06 February 2008

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Households were subsequently given the opportunity to have a proper nationally-produced home shelter allocated to them. This would take the form of either an arched, corrugated iron structure which could be put up in the garden known as an Anderson shelter or a sort of steel cage with a solid sheet top and mesh sides for use indoors which was known as a Morrison shelter. Relations of mine on the Isle of Wight had a Morrison which took the place of a table in their dining room and was great for playing in. An air-raid warning was sounded in advance of approaching enemy aircraft. It was a wailing sound which oscillated between high and low notes. Sometimes we would hear distant sirens sounding but our own locality would not be alerted. I remember the first time ours DID sound and the excitement of scurrying outside and into our garden shelter where we waited, without hearing anything else, until the all-clear was sounded (a continuous note). During the entire war I doubt 1 went into a shelter more than ten times, yet I experienced hundreds of air-raid warnings and some very, very noisy activity. Four times, to my knowledge, I went in other people's shelters. If, for instance, you happened to be on your way to school or otherwise out on the street when a warning was sounded, you just went into the nearest house and would, without question, be given whatever protection was available. One such occasion whilst I was out collecting firewood entailed going into a rather large well-to-do house where I was taken with the household into a very luxurious shelter and treated to unaccustomed gastronomic pleasures by the servant staff. As time went by we became blaś±• with air-raid warnings, or rather taking precautions against them. Winchester was not itself a target for the Germans albeit we were surrounded by vital targets within a few miles. Daylight warnings became few and far between whilst after-dark warnings became almost a nightly event; sometimes two, three or even four in just a single night. We would quite often get up, if we had gone to bed, and come down stairs and we would listen to the distinctive drone of German diesel aircraft engines as planes passed overhead. We had a cat called Tom. Tom loved it when we all came down in the middle of the night and would purr appreciatively. Many of the 'German planes' we were convinced we heard were in fact attributable to Tom's throaty contentment. The most alarming noise came from the anti-aircraft guns which could be quite frightening. A battery of about five of these guns was situated less than a mile from our house and their exploding shells over our heads denied any sleep even if we chose to ignore the siren. Fall-out from the shells took tiles off our roof and most others too. Anyone outside would have been in great danger without a helmet. I had a valued collection of shrapnel. Our own garden shelter fell into disuse fairly early on. It was damp, uncomfortable and entailed a hazardous night-time venture into the scary outside. The steps down into it became eroded and treacherous (for adults anyway) and we boys were eventually tasked to fill it in. We did fill in its entrance and levelled off the ground but, in later boyhood years we relocated its roof, cut a hole through it and I personally made a disguised trap door down into it. The trap door idea didn't work, at least not in its disguised configuration because all the earth and turf fell out of the box when the trap was raised!! I cannot remember what we actually did with the old shelter apart from covering it over again so nobody would ever know it existed. One day it might be rediscovered along with the


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