Anderson shelter?

(you decide)

This is my back garden in Biggin Hill and the two fir trees were planted by me 20 years ago. When I was digging the hole for the tree on the right I had to cut through some corrugated iron. Underneath were old bottles, some broken, some intact. At the time I thought nothing more about it.



When I was digging a hole for a fence post last summer I came across the corrugated iron sloping down away from the tree that I planted 20 years previously. Could it be an old WW2 Anderson shelter?? If it slopes one way under the tree and the opposite way under the fence post then I should be right on top of the shelter.

There was only one way to find out. I was going to dig a small trench (in true 'Time Team' style) to find the shelter.


This photo shows how deep the shelters were built. Not very deep and the rest was covered with soil. The corrugated steel was joined at the top. A hole at the front acted as the entrance. then the whole thing was covered in the soil that was dug out.

(note the toy dog on top of the right shelter with a gas mask on)


These are original plans on how to construct an Anderson shelter. If you look at points 6 and 7 it shows the two side panels are joined at the top with a row of nuts and bolts. If I was digging onto a shelter then this row of bolts along the top should be easy to find.



Just under the surface I found the corrugated metal sheet. It was tough going with the usual assortment of old car engine parts (the previous owner of the house use to break up cars) and an odd shaped spanner. You can see how the metal sheet is curving from left to right but there was no sign of the bolts along the top edge.


I made a hole through the sheet and found another under this. When I got through the second sheet I came across milk bottles (once again). Many were intact and I pulled two out.



The bottles are marked 'A. T. Howie, Keston'. A local milk farmer a few miles away (still there today in Shire Lane). There must be a vast quantity under there.


So how did they fill the shelter right to the top with bottles and rubbish without leaving a space under the roof? They couldn't have and as I couldn't find the bolts along the roof I concluded that if it had been an Anderson shelter it must have been dismantled, the hole filled in and the sheets laid out on top covering the rubbish. If, indeed, it was a shelter at all. So I filled the hole back in, including the spanner and car engine parts, and restored the garden to its original state.


I was still interested in the construction so I surfed the net and found this set of plans on how they were built. But on these plans they show the spanner that was used to put them together. It was multi function and acted as a tommy bar too. As soon as I saw that I thought 'I've seen that spanner before' and went back out and started digging again (much to my wife's annoyance) and eventually I found the odd spanner I found earlier.

Here is the spanner, a bit rusty but still the same shape as when it was made. Could this have been the spanner that came with the Anderson shelter kit? I showed it to my father, Henry, who was a boy scout during the second world war and use to erect these shelters and he recognized it immediately as the correct spanner.

So I am now convinced that the steel sheets in my garden were the parts of an Anderson shelter during the war and the spanner was the very spanner that was used to construct it and dismantled the shelter at some time after the war.


Because of the close proximity to airfield I would imagine that nearly every household in Biggin Hill had an Anderson shelter, or the indoor 'Morrison' shelter, so it's more than likely that what I have in my garden are the remains of a shelter.

Do you have an existing Anderson shelter in your back garden? If you have please email me. I'd love to look at a complete one!


29th November 2010.

Whilst visiting Colin Pascoe to photograph his shelter (see 'Your Anderson Shelters'), he showed me his anderson shelter spanner which was in the same condition as it was when it was made 70 years ago. He found it in the garage of his house when he bought it.

I wonder how many other spanners still survive, and being used.






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