Most people's only experience of living outdoors is in a modern water-proof tent, with a warm sleeping bag, on top of a camping mat. Even in the middle of winter, a comfortable night's sleep is usually guaranteed. It is easy to assume that sleeping in an air raid shelter would have been a similar experience, but this is clearly not true, especially after you have  read the descriptive booklet below, which was produced at the beginning of World War Two by the Ministry of Home Security. 

I have to thank Christine and John Ashmore for kindly sending me a copy of the booklet.

The front cover of the booklet.

How you and your family can sleep in comfort

With a little trouble and at very little cost you can make your Anderson steel shelter a comfortable winter sleeping place for your family. Four adults and four babies, for example, or four adults and two older children can find sleeping room in a standard Anderson shelter 6 ft. 6 in. in length.

This leaflet shows you how this can be done, and also gives you a few simple hints about health matters which will enable you not only to sleep in comfort in your shelter throughout the winter, but to guard yourself and your family against the effects of winter air-raid conditions.

How to make bunks for your shelter

 A hammer, some nails and a saw, and possibly a pair of pliers that will cut wire are all the tools you will need. The materials are a few feet of timber, not less than 1⅞ in. square, some nails, and some canvas (or hessian, burlap, stout wire netting or similar material).

Look at the diagram at the arrangement of bunks and you will at once see the idea. The top bunks run from one end of the shelter to the other, the ends resting on the angle irons that run horizontally across the shelter at each end. These bunks should be 20 in. wide, and about 6 ft. 6 in. long.

The lower bunks are the same size, but rest on the floor of the shelter, on feet or legs that will keep them at least 4 in. off the floor.

The cross bunks for the children are 4 ft. 6 in. long, and have four legs, each 14 in. high, which rest on the side pieces of the lengthways bunks. The cross bunks can he up to 2 ft. wide or even a little more. Fix your canvas, hessian, wire netting, etc., across the bunk frames, and the job is finished. Your local Council may be able to help you to obtain the timber.

Your bed

By far the best bedding for any shelter is a properly made sleeping bag. Nothing else can give so much warmth. Here is a simple way of making a sleeping bag from the blankets you already have, which does not spoil them in any way. Or you can use old woollen skirts, parts of old blankets, and so on.

Take any army or similar thick blanket about 7 ft. long and 6½ ft. wide (or pieces of old blankets could, of course, be joined together). Line with muslin or cotton material to within a short distance of the top. Sew straight across both blanket and lining horizontally at intervals of about a foot, making pockets which should be well stuffed with folded newspaper. The newspaper stuffing should be changed every month.

Fold the two sides of the blanket towards the centre and sew together to within about 2 ft. of the top. Sew together at the bottom, Sew tapes on the open sides of the bag at the top so that they can be tied together when the person is inside.

Alternatively, the bag could be made of two blankets sewn together, but without the stuffing. In either case the blankets should be ironed inside and out once a month.

Remember that when you are not sleeping on a thick mattress you need as much covering under you as on top of you. Therefore, besides your sleeping bag, and even more if you are not using a bag, have a good thick layer of newspapers or brown paper on your bunk, to lie on. Paper is draught proof and does not pass warmth.

Heating the shelter

People’s bodies themselves provide a great deal of heat, and the temperature of the shelter rises rapidly as soon as it is fully occupied. Never have a coke or other brazier in your shelter. It gives off dangerous fumes. Oil stoves are also a source of danger. Anything that burns uses up oxygen, without which you cannot breathe. Also anything that burns gives off light, and your shelter entrance would have to be carefully covered, making ventilation all the more difficult.

To prevent dangerous conditions, adequate ventilation must be maintained, and on no account should all openings be closed. If you need extra warmth, the best way to secure it is a hot water bottle, or a hot brick in your bed. A sleeping bag with a hot bottle or brick in it will keep you beautifully warm. Any bottle will do. Fill it up with very hot water, and wrap an old vest or something similar round it. Put your bricks in a hot oven, or in front of the fire, for two hours, to get thoroughly hot. Wrap them as you would a hot bottle, before putting them in your beds.

An improvised heater can be made with two large flowerpots and a candle. Fix the candle in one of the pots and place it on the ground with something underneath to raise the base just clear of the ground. Light the candle and invert the second flowerpot on top of the first. The candle will not burn enough oxygen to do any harm. As the upper flowerpot warms up it will give off a great deal of heat. A kettle of water can be placed on top; it should have something underneath it to raise it just clear of the flowerpot. A Balaclava helmet, such us every soldier is familiar with, will keep draughts off your head.

How to keep a drink hot

A hot drink is advisable before you go to sleep, particularly for the children. It is a great help in keeping warm. If you have not a thermos flask, you can make a "hay bottle," on the principle of the hay box used in cooking, which will keep a drink hot for several hours. This is how you make it. Cut a square of any old woollen material, such as an old blanket, 8 in. longer than the length of the bottle. Line with either thin muslin or cotton material (an old vest would do), sewing down the sides and leaving the top and bottom open, so that you can stuff them later on.

Cut two strips of the same woollen material, 8 in. to 10 in. long and 4 in. to 5 in. wide, rounded at one end. Line in the same way as the main square, for about two thirds of the length, leaving a flap at the end. Mark the main square into three portions. Fold the lower portion over the centre portion, making the lower half of a bag (Figure 1). Sew the two strips to each side of this case, thus filling-in the sides of the bag (Figure 2).

Stuff the main part of the bag and the side pieces with straw) packed tightly, and sew down the lining. Make a bag of American cloth similar to the woollen material one, but not lined or stuffed. Place the bottle length wise in the woollen bag, fold over the side pieces and tuck in well. Roll up the bottle and pin the top flap over. Put this in the American cloth bag and roll up again. Fasten securely with, for instance, a strip of material tied round the middle.

When you go to shelter

Before you leave the house, turn off all gas taps, including pilot jets, and turn off the gas at the main. Switch off electricity at the main. Leave buckets or cans of water and sand or earth on the front door step, or just inside the door. Put your stirrup pump, if you have one, where it can easily be seen. Draw back all curtains and raise blinds in upper rooms so that any fires which may be started may be visible from the outside. This may save your house. Take with you your money and any valuables and documents, such as rent book, or building society book, insurance policy, records of instalment payments, etc.

Dress yourself and your children (particularly your children) warmly on leaving the house, even if the shelter is close to the house. You will be going from the warm house into the cold night air, and it will take a little time before you are settled down and in bed, and you should not risk anyone getting chilled before getting into bed. Also, if anything happens to your house during the night, or you should have to leave your shelter, you will have something warm to put on.

What to take with you

Identity cards, ration books, etc. Gas masks. Hot drink. Shaded torch. Simple first-aid articles. Hot water bottles or bricks. A bottle of water in case anyone is thirsty during the night. A tin of biscuits in case the children wake up hungry in the night.

Flooding in shelters

In some cases the trouble is caused by temporary flooding from surface water. This often happens because earth covering is not thick enough and not well enough rammed down. It should be not less than 15 in. thick at the top and 30 in. thick at the sides, and should have been well rammed in layers. Leakage can often be cured by removing the top part of the earth and replacing it (using more earth, if necessary) in layers of 4 in. or 5 in., each layer being well rammed or trodden down before the next is put on.

Make the side slopes even, and beat them with a spade. A good plan if clay is available is to make a puddle of clay and plaster the surface with it. Another good plan if any old linoleum is available is to place it over the surface of the shelter before you replace the top layers of earth. Channels should be dug around the limits of the covering of earth to take the surface water away. If, when you have finished, water still leaks through the joints of the corrugated sheets, caulk them from the inside with rope or old rags soaked in heavy oil or tar.

It is possible that surface water may still find its way slowly through the floor. To deal with this dig a sump about a foot deep in one corner of the shelter near the entrance. The water will then drain to this and can be removed easily by baling. It will help considerably in keeping the shelter dry if the floor is covered with a layer of bricks and then linoleum, or if duck boards made with old salvaged timber are put down.

In many cases, however, the trouble is due to the winter rise of subsoil water. This, if it is not excessive, can often be cured by raising the floor of the shelter by putting in earth and then a layer of rubble or clinker. Another way is to raise the whole shelter altogether, but remember that if this is done the shelter must be bedded in the earth not less than a foot, and that the more it stands above ground level the more earth will be required to cover it. If after taking these measures water still enters the shelter, seek advice of the local Council, as then possibly the only cure will be the construction of a concrete "tank" within the shelter.

It is possible that you may get some condensation of moisture on the inside of the shelter. When this occurs it can be improved by painting the inside with paint or a shellac varnish on to which is thrown granulated cork or sawdust while the paint is wet.

Some general hints

It is most important that your bedding should be absolutely free from damp. Do not, therefore, leave it in the shelter, however dry the shelter may seem to be, but bring it into the house and thoroughly air it every day.

If, as may frequently happen, you spend the evening in your shelter before going to bed, you may want to read or knit, for example. Take care of your eyes. A good light can be obtained from candle lamps or a night light. Oil lamps are dangerous as they may get spilled either by shock from a bomb or by accident. There is not the same objection to the use of a lamp while you are awake as there is after you arc asleep; if the air should become very foul, you would know it long before the danger point is reached, which might not be the case if you were asleep. But of course you must take care that no light is visible from the outside. If you have been using such a light, however, clear the air in the shelter before you settle down to sleep, otherwise you will have a disturbed night.

If you take your dog into your shelter, you should muzzle him. Dogs are liable to become hysterical if bombs explode nearby. Cold draughts may be prevented from striking directly on to the occupants by screens at the entrance or by curtains hung in front of the bunks.

In case your house is destroyed, you should try to make plans now to go and stay with friends or relations who live near you, but not too near. They should also arrange how to come to you if their house is knocked out.

Your local authority will be setting up an Administrative Centre where your questions can be answered. Look out for posters telling you where the centre is. In the meantime, in case of emergency, find out from the police or wardens where the offices are at which the local authority and the Assistance Board are doing their work for people who have been bombed.

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