shelter was issued at no charge to anyone earning less than 250 Pounds Sterling a year, and at a charge of 7 Pounds Sterling for those with incomes over the minimum.  Because the shelter was not designed for use within buildings (due to a variety of issues including stability, the potential for it being crushed or having exists blocked, fire risks, and the possibility of gas poisoning from domestic gas supplies), only those households with a garden (in United States vocabulary, a back yard) were suitable for installing the shelter.  Even with this limitation, some 2,250,000 shelters were eventually distributed.

The Anderson Shelter proved to be an effective population protection measure when used.  In a number of cases occupants survived near near-misses where the shelter was on the lip of the crater resulting from the explosion.  However, they lacked air circulation, were cold and, lacking drainage, were prone to be damp in the best of circumstances and to flood easily.  This lack of comfort, the occupancy factor, reduced significantly the number of people willing to use them as routine night time accommodation. 

Sources:  Risby, Peter N., "Air Raid Shelters: The Anderson Shelter," location, 2002.  Putland, Alan L., "Protection and Air Raid Shelters," in The Battle of Britain 1940, location, 2003.  Lord Baker, Enterprise Versus Bureaucracy: The Development of Structural Air-Raid Precautions during the 2nd World War, Oxford, United Kingdom, Pergamon Press, 1978.

Entry 0392 - posted 17 August 2003