Morrison shelters

“I expect if the sirens go her mum will get her into a shelter quick enough. And if she elects to stay home, I’m betting they have a pretty sturdy Morrison shelter in the kitchen they can huddle under.” (Not2Nite)

Morrison shelters certainly saved many, many lives but they must have been fiendishly uncomfortable.

Morrison shelters certainly saved many, many lives but they must have been fiendishly uncomfortable.

 

During the blitz 1000s and 1000s of bombs rained down on London and most people didn’t even have a basement to huddle in. Partially to discourage people from taking shelter in Underground stations the Home Office developed small air raid shelter kits for personal use that people put together themselves (kind of like Ikea products and probably just as frustrating). One of these shelters was the Table (Morrison) Indoor Shelter or Morrison shelter as it was commonly known, which low income families were provided with for free. The tables were just over six feet (2 metres) long and  four feet (1.2 metres) wide. They were two and a half feet (.75 metres) high with a thick steel plate for the top, wire all around and a steel mesh mattress on the bottom. Families were expected to use the top as a dining table and sleep underneath during a bombing raid. By the end of 1941 half a million Morrison shelters had been distributed.

These shelters weren’t expected to protect people against a direct hit. No one expected to be able to survive one of those; even underground stations, which were rightly considered amongst the safest places to ride out an air raid, weren’t immune – a direct hit at Bank Station killed 56 people and there were other casualties at other stations as well that resulted in many, many deaths. However, a lot of people died as a result of their home collapsing around them when a bomb exploded near by. Morrison shelters were therefore designed to protect people from walls falling and roofs and floors caving in and it seems they did quite a good job of it. In one study of 44 badly damaged homes containing Morrison shelters it was determined that out of 136 people 120 escaped serious injury and those that died or were seriously injured had either been hit directly or hadn’t constructed their shelter properly (Morrison shelters had 359 parts!). In 1950 the designer, Sir John Baker, was awarded £3,000  by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors  for his design of the Morrison shelter in recognition of how many lives his design undoubtedly saved.

 

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