Morrison Shelter saves lives in Whitstable

The Morrison shelter was an indoor cage that was designed to protect the occupants from the debris if the house was hit by a bomb.

It is often assumed that the first phase of ‘The Blitz’ came to an end in May, with the last of the major attacks on London. Whilst the greater part of the Luftwaffe had been diverted to the Eastern Front there were still plenty of bombers left mounting ‘nuisance raids’ at seemingly random locations around Britain.

The Whitstable Times reported on one incident on the 11th:

A South-east coast town was the scene on Saturday night of an attack by a single German raider which was flying so low that several people declare they actually saw it.

Some cannon fire was heard, which leads to the theory that the raider was being chased by a night fighter and possibly unloaded his bombs to get rid of them. In any case one of these heavy calibre bombs fell and dropped near the junction of two streets in the most densely populated part of the town, where most of the surrounding streets comprise working class dwellings.

The blast rendered inhabitable many houses. Among buildings which received damage were a Methodist Chapel and a large hotel, while churches and business premises also suffered. The damage to the other houses came chiefly from flying chunks of debris which came crashing through roofs, and from the shattering of glass, some of the streets being thick with the splinters.

Unhappily three people lost their lives – Miss. Tilley, Mr. Day, and a soldier named Shepherd of the Royal Engineers, who happened to be in the town on leave. All were in, or just outside a fried fish shop, from which were also rescued about seven of the sixteen people who were taken to hospital.

Mrs. Doris Dunn, whose husband was away on active service with the Navy, had taken shelter in the relatively new indoor Morrison shelter, which probably saved her life:

We were sitting in the kitchen and heard the plane coming over. ‘I don’t like the sound of that’ I said, and we dived into the table shelter. Almost immediately the whole house seemed to crash on top of us. We were choked with dust and in pitch darkness, but we found that we were not hurt. I groped round and managed to find the torch. We started to push away the rubbish round the shelter. We then heard voices and my father, who was out when the bomb fell, called to us. We shouted back and the rescue men dug down to us and got us out. We owe our lives to that shelter. It was really splendid.

For the full report see Oyster Town.

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