Defending the East End
|Air raid shelters|
The shelters could protect a family from falling debris and shrapnel, but could not withstand a direct hit from a bomb.
The shelters were mass-produced and cost £5.00 each. By April 1940, hundreds of thousands had been issued across the city.
All of the residents of the street would have been able to take refuge in the shelters, which were deeper, and therefore safer, than the smaller Anderson Shelters.
Despite that, Londoners chose buildings like those in preference to smaller, stronger buildings. This photograph shows the entrance to the tube warehouse on Stanworth Street in Bermondsey, one of the large buildings used as a shelter.
The Blitz spirit
Railway arches were a popular place of shelter, but were more dangerous than they appeared to be. This picture shows rescuers searching the rubble at the railway arch at Stainer Street near London Bridge. The arch was destroyed in a raid on 17 February 1941 and more than 60 people were killed.
Soon the night raids became so frequent that they were practically continuous. Many people, tired of repeatedly interrupting their sleep, virtually took up residence in a particular street shelter.
This gave rise to a new spirit of solidarity and community. This photograph shows people inside the Parkstone Road Public Shelter in the Borough of Southwark.
Deep underground stations were safe, but shallower ones were vulnerable. On 11 January 1941, a direct hit on Bank caused the road above the station to collapse onto the people sheltering below.
The blast wrecked the escalators and blew out the windows of two trains. About 120 people were either killed or injured by the collapsing ceiling and by flying glass.
But despite official disapproval, popular action ruled, organised in many dockland areas by the Communist Party. Travellers on the underground in wartime London often saw stations crowded with sleeping families.
However, disasters still happened. The worst incident happened on a night without a raid, when more than 170 people were crushed and suffocated on the stairs at Bethnal Green Station on 3 March 1943. This photograph is of the memorial plaque erected at the station.
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