Hainault at war – life inside an Anderson shelter

A British family sheltering in a corrugated iron Anderson shelter. PA-PA archive.

A British family sheltering in a corrugated iron Anderson shelter. PA-PA archive. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Once more, former Hainault schoolboy Derek Hall takes a stroll down memory lane and remembers what it was like in his family’s air raid shelter.

Where the allotments on New North Road are there used to be a domed-shape concrete bunker, that had a slope down into the building itself, which was how people had got into it – it was an air raid shelter.

I injured my eye there by trying to look out during an air raid and getting hit by a piece of shrapnel.

A year later, the entire place was destroyed after it was hit by a V2 rocket.

There had always been an allotment on that site, but when the air raid shelter was destroyed they let nature take its course.

You can still see the indentation of the curved crater from the rocket blast if you look carefully enough around the allotment.

To protect the area during the war the army used to bring ack-ack guns down onto every road all round the airfield each night by using tractors and lorries.

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All over Barkingside and Newbury Park they were there, to protect the area.

So every night there was a raid they would fire away all these guns, and they made a tremendous noise – if you were in your Anderson shelter there was no way you’d ever get to sleep.

Not that you could ever sleep in the shelter, it was always too cold, too smelly and too damp.

I had a paraffin oil stove in there and we put some carpet down in there too.

We’d built bunks at the back so my brother and I could have sleep either side of my mum and dad.

The entire thing was sunken about four or five feet under the ground, and the three feet or so that remained above ground was covered with sandbags and earth,so you had to walk down into it.

That’s why it was always so wet and damp, because as soon as you go down into the earth by more than a few feet, water starts coming up to meet you.

We always felt safe enough in our Anderson shelter, although there are photographs and even newsreels of sheelters that were hit directly and totally devastated.