MORRISON SHELTER: United Kingdom. 1941-1945.  Officially designated the Table (Morrison) Indoor Shelter.  This indoor shelter was designed by Lord Baker and the staff of the Research and Experiments Branch of the Ministry of Home Security to provide protection for those inside buildings during an air raid, and was named for Herbert Morrison, the Minister of Home Security at the time.  The shelter had its genesis in 1941 as a result of the combination of a growing understanding that an effective indoor shelter could be designed, in spite of the direction of Command Paper 5932, public hesitancy in using the uncomfortable Anderson shelter for all night alerts, and direction by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  Many designs had been proposed, and only chance and  a rapid design effort developed the Morrison in preference to a number of models prepared by individuals with no engineering experience.  The Morrison Shelter was selected by the Prime Minister in preference to a sectional arch design.

The Morrison Shelter was a rectangular frame approximately 6 feet 6 inches long by 4 feet wide by 2 feet 6 inches high, with a solid 1/8 inch steel plate top, welded wire mesh sides, and a metal lath mattress floor, assembled from 359 individual parts using 3 tools supplied with it.  The entire structure was designed to absorb impact and deform within limits to absorb energy and protect those within it, and the mattress floor would actually absorb the force of being driven through a floor by debris falling on the top of the shelter.  The mesh sides could be removed to allow use of the shelter as a table, and the shelter could be used as an enclosed bed.  Concerns on the part of some about the immorality of single men in a bed shelter with female housekeepers led to the production of a limited number of two-tier shelters.

The design was intended to be used in two story brick villa styled houses.  In an examination of shelter performance in 44 representative heavily damaged houses, of 136 shelter occupants, 3 were killed, 13 seriously injured, and 16 lightly injured, in spite of shelters being buried under heavy loads of debris for extended periods of time.  An examination of cases in which fatalities resulted, direct hits on the shelter by a bomb and cases in which the shelter was not properly sited in the residence accounted for a high proportion of fatalities.  

Morrison Shelters were distributed at no cost to most people, with over 500,000 being deployed by November 1941.  In preparation for expected German V-1 attacks, and additional 100,000 shelters were ordered in late 1943, with 9,000 being distributed to London residents in January and February of 1944.

Sources: Risbey, Peter N., "Air Raid Shelters: The Morrison Shelter," in The Midnight Watch, location, 2002.  Hutchison, Robert, Weapons of Mass Destruction: The no-nonsense guide to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons today, London, United Kingdom, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003. Baker, Lord, Enterprise Versus Bureaucracy: The Development of Structural Air-Raid Precautions during the 2nd World War, Oxford, United Kingdom, Pergamon Press, 1978.

Entry 0368 - posted 25 July 2003