Subterranea Britannica

St Matthew’s School Air Raid Shelter, Southborough

St Matthew’s Primary School,
Powder Mill Lane,
High Brooms, Kent TN4 9DY
OS Grid Ref: TQ589417
Date of visit: March 2012

[Source: Chris Rayner]

This school air raid shelter could accommodate around 250 children and teachers when it was opened in March 1940. The precast concrete lined shelters were called “the Trenches” at the time, and children were at times taught in the shelters due to the frequency of alerts.

To guard against accidents it had a complement of nine portable toilet closets, coupled with 20 litres of disinfectant and 16m of curtain material to screen off the toilet areas. More serious disasters, such as the entrances being blocked by bomb damage were guarded against by having a sledgehammer, shovels, picks and crowbars.

They might well have been needed had the V1 flying bomb that landed nearby in July 1944 exploded, but fortunately this would turn out to be the first unexploded doodlebug to land in Britain. The school log recorded that the children had to spend all afternoon in the shelter before being evacuated in small groups of eight while the bomb was being defused.

The shelter was rediscovered under a playground a decade ago and is now usually open on Heritage Open Days in September.

[Source: Chris Rayner]

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