Despite the many military establishments in Shropshire, a significant input was also made to the war effort by civilians. Several factories carried out war work and a number of civilians were involved in Air Raid Precautions (ARP), First Aid or other Civil Defence duties. There were also a number of strategically placed air raid shelters for civilian use.
Air Raid Shelters
The Anderson shelter was designed in 1938 by Sir John Anderson, the man responsible for preparing Britain to withstand German air raids. It was designed to be installed in back gardens and could hold 6 people. The construction of the shelter was reasonably simple. Families were provided with the materials and were expected to construct it from a set of instructions.
The main part of the shelter was formed from six corrugated steel panels, which were bolted together to form the sides and end panels (one of which contained the door). It only measured 4½ft wide, 6½ft long and 5½ft tall so was quite cramped inside. Once constructed, the Anderson shelters were buried over 3ft deep in the ground and then covered over with a thick layer of soil and turf.
Anderson shelters were provided free of charge to those with an annual income of less than £250. For those who didn’t fall into this category, the price was £7. Approximately 3.5 million shelters were built either before the war had started or during the conflict.
The Morrison Shelter was designed by John Baker and named after Herbert Morrison, the Minister of Home Security. It followed the discovery that Anderson Shelters were very cold during the winter months and people were going back to their warm houses at night when the weather got colder. To give them some protection, it was necessary to develop an effective type of indoor shelter. These came in assembly kits, to be bolted together. They were approximately 6½ft long, 4ft wide and 2½ft high, with a solid 1/8“ steel plate on top, welded wire mesh sides and a metal lath mattress type floor. Altogether it had 359 parts and had 3 tools supplied with the pack.
The shelter was provided free to households whose combined income was less than £400 per year. It was not possible to produce a device that could withstand a direct hit, so the Morrison shelter was designed to be able to withstand the upper floor of a two storey-house falling onto it. Around 500,000 Morrison shelters had been distributed by the end of 1941, with a further 100,000 being added in 1943 to prepare the population for the expected German V-1 flying bomb attacks. In an examination of 44 severely damaged houses, it was found that 3 people had been killed, 13 seriously injured and 16 slightly injured out of a total of 136 people who had occupied Morrison shelters. Thus 120 out of 136 escaped from severely bomb-damaged houses without serious injury. Furthermore it was discovered that the fatalities had occurred in a house which had suffered a direct hit and some of the severely injured were in shelters sited incorrectly within the houses.
This was a concrete segment shelter designed and manufactured by the Stanton Ironworks in Derbyshire. The shop producing spun-concrete lighting columns ceased production and turned over to concrete air-raid shelters, of which 100,000 tons were manufactured. It was cheap to produce and any length of shelter could be built up by joining the pre-cast steel reinforced concrete segments.
Two segments formed an arch 7ft high and transverse struts were provided to ensure rigidity. These fitted into longitudinal bearers which were grooved to receive the foot of each segment. Each pair of segments was bolted together at the apex of the arch and each segment was also bolted to its neighbour, the joints being sealed with a bituminous compound. The convenient handling of these segments enabled them to be transported onto sites where close access by motor lorry was not possible. Partly buried in the ground, with a suitably screened entrance, this bolted shelter afforded safe protection against blast and splinters.
Since many people living in the centre of towns didn’t have a back garden, and to cater for those visiting shops or workplaces, local councils built larger communal air raid shelters. They were also built at schools and factories. Most were demolished after the war but some still survive.
Surface air raid shelter at the sports ground on Bandon Lane.
Church Stretton (SO45259358)
Site of trench-type air raid shelter in the High Street.
Remains of surface air raid shelter at the former school in Castle Square.
Market Drayton (SJ667337)
Site of air raid shelter at Highfields.
Market Drayton (SJ67383404)
Site of trench-type air raid shelter at Jones Motor Company.
Market Drayton (SJ67423414)
Remains of air raid shelter in Frogmore Road.
Market Drayton (SJ685346)
Remains of Stanton air raid shelter alongside the Shropshire Union Canal.
Neenton Heath (SO652887)
Site of an air raid shelter at the The Drailes Farm. This was used by the occupants of the farms because of the nearby decoy bombing site.
Neenton Heath (SO656885)
Site of an air raid shelter used by the occupants of the farms because of the nearby decoy bombing site.
Site of civilian air raid shelter at The Green.
Remains of surface air raid shelter at the former St Andrews Church Primary School.
The railway arch was used as an air raid shelter.
Site of air raid shelter in Mardol Road
Site of air raid shelter at the Old Market Hall.
Site of air raid shelter in Castle Street.
Site of air raid shelter at the Woolworth's store.
Site of air raid shelter in St Mary's Street.
Remains of air raid shelter in Castle Street.
Two air raid shelters at War Production Factory.
A good place to see and experience life in a Second World War shelter is at the Stockport Air Raid Shelters
Aircraft Parts, Prees (SJ552333)
Site of a factory which produced aircraft parts. Now the Prees industrial Estate.
Aircraft Parts, Shrewsbury (SJ496124)
This factory was owned by Messrs Wales & Edwards and produced aircraft parts.
Armaments, Shrewsbury (SJ504148)
The Sentinel Factory produced shell casings, machine tools and parts for the Bren machine gun.
Camouflage, Bridgnorth (SO719935)
Site of Rootes Securities Factory which produced camouflage for the Armed Forces.
Fuel Tanks, Peaton (SO532850)
Factory which produced aircraft fuel tanks and was also used as a Naval store.
Radio Gramophones, Bridgnorth (SO721925)
Site of a Ministry of Aircraft Production factory involved with radio gramophone development during the Second World War.
Spitfire Wings, Shrewsbury (SJ499138)
War Production Factory which produced Spitfire wings and other aircraft parts.
Spitfire Wings, Shrewsbury (SJ50681195)
The garage, now Mullins Shrewsbury, in London Road, was used to produce Spitfire aircraft wings and fuselages. After the war, the company Rentokill found hundreds of aircraft rivets in the drains.
Tanks, Shrewsbury (SJ50841535)
Site of a factory which produced Centurion tanks towards the end of the war.
Before the war started, the government’s Central War Organisation set up a service to cope with the effects of enemy bombing. It was initially called Air Raid Precautions (ARP) and it was joined by numerous civilians, as well as 90,000 St John Ambulance and British Red Cross members. In September 1941, the name was changed to Civil Defence.
Local Authorities organised a system where, when a bomb dropped, it was reported to a local centre. Casualties were then searched for, ambulance transport arranged and injured people were taken to a first aid post. Civil Defence covered lots of other types of work, there were wardens, firemen, rescuers who searched through rubble for survivors, telephone operators, messengers, and policemen. Perhaps the most famous role was the ARP warden, made famous in the TV programme Dad’s Army. As well as telling people to “Get those lights out” they were responsible for warnings about air raids and persuading people to get into shelters.
Other Civil Defence workers drove ambulances, were stretcher-bearers, ran mobile units and made up first aid parties. They manned casualty stations and first aid posts. Medical supplies, blankets and pillows were distributed to air raid shelters and rest houses were set up for people who had been bombed out of their homes. Members who joined the Civil Nursing Reserve dealt mainly with the victims of air raids. Emergency Flying Columns were created for air raids with a first aid car, one or two ambulances, mobile canteen, supply van, staff car and a motorcycle.
Many first aid posts were located in church halls or schools whose pupils had been evacuated. Others were in hospitals. Some posts were staffed entirely by the British Red Cross and some entirely by St John Ambulance, while others had a mixed staff that also included probationers and Civil Nursing Reserve nurses. The number of first aiders varied with the size and location of the post. Each first aid post had three sections: one for receiving and sorting casualties, a second for giving treatment and a third where patients could rest before being sent home or to hospital. Some posts also had mobile units attached to them, eg gas cleansing stations.
ARP HQ, Shrewsbury (SJ48951239)
A building on Cross Hill was used as an air raid precautions headquarters.
ARP Post, Market Drayton (SJ67113445)
Site of air raid warden's post at the Fire Station.
Civil Defence HQ, Market Drayton (SJ681344)
Site of Civil Defence Headquarters at The Grove School.
Civil Defence HQ, Shrewsbury (SJ488124)
Site of Civil Defence Headquarters at Shrewsbury.
First Aid Post, Church Stretton (SO453936)
Sylvester Howe Institute was used as a first aid post.
First Aid Post, Hodnet (SJ61362873)
Lyon Hall in Hodnet was used a first aid post.
Ministry of Information, Shrewsbury (SJ49261237)
Site of Ministry of Information office in Shrewsbury. They created a wide range of posters, etc to encourage the war effort and promote security.