The Morrison Shelter is introduced

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

During March 1941 the Morrison shelter, named after the Home Secretary, was introduced. This was an indoor alternative to the Anderson Shelter, the corrugated iron construction that was half buried in people’s gardens. Derek Lambert describes how this new shelter at first appeared to be a more comfortable option:

When the first savagery of the night attacks faded we left the cupboard under the stairs and moved into a Morrison shelter.

This was a large metal cage a little higher than a dinner table. It had a hefty iron frame with a sheet steel ceiling screwed together with chunky nuts and bolts. Underneath was a crude wire mattress. It was massive and angular and filled the dining room except for a space in front of the fire.

It became part of the house, a foundation almost; we slept in it and on it, we ate from it, we played in it. When the siren sounded we were supposed to dive inside and put up steel mesh around the sides. Thus, according to the theorists, we were protected from falling masonry by the frame and steel ceiling and from flying rubble by the mesh cage.

When the Germans resumed the destruction of such military targets as schools, shops, houses and sleeping cows we spent all night in the shelter. …

As the bombs stirred the ground and the shrapnel clattered down the road we fought a quiet battle of cunning for the bedclothes. Feet touched faces, arms swung across chests, elbows elbowed; snores bubbled and spluttered to be silenced by ostensibly accidental blows; fragments of wild dream-talk escaped from the depths of our private lives. Enmity was closer to the surface during those caged nights than at any other time in our well-mannered lives.

The system collapsed after a few weeks. White-faced, shadow-eyed, we decided that for the sake of health and happiness two of us would have to evacuate the shelter. For the next few months my parents slept on top of it while I rolled and stretched and crawled and sometimes slept beneath. When the next lull in the bombing came we crept back to our beds.

See Derek Lambert : The sheltered days – Growing up in the war

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Barry singleton September 26, 2018 at 5:09 pm

Morrison shelters superior to Anderson . As children we didn’t have to be dragged into the garden and thrust into a cold and possibly wet shelter. After heavy rain they could be flooded. Though Morrison shelters were low and cramped they were warmer, snug and an adventure for us kids. We were often in them all night from the time we went to bed until getting up in the morning. Some air raids had come and gone during the night and we knew nothing about them. Try doing that in a garden Anderson shelter. We were brought up all through the war in Weymouth, Dorset.
Next door to Portland naval base.

colin holden February 13, 2018 at 1:02 am

I shared one with my younger brother and older sister Joy in Worthing while dad was on Home Guard duties. Sometimes the overhead droning was deafening – but the doodlebugs were the scariest. I remember in later years using the steel top as a roof for my pigeon loft.

Robert P. Edwardes November 26, 2017 at 2:15 pm

I could not avoid muttering “Morrison Shelter” at Johnny Ball’s television recollection of hiding under the ‘kitchen table’ (sic), in Bristol during air-raids. My wife looked at me rather oddly, but she is somewhat younger than I am and was spared living through those bad old days. I was born fairly early on in WW2 in Cardiff. We had no garden, thus no Anderson Shelter. Dad had been discharged from the army and spent his nights as, first a Fire Warden (incendiary bombs) and then, driving a fire engine. I recall him donning a helmet and rushing out at night whenever raids were on, whilst mam and, I in our siren suits, burrowed under that Morrison table to the tune of the air-raid sirens.

john stevenson February 6, 2016 at 3:47 pm

On March 1941 Scarborough was heavily bombed which resulted in substantial damage and deaths.On that evening my mother and I took shelter in a Morrison cage in my Grandmothers house which was attached to our own house which took a direct hit and completely destroyed.There I no doubt that the shelter saved the lives of myself and mother.

layla November 10, 2011 at 1:43 pm

awesome

John Palmer August 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Born in 1940, I remember using our Morrison shelter in 1944 in Twickenham. Dad was 6ft 4in, and I remember him in a bad temper because he could not straighten his legs and so could not sleep. It was in the corner of our front downstairs room and when I looked up a picture of it was shocked by how low it was. My brother was newly born, Mum was only short, and I don’t know how we all packed in so tightly. Later on we evacuated to an Anderson shelter in the backgarden of a neighbour. They talked about Buzz-bombs all the time, but would never let me see one. This shelter was cold and wet and we had to sit on benches until the all clear….

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