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The Blitz One Year On

Discussion in 'The Blitz' started by Jim, Jan 26, 2010.

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  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Here, appropriate to the experiences of the citizens of Britain stoically enduring daily air attacks, was a review of the lessons officially drawn from the experiences of the first twelve months work by the A.R.P Sir Alexander Rouse wrote with the authority of his position of Chief Engineer to the Ministry of Home Security.

    After a year of war it is possible to review the results of bombing and compare them with the effects which were anticipated and on which the shelter policy of the Government was based. That policy was designed to give protection from the splinters and blast of a heavy high explosive bomb bursting within 50 ft of a structure or shelter, and it maybe said with confidence that the effects experienced have been less devastating than anticipated.

    Dwelling-houses are completely destroyed only by a direct hit somewhere near the centre. Hits near the side, or near misses, only remove part of the house, and unless the occupants happen to be in this part they have usually escaped without serious injury, and even when the house had been completely destroyed, survivors have often been rescued from the debris. I have seen a case where a heavy bomb exploded so close to two semi-detached houses that the walls were within the crater, which was 40 ft wide and about 10 ft deep; the houses were laid completely flat. A woman with her baby who were in the upper storey were, however, taken from the wreckage suffering only from bruises, having been protected by a couch which turned upside down on top of them. That was luck. In another case a girl took shelter under the kitchen table and in spite of the whole house coming down she was rescued unhurt but naturally a little shaken, and affirmed that Hitler was not going to frighten her! In the former case the woman and the baby were lucky, but in the latter the girl took a sensible precaution. In all houses there are places which are safer than others, and if there is no time to get into the shelter it is always worth while getting into the safest place possible, having thought out beforehand where such places are.

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    The photograph above showed the necessity of the covering of earth over an Anderson shelter. It was riddled with splinters from a bomb bursting 20 feet away. Below is a shelter with no earth over the back, a bomb burst 15 feet away and splinters killed two of the occupants.

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    The shelters which have been provided or recommended by the Government have all come up to expectations in providing protection and have even proved more efficacious. The Anderson steel shelter has stood up to bombs at a distance of only 10 ft away, provided that it has been covered with the correct amount of earth, that is, 15 inches on top and 30 inches at the sides and back. It is deplorable; however, that so many people have not taken the trouble to give the correct amount of earth, and disaster has followed in many cases of which examples are given in the photographs. In the official instruction's for the erection of these shelters it was stated that if the entrance was within 15 ft of the house or substantial wall, no baffle-wall in front was necessary as it was considered that anything falling closer than this would be pretty sure to wreck the shelter. Experience, however, has proved that even if the shelter is only 6 feet or 8 feet from the house or wall a very large additional amount of protection is given by erecting a baffle wall, since a bomb falling between house and baffle wall will very possibly not hurt the occupants of the shelter. So much has been said by the Press about the protection afforded by the Anderson steel shelters that the popular fancy, which was once inclined to scorn them, is now clamouring for them and is inclined to reject the more substantial surface brick Shelter with 13.5 in. brick walls. This is quite erroneous, as these brick shelters have equally proved their worth. No case has been recorded of splinters from a bomb penetrating a 13.5 inch wall except when the explosion has been so close as practically to destroy the wall. In fact, few splinters, except from very heavy bombs exploding near by, have penetrated even 9-inch walls. As regards trenches, few cases have been reported of near misses, but in all cases reported they have more than come up to expectations. Basements, too, have served their purpose well. In fact, under smaller buildings such as domestic residences of 2 or even 3 storeys, they have, even when un-strutted, sufficiently withstood the weight of debris which has been produced by the demolition of the house above to prevent fatal injury to the occupants. The value of the home as an air-raid shelter has been proved over and over again.

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    A narrow room on the ground floor with stout walls gave excellent protection. In the demolished house above three people escaped with slight injuries by sheltering in the front hall. Next door (see photo below of both halls at right) people in the hall were quite uninjured.

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    Casualties in houses from bomb splinters have been negligible and these have been due to people carelessly standing near windows or doors. The casualties in dwelling houses have been mainly due either to direct hits, when the occupants were damaged by the debris and blast, or else to flying glass from bombs exploding near by. In a survey of 650 cases in urban areas, about a quarter of the casualties have been due to flying glass striking people either in their own houses or in the streets. The importance of protecting windows by pasting netting or other fabric or even stout paper over the glass has been emphasised by innumerable examples. Where occupants of houses have taken the trouble to study the pamphlet "Your Home as an Air Raid Shelter" and to select the best part of the house for a refuge room, they have been safe, even where the house was partially demolished by a direct hit. A narrow room or passage with the maximum amount of solid brickwork around it, such as the hall or the space under the stairs, has survived in a very large number of cases. One thing that has emerged from the tactics adopted by the enemy is that, unless the whole country is to be constantly prevented from working by day or sleeping by night owing to incessant air-raid warnings, there must be a risk of bombs being dropped without any warning, and this is a risk which all of us, I am sure, are prepared to take. This risk, however, emphasizes the extreme importance of taking cover whether in a building or in the streets, particularly in the latter. In the pamphlet entitled "Air Raids" (published by the Stationery Office in June 1939) there is a diagram which indicates the degree of risk incurred when taking cover or lying down as compared with standing in the open. This diagram is reproduced here. Subsequent statistics of casualties incurred confirm its correctness particularly in respect of the danger, of standing in the open.

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    An enormous number of incendiary bombs have been dropped in this country, but comparatively few have caused serious fires. Many of these falls harmlessly in open spaces and many are duds. In the daily reports which I receive I read this sort of thing:
    "A number of incendiary bombs were dropped in Blanktown, damage was slight and all were dealt with by the occupants of houses or air-raid wardens with sand and stirrup pumps."
    In fact, there is no great danger that incendiary bombs will produce devastating fire in residential areas if every citizen is prepared to deal promptly with them. I would call the attention of readers finally to the importance of taking the best cover available or even lying down on hearing anti-aircraft fire or bombs dropping in the vicinity. The danger from bomb splinters to anyone standing in the streets is clearly shown in the photograph below and the diagram in the left-hand column.

    The main stream of splinters from an exploding bomb flied upwards, and a person lying down would probably have escaped all of them. Anyone standing (see outlined figure) ran an infinitely greater hazard.

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  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Many tributes had been paid to the steel Anderson shelters, which had proved so effective in saving lives threatened by bombs. Very effective, too were the surface shelters, built of brick and concrete. A row of such shelters was put up to give protection to people living in a street of small houses in this northern town. A bomb fell only 25 ft away from the shelter to the left of the top photograph, but as can be seen the shelter like others in the row was undamaged.

    The effect of a heavy bomb on a row of houses in this colliery district is seen in the middle photograph. A heavy bomb fell only 20 feet from the back wall, but the casualties were three children in the back lane who were killed. Despite the severe damage, the people in the houses escaped injury.

    The bottom photograph shows the front of the same houses. They exemplify the unexpected results that sometimes follow from a high explosive bomb. Though the bomb fell at the back of the houses, the damage was greater on the street side, for the front walls collapsed while those at the back withstood the shock. This was probably due to the way in which the shock of the explosion from the bottom of the crater travelled through the ground.

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