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Forces War Records Blog

SECOND WORLD WAR AIR-RAID SHELTER UNEARTHED UNDER CAR PARK

Blogger: GemSen. In the middle of knocking down an unwanted boiler house in the grounds of a former college recently, demolition workers uncovered more than a pile of rubble… Workmen were instead surprised to find a Second World War air-raid shelter buried three-feet underground in the carpark of the former Keighley College building in West Yorkshire. On behalf of Bradford Council, the workers who discovered the shelter were in the process of clearing the site in order to help it appeal to potential developers. “The shelter was not on the plans of the building as this kind of wartime construction was often carried out quickly,” Paul North, Bradford Council's Airedale and Manningham Masterplan Manager, told the Daily Mail. The brick built, three-feet wide shelter has a concrete ceiling and four linked corridors creating a rectangular layout and there is some remaining evidence of wooden benches and boards that were once used to keep people’s feet off the cold concrete floor. “I find this discovery absolutely fascinating. The remnants of the air raid shelter are a stark reminder of the fear under which people had to live their lives during the Second World War,” said Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council's portfolio holder for Employment, Skills and Culture. “I'm pleased we're able to record the find for local history archives,” she added. Sheltering from a Lightening War During World War II, various air-raid shelters were used in Britain during the Blitz  – and the term originates from the German meaning ‘lightening war’. There was a proliferation of bombs dropped on London and other major cities as part of Hitler’s bombing campaign including Southampton, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bristol,Cardiff, Coventry, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Belfast. Hitler believed that the Luftwaffe’s strategic aerial bombing raids would beat Britain into submission, and performed mostly at night, he aimed to increase the fear factor, causing Britain to lose sleep and become weak. Every night bar one for ten solid weeks, from 7 September to 14 November 1940, London was attacked prolifically by an average of 160 bombers. Britain didn’t just roll over and surrender though - instead it fought back and protected itself by enforcing blackouts and using shelters. The bombing in the end did not achieve its intended goals of demoralising the British and forcing surrender, nor did it severely damage the war economy and the eight months of bombing never seriously hampered British production. By May 1941 the threat of an invasion of Britain had passed, and Hitler's attention had turned to the invasion of Russia and Operation Barbarossa. However, the effects of the blitz were still tragic and it is believed that around 60,000 people lost their lives, 87,000 were seriously injured and 2 million homes were destroyed. Without the air-raid shelters, statistics could have been a lot worse. Some shelters made use of existing structures and underground spaces like underground stations, tunnels, railway arches and cellars, and some of the shelters were constructed from scratch like the one recently found in West Yorkshire.  The commonly used home shelter, the Anderson shelter, would be built in a garden and equipped with beds as a refuge from air raids. "Householders were encouraged to modify their own homes or build small domestic shelters in response to concerns over the threat of gas attacks, blasts from high explosives and incendiary bombs," said Elizabeth Chamberlin from the West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. "Factories, businesses, schools and other institutions also provided air raid shelters as places of refuge in addition to the public shelters provided by local authorities." Elizabeth said that she was pleased that the Council was able to pass on information about the air raid shelter to add to the Historic Environment Record. This information is available to the public on an appointment basis only and those who are interested in looking at the information should contact the West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service on 01924 306797. Source: Daily Mail. Can any of your family members remember what life was like during World War II? Did any of them serve? Are you looking for more information? Why not visit Forces War Records and search our wealth of records...
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