The shelter at the back of a house in Richborne Terrace, near the Oval Cricket Ground in Central London, is still in good condition, including the frames of the bunk beds on which families tried to sleep during air raids. This shelter has survived nearly 80 years partly because the owner of the house – Mr H L Sutton – was a builder and decorator who decided to set the corrugated iron roofs in a substantial concrete base.
The bombing of Richborne Terrace
Not all the shelters in Richborne Terrace survived even the war – and nor did their occupants. The result of one bombing was recorded, in words and a picture, by local civil defence worker Stanley Rothwell:
There was a vast crater with bodies of women and children strewn in the rubble around its edge, the shelter they had occupied had gone sky high… We got busy shrouding the dead and mangled bodies… We tried to check the number of people involved but found that there were some missing…
We found them the following morning lying some hundreds of yards away on some waste ground spread-eagled like tailors’ dummies; they had been tossed there by the blast, heads and limbs missing.
Mr Rothwell’s painting of the incident is in the Imperial War Museum and is reproduced here with their kind permission.
It shows an Anderson shelter after a direct hit. Mr Rothwell is on the left accompanied by his colleague Benny Cunningham.
Interestingly, Mr Rothwell’s son subsequently went to work in the War Museum.
Visitors to the Richborne Terrace Anderson shelter
The owners of the shelter near welcome visitors, including school parties, and may be contacted via Martin Stanley.
The shelter has featured in a number of TV programmes. Shane Richie (EastEnders’ Alfie Moon) interviewed Joan Longley about her experience of using a wartime Anderson shelter for the TV programme Blitz Cities.
Several school parties have visited the shelter.
One visiting school – Willow Brook from Leyton in North London – kindly showed me these extracts from the school’s 1939 to 1945 Chronicle and Record Book.