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The Archaeology of Air Raid Shelters. Alice Gorman Department of Archaeology Flinders University. Why archaeology?. Not just pyramids and pots Material culture tells different stories to historical documents Growing interest in the recent past.

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the archaeology of air raid shelters

The Archaeology of Air Raid Shelters

Alice Gorman

Department of Archaeology

Flinders University

why archaeology
Why archaeology?
  • Not just pyramids and pots
  • Material culture tells different stories to historical documents
  • Growing interest in the recent past

Remembering the past - air raid shelter mural, UK

the brisbane line
The Brisbane Line
  • First raised in 1908 by Lord Kitchener
  • 1938: population of Australia at 7 million
  • Fear of Japanese invasion
  • Adelaide is a target

Air raids and naval encounters

south australian defence society
South Australian Defence Society
  • Founded by Natalia Davies in 1933
  • Raise awareness and teach ARP
  • Membership mostly women
  • Gender roles on the home front

Demonstrating air raid precautions in Adelaide

official organisation
Official organisation
  • 1939 - Commissioner for Civil Defence appointed
  • 1941 - Emergency Powers Act
  • Jan 1942 - arrangements for air raid warnings “backward” in SA
conflicting views on arp
Conflicting views on ARP
  • Building morale or creating paranoia?
  • ARP: Sham or Shelter? 1940. By a group of Australian Scientists for the Research Group of the Left Book Club of Victoria
types of air raid shelter





Above ground

Cellars and basements



Slit trenches

Types of air raid shelter

Mackay, Qld

features of air raid shelters
Features of air raid shelters
  • Shield from flying debris
  • Entrance features blast-proof
  • Robust reinforced concrete
  • Ventilation
  • Sanitary facilities

Entrance - Isle of Sheppey, UK

  • Air Raid Practice, Australian General Hospital, Sydney, August 1942
deep trench
Deep trench
  • Belsize Park, UK
  • Very expensive
  • “Shelter mentality”
  • Not used in Australia
concrete pipes
Concrete pipes
  • Adelaide, March 1942. Air raid shelter in Botanical Gardens.
dual purpose pillbox
Dual purpose pillbox
  • Brisbane City Council public shelters
  • Design allowed brick walls to be dismantled - used as bus shelters, public toilets, after the war
  • 16 heritage listed today
slit trenches
Slit trenches
  • Adelaide 1942 - digging air raid trenches
  • Whitmore Square
  • Most commonly used type in Australia
public air raid shelter
Public air raid shelter
  • UK - designed to fit 50 people
  • Many air raid shelter designs resemble public toilets
anderson shelter
Anderson shelter
  • Designed 1938 for use in backyards
  • 2 million in Britain by 1939
  • Manufactured by Lysaght in Australia
morrison shelter
Morrison shelter
  • June 1941
  • Sleeps 2-3 people and doubles as a table during the day
backyard trench
Backyard trench
  • Adelaide 1942
  • Air Raid Precautions were a family affair
our air raid shelter recorded by jack davey april 1942
“Our air raid shelter”Recorded by Jack Davey, April 1942

We’ve got a house down by the sea,

We’ve been busy with the ARP,

We’ve built a place where we can hide,

Now it bulges when we get inside.

It’s made of bags filled up with sand,

And all the neighbours lent a helping hand,

When it was built, we raised a shout,

We rushed in and now we can’t get out.

the repat shelters
The Repat shelters
  • Three subterranean shelters - 1942
  • Up to 300 people
  • Military - medical
  • Filled in between 1958 and 1970
the repat project
The Repat project
  • 2004 - Repat approaches Department of Archaeology, Flinders University
  • 2004 - Preliminary excavations uncover a path
  • 2005 - Oral history collection
  • October 2006 - Geophysical survey
what will we learn
What will we learn?
  • Construction: represents level of fear?
  • Style: what are the influences?
  • Use: internal floor plan, artefacts
  • Informal use: is there any evidence?

School shelter in Croydon, UK

contemporary relevance
Contemporary relevance
  • Social memory
  • Can material culture mediate fear?
  • Cold War, nuclear bunkers
  • Responses to threats in post 9/11 world
what s next
What’s next
  • 2007 - completion of geophysical survey
  • Excavation to uncover air raid shelters