Anderson Shelters

Alan Smith's Story

We had an Anderson shelter in our back garden in Manchester.

It had a concrete basement sunk into the ground, with six curved corrugated sheets which overlapped in the centre set into it. It was sealed at the rear, with a small door at the front. The German planes used to come over every night in part of 1941 and 1942.

We had a double mattress on box springs in ours. But the cement cracked and it flooded, so we could not use it any more. After that, every time the sirens sounded, we had to rush over to a neighbours and spend most of the night in their Anderson until the all clear went. In the mornings most of the school kids, myself included, used to go into the back garden looking for shrapnel from the incendiary bombs, land mines and ack ack shells.

One night my folks and I were going to spend the night with one of my dad's sisters after visiting my grandparents. It was almost pitch black as there were no lights. The sirens went off just after we left my grandparents house. We were almost at my aunt's house when a truck with an ack ack gun mounted on the back stopped near us and started blasting away at the Heinkels and Dorniers caught in the searchlight beams. Then they drove off to stop somewhere else and repeated their actions. Suddenly we heard shrapnel bouncing off the road alongside us. We all dove into a nearby recessed doorway of a Victorian period house. When we arrived home the following morning, we found the back door of our house had been blown off its hinges, windows broken, and soot all over the living room floor from the fireplace chimney.

My mother said, "Well, at least old Adolph cleaned my chimney for me". It turned out that a land mine ( a canister type bomb attached to a parachute) had landed in a railroad gully less than a quarter of a mile away, and exploded. The blast blew upwards and out over our house, flattening houses about a mile away, all around the blast area.

We always knew when it was Jerry overhead, their engines made a droning sound.

I went to school one day and found that it was closed. An unexploded bomb had gone through the roof, the upper and lower halls, and ended up in the basement. I had to go to another school for six months until the damage was repaired.

I think that we were far healthier then than society is today, mostly due to the rationing and the type of food available. I still believe that I could have eaten in one day the amount of rations were were given for a week for my mom, dad and I.

I used to come home from school (my mother was working for Fairy aviation, riveting planes, my dad was building Lancaster bombers) and I would get a slice of bread, smear it with a thin layer of dripping, then add vinegar and salt and pepper. It was delicious!.

I think we all had square bums from eating fish and chips.

When we could afford them that is.

In 1945 towards the end of the war, one of my chums came to school and told a group of us, 'You'll never guess what I've got?' He opened a piece of paper, and there lay what looked like a little brown lump. It was a banana. It had shrunk to about three inches long. We were all awe struck! We couldn't remember what a banana looked like. He said that a paratrooper had come into his folks pub and had given it to him.

He came in another day with a beautiful German luger.

The headmaster heard about it, and confiscated it right away. I'll bet the old man still had it when he died.

Notes