Bomb Shelters etc. - Hornchurch

There are three unusual and fascinating structures near (what was once) RAF Hornchurch.

The first two were probably built by RAF personnel to protect officers and their families who lived in big houses near the aerodrome.

The first is a very well maintained brick shelter buried in a garden some distance from the house, and so unlikely to be damaged if the house collapsed. Here are three photos:-


The second is a larger brick built shelter also some distance from the main house. It was entered via a separate doorway and steps to one side of the shelter, so further reducing the danger from a nearby bomb blast.. The roof of the main part of the shelter has partly collapsed.


Last, and certainly not least, here is a unique bomb-proof building constructed a couple of years before the war began. The owner was a senior naval architect called Lazarus Serafim Polychroniadis who had left Athens to make a career in England at the end of the 19th century and who was particularly knowledgeable about the effect of water pressure. His daughter Dorothea worked for Winston Churchill during the war and it is believed that Churchill visited the Polychroniadis family during the war.

The 5 metre square building has extremely thick concrete walls and was provided with its own heating, ventilation and flushing lavatories. . The only external 'window' was a pressure-defying re-purposed submarine hatch. And the only external door was made of strongly reinforced steel, whilst its hinges, too, were made of very thick steel. A 10 ton crane stood outside, powered by non-domestic three phase electricity, which is used in industry etc. to power large electric motors of the sort that are to be found in big cranes.

It seems clear, therefore, that the building was used for some very special war-related development work, possibly connected with bouncing bombs which had to bounce off the surface of water and then detonate at specific depths and water pressures.

Sara Ewen and I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who can shed any further light on the likely use of this remarkable building.

Here are some photos:





Martin Stanley