Subterranea Britannica

Limpsfield School air raid shelters

Westerham Road,
Limpsfield, Surrey
OS Grid Ref: TQ408528
Date of visit: March 2011

[Source: Chris Rayner]

The shelters are said to have been in use during the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. A Messerschmitt 109 crashed nearby following one dogfight and the shelters were filled with black smoke as the aircraft burned.

When an alert sounded, the headmaster rang the school bell and the children would have to run across the cricket ground and then over a field laid with barbed wire fences (to discourage enemy aircraft from landing) to get to the shelters. If they did not make it in time they had to lie flat till the aircraft had passed over.

There are six shelters in all, more or less neatly aligned cut-and-cover trench shelters, and are formed of poured reinforced concrete. They are accessed by steps at one end and have escape hatches ta the other end. Inside the children would have sat on wooden benches to continue lessons. Originally oil lamp nit, they were later electrically lit, and were also used out of hours by local families

They were overgrown in recent times until a restoration project by the Limpsfield Task Force, completed in October 2006, restored them. One became a demonstration shelter to allow visitors to see what a school shelter would have looked like, while the other five have become bat roosts.

There is a spigot mortar mounting nearby which has its original stainless steel pin and ammunition locker recess, as well as a restored pit surrounded by a ring of concrete-filled sandbags. An interpretation board has a useful illustration of it in action. This and four other nearby spigot mortars would have formed part of the defences of the Limpsfield Category 'B' nodal point.

Thanks to the National Trust Rangers for the visit.

The shelters are often open on Heritage Open Days for more information on visits contact National Trust.

[Source: Chris Rayner]

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