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13 November 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > History > Remembrance > Inside a WW2 Air Raid shelter

Inside a WW2 Air Raid shelter

Torn newspaper for loo roll, a sing-along to keep up morale and rats sharing your rations, how would you cope in an Air Raid shelter?

Inside the Air Raid Shelter

Inside the air raid shelter

"The signal to be given is a rising and falling note lasting one minute."

Those were the written instructions used to accompany the "Moaning Minnie" or air raid siren, to signal an enemy attack was coming and the public should go to the nearest  shelter as soon as possible.

Usually only open to children, adults were allowed a peek inside the reconstructed WW2 air raid shelter at Swindon's STEAM Museum, on Saturday November 8th, as part of the BBC's Wartime Discovery Day, where over 3,000 people were given the chance to have their Wartime memorabilia and photographs valued.

Patsy Bartlett is one of the teachers based at STEAM and thinks it's vital children of the 21st Century learn about conditions in wartime:

"The Air Raid Shelter is here to give modern children an idea of how children then might have felt, and how we can be grateful to history.

Air Raid Shelter STEAM

Air Raid washing facilities

"Looking at history is the only way we will learn the lessons, we see the mistakes that we've made, and if we know the bad things, it's the only way we can put them right."

Inside the shelter

The shelter is about the size of a small lounge room, and as soon as the outer door is closed the temperature begins to rise. With narrow benches along three sides of the room it's pretty cosy. The walls are adorned with propaganda posters telling the general public what was going on at the time.

The shelter is dark, with one electric light but once the power goes off candles are used for light and heat. Songs were often sang to keep spirits high and to stop young children being scared by the sound of bombs being dropped outside.

So with all these people, what about when they need the loo? Wendy Howard is another teacher working at the STEAM Museum,

Inside the Air Raid Shelter at STEAM, Swindon

Another view inside the shelter

"The Chamber Pot or the Gusunder (goes under the bed) was used in the Shelter. Newspaper was torn in to squares to be used as toilet paper and privacy was scarce. The Chamber Pot was behind a flimsy curtain and the contents put into a slop bucket after use, which was then covered with an old sack until the next person needed it.

"As you can imagine the smell would have been horrendous and you were very unlucky if the only space left to sleep was near the make shift loo especially if there were clumsy children around!"

Each time the public entered the shelter they were unsure how long they would be in there for and what they would discover once they were given the all clear, and whether their homes would be standing.

As time went by many people who were tired of repeatedly interrupting their sleep to go back and forth to the shelters, virtually took up residence in a shelter.

last updated: 17/02/2009 at 16:08
created: 13/11/2008

You are in: Wiltshire > History > Remembrance > Inside a WW2 Air Raid shelter

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