Public shelters

The Womens Volunteer Service (WVS) WVS serving food in a communal air raid shelter.

London Transport Museum

Anderson shelters

In 1938, the Anderson shelter was created. It was given Sir John Anderson's name because he was in charge of getting Britain ready to withstand German air strikes.

Anderson shelters were designed to accommodate 6 people. Families were required to build the Anderson shelters according to a set of instructions after receiving the necessary materials.

The shelter's construction was rather straightforward. Six corrugated steel panels made up the bulk of the shelter. The sides and end panels were created by bolting together flat corrugated steel panels (one of which contained the door).

The shelters had dimensions of 1.4 m wide by 2 m long by 1.8 m high. Someone taller than 6 feet would not have been able to stand up in one since they were so little.

The Anderson shelters were built, buried more than one metre below earth, and then covered with a thick layer of soil and turf.

Instructions on how to construct an Anderson shelter.

A family emerges from their Anderson shelter, its effectiveness proven by the state of the house behind them.

PA Photos

For persons with an annual income of less than £250, Anderson shelters were free. The cost was £7 for anyone who didn't fit this description.

The construction of almost 3.5 million Anderson shelters took place both before and during the war.

Although Anderson shelters were highly efficient in saving lives and avoiding serious injuries during air attacks, they were quite chilly in the winter.

The government released some suggestions on how to make the Anderson shelters more comfortable in an effort to stop people from returning to their warm homes at night when the weather grew colder. 

There are still many Anderson shelters in existence. Lots were excavated and utilised as storage for gardens.

A young girl sleeps with a doll in an Anderson air raid shelter shelter adorned with Christmas decorations.

Royston Leonard /

The interior of an Anderson shelter on display at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Morrison shelters

Instructions on how to build a Morrison shelter.

Herbert Morrison, the minister of home security, inspired John Baker to create the Morrison shelter. The shelters were sold as kits that could be put together (bolted together) at home.

Morrison shelters had dimensions of 2 metres long, 1.2 metres wide, and 75 cm high. It wasintended to serve as a table during the day and a place to sleep at night. Over 350 sections made up the shelter, but its main components were a steel top (like a table top) and wire mesh sides (one of which could be lifted open and acted as the door).


A family could sleep underneath the Morrison shelter, which was just a strengthened metal dining room table, during the nocturnal air attacks. Although it was not intended to provide protection from direct hits, it proved excellent at protecting occupants from bomb blasts and flying debris. According to one survey of bomb-damaged homes, more than 80% of those who sought refuge in properly positioned and built Morrison shelters escaped without suffering significant harm.

Families making less than £350 per year were provided over 500,000 Morrison shelters free of charge.

A couple sleeping in a Morrison Shelter in Manchester during the Blitz.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

Hundreds of people, many of whom have lost their homes through bombing, now use the caves in Hastings, a south-east English town as their nightly refuge. Special sections are reserved for games and recreation, and several people have "set up house", bringing their own furniture and sleeping on their own beds. Photo taken on December 12, 1940.

AP Photo

These London schoolchildren are in the midst of an air raid drill ordered by the London Board of Education as a precaution in case an air raid comes too fast to give the youngsters a chance to leave the building for special shelters, They were ordered to go to the middle of the room, away from windows, and hold their hands over the backs of their necks.

AP Photo

A man sleeping in a stone sarcophagus in an East London church in November 1940.

Imperial War Museum

A woman sleeps on a bed made on top of a row of barrels in the cellar of a wine merchants in East London in 1940.

Imperial War Museum

With London a major target for German bombers during the Blitz, those Londoners who remained in the city and for whatever reason, could not access a shelter, had to utilise various underground spaces for protection - The London Underground being the most widely used and well known. However, in the case of the old lady in the cellar and the man in the sarcophagus (above), many found alternative areas in which to take shelter, helped no doubt by London being a city filled with old buildings of a resilient and sturdy, stone construction.

Further reading