Surface Shelters

In May 1939 a design was issued for a small brick and concrete surface shelter for families where the issue of an Anderson shelter was not suitable. A communal surface shelter was designed for tenets of blocks of flats. From August 1939, Local Authorities were also asked to provide communal surface shelters large enough to hold 50 people to provide shelter for those caught out on the streets during a raid. These shelters were constructed of brick walls (9 inches thick) with a reinforced concrete slab roof. They were supposed to give protection against a near miss. In reality they were vulnerable to a near miss, the explosion often demolishing the walls and the roof collapsing.

In Oct 1940 a design for a ‘brick surface shelter reinforced’ was issued under Circular 290/1940. This consisted of incorporating ¼ inch steel reinforcing rods within the mortar joints of a standard English bond wall.

  Above: Design for reinforced brick surface shelter

Several designs were issued to reinforce existing brick shelters. The most simple was to construct an outer 4 ½ inch thick brick wall keyed with header bricks into the original walls. BRC Steel fabric reinforcement was placed between the old wall and new outer wall. Government funding was available to carry out his work.

Records still survive of the materials used to construct a surface shelter in Framlingham. The work was carried out by Reade Builders of Aldeburgh and materials included:

  • 14 yds of sand
  • 23 yds of shingle
  • 9 yds of screened sand
  • 2 yds of brick rubble
  • 3 tons of cement
  • 6,900 Wire cut bricks
  • 26 double Bullnosed bricks
  • 52 single Bullnosed bricks
  • 7 bundles of ¼” reinforcing rod
  • 7 gallons of tar
  • 2 ½ gallons of creosote
  • 2 latrine pails
    • The shelter was evidently to be kept locked when not in use as a padlock and key box was provided.

      Some of the Ipswich Surface Shelters would appear to be constructed from mass concrete. The shelter below at Princess Street was one of several put out for tender in May 1940 but work on these shelters was dsrupted due to a shortage in cement.


      Enterprise versus Bureaucracy – The Development of Structural Air-Raid Precautions during the 2nd World War, Lord Barker of Windrush, O.B.E., Sc.D.,F.R.S., C.Eng, Pergamon Press 1978


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