Air Raid Shelters :Discussion in Parliament 1938

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by CL1, Feb 14, 2020.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Mr. Arthur Henderson

    I would like to draw the attention of the House to a question which affects our own country, namely, the question of the provision or the non-provision of bomb-proof shelters. I make no apology for raising this matter this afternoon, because I think that any person who watches the international horizon at the present time must realise the vital importance of providing for the defence of the civilian population of our own country if, unhappily, this country of ours is ever attacked. This is no new question. I find that as far back as 1st March, 1937, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in reply to a 3207question addressed to him with regard to the provision of public shelters, replied: The question of the provision of refuges for persons caught in the street when a raid is imminent is under consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1937; col. 36, Vol. 321.]

    AIR-RAID SHELTERS. (Hansard, 22 December 1938)
  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Part of the problem was that government circles at first did not believe that air raid shelters would be effective. In 1934 there were apocalyptic visions of massive casualties right at the beginning of a war with casualties in London alone in the first 10 days reaching 40,000. Much of this would be caused by gas against which shelters would be largely noneffective and indeed might even concentrate heavy vapours like mustard gas. Matters were not helped in 1937 with the the Air Ministry grossly overestimating the tonnage of bombs the Luftwaffe could drop and the ARP Department exacerbated this by making unrealistic estimates of the damage each ton of bombs could cause. The only solution was deemed to be mass evacuation and planning was carried out on this assumption. Initial plans were for 4,000.000 to be evacuated from major population centres to 1,100 rural reception areas. However as late as 1938 there was no agreement as to exactly who should be evacuated. It was not until 1939 that the number was revised downwards ro 1,500,000 mainly mothers and children. ARP plans began after Munich. It began to dawn that those remaining would need shelters but serious ARP planning did not really kick in in many cities until Germany broke the Munich agreement in early 1939.

    Hansard vol. 295 col. 859, 28 November 1934
    Richard M Titmuss, History of the Second World War Problems of Social Policy, HMSO, London.1950
    Robin Woolven, Pre War Preparations, in A Brief History of Civil Defence ed Tim Essex-Lopresti, Civil Defence Association, Matlock, 2005
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020

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