Friday 24 July 2020

Imperial War Museums - IWM Stories: The World's Best Den

Anderson Shelter
© IWM HU 63827A
On Saturday 1 August four of our five museums are reopening, and we cannot wait to welcome you back. Your support - as ever - is appreciated.

Since the start of lockdown, we have been releasing online videos especially for children and families, inviting them to learn about unique and intriguing history. 
During the Second World War, every city across the UK was vulnerable to bombing. It was vital that people felt safe in their homes and had the opportunity to shelter.

KittyJohnBrendaGraham and Jill have shared their memories of this time for many years in person with visitors at IWM, and now their stories are retold for you here too.

Kitty lived in Camberwell, just down the road from Imperial War Museum London. She lived in a block of flats, next to which the council built a communal shelter.

Conditions were difficult. Up to 100 people shared this shelter, with only one toilet. It was also important to think of ways to help pass the time, and Kitty recalls being told to stand up and sing songs to amuse people.

Others had their own homes; and lucky ones had a garden. If that was the case, then you could build an Anderson shelter.

John Allpress was just 10 when the Second World War broke out. He remembers how one day the street received a huge delivery of corrugated iron. His parents had to dig trenches, form their sheet of iron into an arc and therefore build their own Anderson shelter.

To make sure their shelter was secure, many people put soil on top of the iron. Some people even grew vegetables in the soil that went over the top of their Anderson shelter, in the spirit of ‘Dig for Victory’.
Family Mission - HMS Belfast Crew
Every Friday, we’re sharing exciting challenges for the whole family. Follow IWM on Twitter and Facebook to make sure you get your “mission briefing” at 11am and don't forget to let us know how you get on! 
Brenda was a child during the Second World War and recalled how her stubbornness kept her in London. When her school was offered the chance to be evacuated, she refused to go. She managed to persuade her parents to let her stay at home.

In order to make their Anderson shelter a little bit more comfortable, Brenda’s dad had rigged up some electricity cables so that it had power; which meant she could sit and read. If they had to rush to the shelter, Brenda’s mum carried a pot from the house, and was then able to light a little stove and heat up soup.

This also helped keep them warm. Shelters were in people’s gardens, and so they were often cold. As they were dug into the ground they could get quite damp, which meant often water would seep in from beneath the shelter’s edges.

Not everyone had a garden. Graham, who lived in Birmingham, remembers that they had a room that was big enough for what was called a ‘Morrison shelter’.

A Morrison shelter was almost like a rabbit hutch. It was a grid of sturdy metal interlocking squares, with strong metal supports. Graham remembers one of these in his house, where his family could shelter.

Another child during the war, Jill, also remembers having one of these Morrison shelters. It was quite large and took up a lot of space. In fact it took over the front room, where Jill’s family lived. Jill’s dad made a wooden top for the Morrison shelter, laid a tablecloth over it, and it became their dining table.

This story is just one of 17 videos. Click here and explore all our Adventures in History.
Adventures in History - Ship Shape Stories
We find today's Adventures in History on board HMS Belfast. Join Ngaire to hear just some of the unforgettable stories from the history of the most significant surviving Second World War Royal Navy warship.