Air Raid Shelters of the Second World War, Family Stories of Survival in the Blitz, Stephen Wade

Air Raid Shelters of the Second World War, Family Stories of Survival in the Blitz, Stephen Wade

The title of this book is perhaps a little misleading, for it actually covers a rather wider range of topics than it would lead you to expect. Personal memories of taking refuge in shelters do indeed feature heavily, but there are also good sections on the development of the air raid shelter, from pre-war ideas, through the Anderson and Morrison shelters and on to the large communal shelters, both impromptu and purpose-built. In time the book also goes beyond the traditional blitz period of 1940-41 to include later air raids and the V-1 and V-2 raids.

Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it avoids the overly celebratory tone of some other works on the same subject, which tend to emphasise the positive (community spirit, sing-alongs in the shelters etc). This approach might have been useful during the war, but it doesn't reflect the real nature of life in the shelters. Many of the memories contained here are not positive, and give something of a feel for the real unpleasantness of the situation. For many a night in the shelter meant discomfort, fear and the ever-present threat of death or serious injury.

Wade has done a good job of using the personal memories while maintaining a coherent narrative. Most of the chapters focus on a particular theme (health in the shelter, the early war etc), but there is also a general progression in time. Some chapters break from this overall pattern (most notably the one on modern preservation of shelters). 'Their Finest Hour' looks at the different organisations that were involved, from the scouts to the Red Cross.

1 - 1939: Andersons and Morrisons
2 - The Blitz and the First Shelter Experience
3 - Bombing Across the Land I
4 - Health Matters
5 - Bombing Across the Land II
6 - Information Overload
7 - Enthusiasts and Nostalgia
8 - Life in the Shelters
9 - 'Mum Heard a Doodlebug' - Amazing Tales
10 - Their Finest Hour
11 - In Darkest London

Author: Stephen Wade
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 192
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2011

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