Site Name: Tonbridge - Slade School Air Raid Shelter
Sub Brit site 21st January 2007
[Source: Nick Catford]
With the approach of war with Germany the threat of an air attack on British cities by the German Luftwaffe was quickly recognised, to counter the effect of this, a mass evacuation scheme was put in place in 1938 and activated once Britain declared war on in September 1939.
Photo:Slade Primary School
Photo by Keith Ward
This scheme involved relocating up to 1.5 million people from cities to the relative safety of small towns and villages well away from the main target areas; among those evacuated were school children and their teachers. Once the children had been dispersed across the country, inner city school buildings were then available for other uses as part of the war effort with approximately 66% of schools being allocated for civil defence purposes.
Following this mass evacuation, the expected immediate air attacks
didn't take place and we entered a period of 'phony war'. After several
months without the expected bombing raids people began to wonder if
the evacuation had been unnecessary. The government warned families
that it was still unsafe for the children to return home but before
long many families started to bring their children back to the cities
once they heard that not all the children has been well received and
well treated in their new homes. By January 1940 nearly half of the
school children that had been evacuated had returned home.
Having come back to the towns and cities the evacuees had no schools to go to as the buildings had been put to other uses. With children roaming the streets, hooliganism and vandalism was rife. As well as losing their education, children from the poorer families also lost their free milk and school dinners. Medical inspections in schools also ended with the result of a dramatic increase in the number of children suffering from scabies and head lice.
While shallow trench shelters would give protection from blast and
those built away from the school building would also offer protection
if the school building collapsed, they would however offer little
or no protection in the event of a 'direct hit'
The only surviving stairway into one of the shelters at Slade Primary School. Note the sump pump on the right hand wall
Photo by Nick Catford
The school had no playing fields but rather than build less secure surface shelters three large trench shelters were built beneath the playground. Most schools had a number of small trench shelters, each consisting of a single trench about thirty feet in length that could accommodate up to 50 people. A typical example of this kind of shelter can be found at Whitgift School in Croydon where a number of similar shelters are known to have been built in the playing fields surrounding the school.
For further information and pictures of this site click here
[Source: Nick Catford]