Stories about Wartime

Townsend Road air raid shelter

courtesy of Neil DeMarco

In the early months of the war, the government issued two million Anderson shelters to homes in cities likely to be bombed. They were issued free to those earning less than £250 a year (the average wage then was about £300. £300 was the equivalent in purchasing power today of about £25,000.

Anderson shelters, named after the minister for Civil Defence, John Anderson. The shelters consisted of 14 strong curved sheets of corrugated steel, bolted together and sunk about three feet into the ground. They were 6 feet 6 inches high and 4 feet 6 inches wide. On top was added about 15 inches of soil. They could withstand anything except a direct hit but were not very popular because they tended to flood and were cold and damp. They cost £7 to buy then – about £300 in terms of purchasing power today.

photo of an air raid shelter
Building the shelter in Townsend Rd.

Mrs. Janet Convin has sent in these photographs of a deep shelter built by her grandfather, William Humphrey in June, 1940. Her grandfather was not impressed by Anderson shelters and thought they were not secure enough for his 18 month-old granddaughter, so he decided to build his own shelter at what was then 40 Townsend Rd.

invoice for Mr Humphry
Invoice for construction costs of air raid shelter

It would be fully sunk underground and waterproofed. We also know how much the materials cost as Mrs. Convin still has the original invoice of £6 16s 4d – though this doesn’t include the cost of labour since William Humphrey did the work himself.

photo of person leaving the shelter
Photo of person exiting the shelter

So, for less than the price of an Anderson shelter, William Humphrey had built himself something far more secure. Fortunately it was never put to the test but sadly neither the shelter or the house are still standing today. “Progress”, ironically, has achieved what Hitler proved unable to do.

photo of William Humphry
Photo of William Humphry

This content is courtesy of Neil DeMarco and was previously displayed on the Chesham at War website.

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