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Oct 12 2012

All About… Stanburn Blast Shelter

Stanburn Blast Shelter was built in 1939 in the grounds of Stanburn School in Stanmore. Used throughout the War, the shelter has come to be an important part of the school’s history. As such, it has been carefully restored and is now a museum, housing a range of genuine artefacts from the time. Stanburn School opened on its present site on 25th April 1938.

On Sunday, 3rd September 1939, war was declared and the school quickly became a centre for community preparations. Air Raid Precaution (ARP) wardens used the school hall to give out gas masks to local residents and to teach them how to use them. They gave advice on preparing homes for ‘blackout’ conditions and what to do in the case of an air raid, including how to deal with incendiary bombs.

While school was closed for the Christmas holidays in 1939, air raid shelters were built in the school grounds to protect the children and staff in the event of enemy bombing raids. Trench shelters were dug on the playing field, plus a blast shelter on the school boundary. The trench shelters were subterranean but the blast shelter was a free-standing building of brick with a roof made from a complete block of reinforced concrete. All these shelters were heavily used during the war especially during the Blitz (September 1940 – May 1941) and then later on during the V1 and V2 raids on London towards the end of the war (June 1944 – March 1945).

The children had regular air raid drills, which ensured that they could quickly take refuge in a shelter in the event of an air raid warning. Once safely in the shelter lessons would continue until the ‘all clear’ sounded. Although not heavily bombed, bombs did fall in the local area causing the destruction of many houses as well as creating large craters in the roads. On one occasion an incendiary bomb fell on the school grounds, causing a small fire which the caretaker put out. The worst local incident was in March 1945 when a V2 bomb impacted on a house in Uppingham Avenue, killing nine people.

For more details, check their website, here.

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