Public Air-Raid Shelters in Chaddesden

Between 1962 and 1966 I attended Cavendish Close Junior School (known to earlier generations of scholars as Morley Road Junior School) where the grounds incorporated the disused Second World War air-raid shelters. The shelters were partly sunk below ground level and their undulating and easily accessible roofs made them a popular play area. Morning and afternoon breaks in fine (and not so fine!) weather would see hordes of seven to eleven-year-old children chasing their friends up and down a switchback of roofs, largely oblivious to the fact that only twenty or so years previously the shelters had played an important role in protecting many Chaddesden residents! Needless to say, our Headmaster, Mr. Fearnehough, never allowed us access into the shelters themselves. Such were my own early memories of these particular public air-raid shelters, and the following article will look at the story behind them and some other largely forgotten local shelters.


Any study of the provision of public air-raid shelters in Chaddesden is complicated by the fact that at the onset of the Second World War (3 September 1939) Chaddesden was split between two local authorities. To the west and between the years 1901 to 1934, successive portions of the old parish of Chaddesden had been transferred to Derby Borough to provide the town with land upon which to build new housing stock, whilst to the east the remaining part of the parish of Chaddesden, the old village, still lay within the ambit of Shardlow Rural District Council (later re-named South-East Derbyshire RDC and later still Erewash Borough Council). Thus Chaddesden’s western parish boundary in the 1940s (as shown on Fig. 1) marked the dividing line between town (Derby Borough) and county (as represented by Shardlow RDC), and the two local authorities acting under legislation such as the Air-Raid Precautions Act of 1937 and the Civil Defence Act of 1939, as well as various Government guidelines (provided mainly by the Ministry for Home Security), had somewhat different approaches to protecting their citizens [Note 1].


Fig 1 Chaddesden school air-raid shelters

Although this article relates to public air-raid shelters, a brief note about the two main types of domestic air-raid protection, the Anderson and Morrison Shelters, might be helpful. The commencement of the Second World War brought with it the threat of aerial bombardment and as the war progressed, local councils in “at-risk” areas issued Anderson Shelters free of charge to those householders with an income of under £250 a year, whereas more affluent residents were charged £7. These garden shelters, which measured approximately 6ft 6ins long x 4ft 6ins wide x 6ft tall, were made from curved corrugated sheets bolted together at the top, and protected by steel plates at the ends. As further protection, the shelters were partly buried some 3ft below ground level and earth heaped on top. Although it might have been a bit of a squeeze, an Anderson Shelter could accommodate six people. Of course, if your house did not have a garden in which to place an Anderson shelter then some form of alternative protection was needed – this was the Morrison Shelter designed to be placed indoors. These shelters, approximately 6ft 4ins long x 4 ft wide x 2ft 6ins high had a solid steel plate top, with wire mesh sides and floor, and were supplied in kit form. In many households the top of the Morrison Shelter was covered with a cloth and used as a dining-table, hence its alternative name of Table Shelter. Anderson and Morrison Shelters were specifically designed for private use, for the householder, his family, lodgers, etc, but some form of public shelter was also deemed necessary for people away from their houses when an air-raid siren sounded or those who, for whatever reason, did not have their own domestic shelter [Note 2].


More than a year before the actual commencement of hostilities, Mr. H. F. Leuty told members of Chaddesden Parish Council in April 1938 that he believed the cellars of the Park Hotel could accommodate 500 people in the event of an air-raid (DET 29 Apr 1938). A few weeks after the war had got under way, the organiser for Area No. 8 of Derbyshire County Council’s Department for Air-Raid Precautions (ARP) told a meeting of local officials at the Memorial Hall that Chaddesden had one of the largest populations in the district. By way of demonstrating the commitment of local people, Messrs. C. P. Bullock and A. E. Hancock, two local wardens, highlighted the number of man-hours that had already been put in by the staff under their control (DET 10 Oct 1939). For ARP purposes, the parish of Chaddesden (in Shardlow RDC) was divided up into four posts, with wardens (mainly unpaid) being responsible for ensuring public safety during air-raids. The four ARP posts were designated S17, S18, S19 and S20 and the approximate areas they covered are shown in Fig. 2.


Fig 2 Chaddesden Parish ARP areas

For many local schoolchildren the 1939 autumn term proved radically different from anything they had previously experienced. At Morley Road School it was business as usual for the infants, but the juniors would not return to school until such time as new air-raid shelters were provided. Instead many were now being taught in small groups at some eight or so local homes scattered around the village, with each location providing four one-hourly classes a day. For example, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Latham of 80 Chaddesden Lane offered the use of their garage as a temporary schoolroom and this was quickly equipped with desks, chairs and an oil stove [Note 3]. In all, fourteen teachers covered these house-schools on a Rota basis and a Derby Evening Telegraph reporter informed his readers that “of the 680 schoolchildren, 500 from the main building in Morley Road and the overflow from the Memorial Hall and the old Methodist Chapel [now Chaddesden Lane Community Centre], about 250 are receiving lessons under the new scheme.” Headmaster Mr. W. F. Dowling made sure that each child attending an hourly class at one of the temporary “schoolrooms” would be given homework to be handed in at the next class, and two of his travelling teachers had specific responsibility for checking the homework (DET 4 Oct 1939). The fact that pupils were being taught without the provision of approved air-raid shelters was a source of worry to many parents. Mrs. F. Smith of Chaddesden Lane understood the local policy was that, in the event of an air-raid, any children who were unable to return home within five minutes were to be taken away from the school and (for Morley Road School itself) told to scatter in the fields or, for those attending the overflow classrooms at the Memorial Hall or the Chapel, to hide in the woods! The Headmaster, Mr. Dowling, however, denied this and said the children would not scatter as such, but take refuge where they could by “hedges, banks, and high walls at the rear of the schools” (DET 10 Oct 1939).


For the younger scholars still attending the Morley Road premises, the Derby Evening Telegraph of 19 October 1939 noted that the School Managers had arranged a surprise Air-Raid Drill the previous day. The children duly left their classrooms and “assembled at the protection provided in one minute 20 seconds.” Presumably the protection on offer was that specified by Mr. Dowling only a few days previously. In another class, the pupils performed a gas mask drill in just 25 seconds. The Chaddesden School Managers heard that Derbyshire Education Authority was providing shelters at County schools and that Chaddesden would be supplied shortly. Mr. E. B. Bennett, Chairman of the School Managers said this was in line with the fact that the onus of taking air-raid precautions at schools rested not with school managers, but with the County Authorities. Meanwhile, the same edition of the newspaper noted that Chaddesden Ratepayers’ Association would be writing to the County Council, Parish Council and School Managers “demanding provision of shelters for schoolchildren in the village” (i.e. that part of Chaddesden in the Shardlow RDC). Two months later the Ratepayers’ Association was still waiting for some action, for in the Derby Evening Telegraph of 15 December 1939 it was noted that although the local education authorities had been asked to state what provision had been made at Morley Road School and its temporary overspill classrooms at the Memorial Hall and the Wesleyan Chapel to ensure the children’s safety in air-raid attacks, no reply had been received!


Fortunately for anyone wishing to learn more about the way Chaddesden folk coped during the wartime years, the log-books and other records of ARP Post S17 (based at the Memorial Hall) were preserved for safe-keeping by Mr. Ted Hancock (once a messenger at this post, where his father was a warden) and given to Derby Local Studies Library in 1981 (Deposit DL 283). Although these particular records do not tell us exactly when the shelters at Morley Road School were finally built, they do prove they were certainly in place by July 1940, for in one of the ARP log-books we read that on Monday 15 July 1940 at 00:45 hrs, “Mr. Cope S20 [Post] reports he has been at School Shelters for some time and has now locked up and returned home”. This leads nicely into another much-debated point: just how many air raid shelters were there at Morley Road / Cavendish Close School? As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, these shelters were partially sunk into the ground and although I played over their rooftops as a schoolboy back in the mid-1960s, it never occurred to me to count them. Other people I have spoken to all agree the shelters were arranged in two parallel rows but then variously recall that there were six, or eight, or maybe ten, or possibly even twelve shelters in total! An aerial photograph of the Morley Road area taken on 16 April 1948 clearly shows eight shelters, each measuring approximately 33ft x 14ft laid out in the two parallel rows just mentioned on the north side of the school, but even here there is a degree of uncertainty, for bushes obscure the southern edges of the site and might just be concealing two further shelters (see Fig. 3, based on an Ordnance Survey map of 1947). Furthermore, it is always possible that other air-raid shelters, surface or underground, also existed at the school … perhaps further research will clarify matters.


Fig 3 Air-raid shelters at Morley Road (Cavendish Close) School

Only a few weeks after the beginning of the war, Derby Borough Council announced that two trenches, a basic form of air-raid protection, each capable of holding 50 people, were nearing completion on the Roe Farm Estate, at Wiltshire Road and Sussex Circus (DET 10 Oct 1939) [Note 4]. Typically a trench shelter was approximately 7ft wide, 50ft long and 6ft deep, with reinforced sides and a roof [Note 5]. A short distance away, the new Roe Farm School, which had welcomed its first pupils the previous autumn some months prior to its official opening on 6 January 1939, was now temporarily closed awaiting the construction of new air-raid shelters. The Derby Evening Telegraph of 17 October 1939 noted that, “A partial start would be made when a single shelter had been constructed, and the whole school would resume when full shelter for the children could be provided.” The Borough Education Committee were optimistic that the school would be working normally by Christmas. This indeed proved to be the case, and when the school duly opened its doors again on Monday 20 November 1939, the Derby Evening Telegraph reporter commented that for many of the children attending “the fine new school which overlooks the Roe Farm Estate”, it must have seemed like going back to school after a very long holiday; in fact some of the children had not been in a classroom since the outbreak of war! Now with seven new concrete shelters in the playing field, capable of accommodating 350 children, Mr. S. S. Mosley, the Headmaster, and Miss A. Richardson, the Headmistress, thought it likely that within a week they would have a full school. While the shelters were being built, the children had attended the school for brief periods only, in order to be given home projects. The seven new shelters at Roe Farm School were constructed according to Home Office standards, and each could hold 50 children and two teachers “with plenty of room to spare”. The school shelters were sunk into the ground to a depth of 5 feet, and at intervals their roofs were pierced by tiny windows, about two inches square and glazed with very thick glass which, nonetheless, let in ample light. The Headmaster told the Telegraph reporter that school hours were now 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to make sure the children got home before the blackout (DET 20 Nov 1939).


This, however, doesn’t seem to have been the end of air-raid shelter construction at Roe Farm School, for a later newspaper (DET 6 Dec 1939) reported the comments of Alderman Bates about shelters planned and erected at Derby Schools … Roe Farm, he said, had 13 [shelters] out of 18 ready. A frequently reproduced picture shows Mr. Perry, one of the teachers at Roe Farm School, and some 23 boys in one of the new shelters during an ARP exercise. Judging by appearances, the internal dimensions of this particular shelter measured some 6ft 6ins high by 5ft wide [Note 6]. One of the first children to use these new shelters must have been Mrs. Janet Taylor (nee Bell), who went to school here and in her reminiscences written in 2014 commented that “At Roe Farm School we learned to go for the nearest shelters and to be sure we had our gas masks with us [Note 7].


Over the boundary line separating town and county, Shardlow RDC heard from their Clerk that the Minister of Home Security considered Derby’s perimeter was a suitable dividing line in deciding the issue of Anderson Shelters for domestic use; in other words those in the County (as opposed to the Borough) would not, at this stage, be issued with this type of shelter for private use (DET 12 Dec 1939). Mindful of the need to offer local people in the more densely populated areas some form of refuge during air-raids, Shardlow RDC agreed that the parishes of Chaddesden, Alvaston Littleover, Spondon, Borrowash and Sandiacre should be provided with public air-raid shelters “for the protection of people caught in the streets during an air-raid.” Mr. H. W. Skinner, the County ARP Controller thought, that as far as Chaddesden was concerned, a suitable site for 300 people close to the main road was desirable (DET 5 Feb 1940). Two months later, the Council was inviting tenders for the erection of 29 new Public Air-Raid Shelters at Chaddesden (6); Spondon (8); Borrowash (3); Alvaston (4); Littleover (4) and Sandiacre (4), each shelter being of a size sufficient to accommodate 50 people (DET 12 Apr 1940).


These proposed six new public air-raid shelters at Chaddesden were apparently in addition to those at Morley Road School, and it seems that the local authority intended to place them at various different locations in the parish, for the Derby Evening Telegraph of 26 April 1940 noted that Shardlow RDC had written to Chaddesden Parish Council about the possibility of erecting a brick air-raid shelter, capable of holding 50 people, on a piece of Chaddesden Park adjacent to the Nottingham Road entrance. By the end of that month, Shardlow RDC was able to report that the lowest tender for all 29 shelters amounted to approx £5,210, with the cost per individual shelter varying from £170 to £180 (DET 30 Apr 1940). Proof that an underground, or at least partly buried, shelter was indeed built at the southern end of Chaddesden Lane is provided by Warden Mr. Morford’s report in the ARP log-book for Saturday 9 November 1940 as follows: “19:50 hrs, On visiting the air-raid shelter situated at the bottom of Chaddesden Lane, I found the lights on, six inches of water in the shelter, and the escape cover slid to one side for the distance of one foot. I replaced the cover and dropped the gas curtain, leaving the light on because of water in the shelter.”


In March 1940 the new Cherry Tree Hill School opened under the headship of Mr. F. P. Heath. Costing £15,000 the school provided much-needed accommodation for 350 juniors and infants. Although the extensive grounds were intended for sports, etc., they were now the site of air-raid shelters “built to furnish protection for the whole of the scholars and staff” (DET 12 Mar 1940). Back in the Borough of Derby, updated lists of available public air-raid shelters were appearing from time to time in the pages of the local press, and on 24 May 1940 the Derby Evening Telegraph published its latest “Guide to Derby Air Raid Shelters”, supplied by the Borough ARP Controller, Captain H. Rawlings, Chief Constable of the Borough Police Force. The list gave details of local public air-raid shelters and trenches, together with the numbers of people each could accommodate. Those in Chaddesden were at Wiltshire Road (Trench shelter in open lane by house No. 187 for 50 people), and Sussex Circus Centre (Trench shelter for 50 people). Of course, it must be remembered that these were in the Borough. Lance Corporal J. Hill, a member of the British Expeditionary Forces, in a letter published in the Derby Evening Telegraph on 28 June 1940 spoke for many residents of Chaddesden who lived in the area covered by Shardlow RDC and the County Council. He had thought that his wife and children in Rupert Road would be safe in the event of an air-raid, but on returning home on sick leave after being wounded, he found they had no domestic air-raid shelter and to get one they would have to pay about £8. “How”, he asked “do you expect a soldier’s wife to pay that, and where can they go to get away from the bombs?”


At its meeting on 4 July 1940, Chaddesden Parish Council duly responded to the concerns of local people and decided to make an official approach to the Minister of Home Security to get improved shelter accommodation in the village. Mr. Guy, the Parish Council Chairman, said that because the district was scheduled as a non-vulnerable area, they could not hope for any preferential treatment. The only possible way of getting any more public shelters or any shelters for domestic use was to have the district scheduled as a vulnerable area. One lady who spoke at the meeting said that in the event of an air-raid, there were “hundreds of women and children with no place to go, and you can’t expect them to sit in the house when it is a matter of life or death.” Mr. Guy further highlighted the fact that “the shelters [note the plural] which had been erected near the shopping centre were for people caught in the streets during a raid”, and he emphasised that people should not leave their homes to use them. Nearly 80 years later this last comment of Mr. Guy’s is of special interest since it again serves to confirm the presence of public air-raid shelters close to Chaddesden Lane End shops, which were very probably some of the six new shelters built by Shardlow RDC in the months after April 1940. Mr. Guy then replied to a question about the use of school shelters by the public after school hours. He told the meeting this matter had been raised with the County Education Department, and that the Parish Council “had every reason to be hopeful that they [the shelters] would eventually be opened” (DET 5 July 1940). A few days later the County Council indeed confirmed it was now making arrangements for “certain school shelters” to be made available to the public after school hours (DET 8 July 1940).


Later in the summer of 1940, a meeting of Shardlow RDC heard that the Regional Commissioner had approved in principle the Council’s proposals for the erection of communal shelters at Chaddesden, Littleover and Allenton, but that any communal shelters so provided “must be limited to people entitled to free shelter under the scheme.” How many of these “communal shelters” were intended for Chaddesden and where they were to be located was not reported in the article (DET 20 Aug 1940). Meanwhile the Borough authorities continued their policy of keeping the public informed as to places of refuge, and the Derby Evening Telegraph of 21 August 1940 featured an updated list of “Air-raid shelters and trenches in Derby”, which the public were urged to keep for reference. As far as Chaddesden was concerned the previous list (24 May 1940) was augmented by a new entry advising readers that a new trench capable of providing protection for 50 people was now available at the junction of Nottingham Road and Chaddesden Park Road. A brick-built ARP post was also constructed close by and around lunch time every Sunday the post’s siren sounded a test warning, followed by the all clear signal [Note 8].


In September 1940, a diminutive little booklet (approximately 2.5 inches wide x 3 inches high) listing all the shelters and trenches in the Borough was printed so that Derby citizens could keep it with them at all times [Note 9]. In the introduction to the booklet, Captain Rawlings, the Borough’s Chief Constable of Police and ARP Controller reminded readers that Public Shelters were for: (1) The protection of people caught on the highway during an air-raid; (2) Those with limited incomes who had not yet been provided with an Anderson Shelter or a strutted cellar; (3) Persons with no Communal Shelters in the vicinity of their houses. Furthermore, he emphasised that shelters at the Borough’s schools were only available for use by the general public after school hours. Captain Rawlings advised that anyone caught out of doors in an air raid should get under cover at once and not stand staring at the sky and, if they were within five minutes of their home, to go there.


The log-books of Chaddesden ARP Post S17 mentioned earlier provide the first of several references to a another seemingly forgotten public air-raid shelter, thus on Sunday 27 October 1940, at 20:53 hrs, “Mrs. Land reported theft of Electric light bulbs from Reginald Road Shelter.” In summer the next year, on Wednesday 9 July 1941 at 03:30 hrs, Warden Mr. Edwards phoned the post to report “a man in the Public Shelter at Reginald Road”; presumably there was no air-raid at the time so perhaps the man was endeavouring to sleep off a hangover! Later that same year, on Thursday 18 December 1941, the ARP log-book read as follows: 19:23 hrs, “Air Raid Warnings by Sirens. Shelter in Reginald Road without lights and lavatories fouled.” The final reference to this shelter that I have found in the ARP records was on Sunday 11 January 1942, which read: “00:07 hrs, “Planes overhead. 00:10, Mrs. Land Warden phoned that Deputy Warden Mr. Wright has opened Reginald Rd Shelter”, a commendably quick response time! I presume this was a standard 50-person shelter but once again there is no further information to indicate what type it was, i.e. underground, partly-buried, or surface shelter, or exactly where it was situated. Even a typical surface shelter measuring some 35ft x 12 ft would not have been a particularly conspicuous feature in the local landscape.


Given the vagaries of the British climate and the fact that many public air-raid shelters were either buried or partially buried below ground level, water penetration was often a significant problem. Alderman Hind commented to a meeting of Derby Town Council that even the shelters at Roe Farm School. which were on high ground, were often half-full of water, and he suggested that where school shelters were open to the public at night, local ARP committees should appoint their men to empty the shelters of water, rather than the school caretakers, who “had sufficient to do already” (DET 11 Nov 1940).


Yet another shelter that no-one now seems to recall is mentioned in the ARP records of S17 Post. On 20 November 1940 at 00:54 hrs. “S19 P.W. [?Post Warden] rang asking me to report to our Head Warden that there is water two and a half inches deep in the Public Shelter at bottom of Highfield Lane.” Unfortunately this single reference lacks clarity, where exactly was the “bottom of Highfield Lane”? I take this to mean the south end of the lane, near the Derby Canal and Chaddesden Sidings, but it is also possible the writer had the north (Nottingham Road) end of the lane in mind [Note 10]. Of course, the entry was quite adequate for its original purpose, since all local wardens would have known its exact location, but this lack of precision serves to perplex historians of later generations!

In early December 1940, Shardlow RDC was at last able to announce its first issue of Anderson Shelters to members of the public living in rural areas. Although Borrowash, Sandiacre and Spondon were each allocated 100 shelters, Chaddesden residents received nothing in this initial tranche (DET 10 Dec 1940). A few days later, on 12 December 1940, Chaddesden had a lucky escape when German bombs fell on Chaddesden Park causing innumerable broken window-panes and cracked ceilings etc., but fortunately no serious injuries to people or loss of life [Note 11]. The Derby Telegraph recently (7 Feb 2011) carried an interesting article by Roger Evans of Belper who, as a child, lived at Valley Road only about 100 yards from the biggest explosion in the park. His feature included an unusual photograph of nearby houses on Parkside Road showing the six-feet high brick “bomb-blast protectors” sited outside the front doors of several properties.


With the Chaddesden Park incident fresh in their minds, Chaddesden Parish Council debated the problem of the inaudibility of the air-raid siren “Alert” signal. Theoretically, Chaddesden people were supposed to rely on the Derby siren for warnings, but some residents simply could not hear it. Paradoxically the Ilkeston sirens, even further away, were usually quite clear! Mr. Edgar Llewellyn, Clerk to Chaddesden Parish Council and Head Warden mentioned his own difficulty in opening the public air-raid shelters when he could not hear the Derby siren. Chaddesden Auxilliary Fire Service had also written to the Parish Council stating that their work was being hampered because men who had not heard the siren had to be fetched from home. The Council agreed to write to the ARP authorities, asking whether they could have a siren placed locally (DET 7 Feb 1941).


Towards the end of 1941, Shardlow RDC placed an advert regarding Morrison Indoor “Table” Shelters for domestic use. Ratepayers of Chaddesden (excluding part of Morley Road and Lime Lane) and other specified villages whose income did not exceed £350 p.a. (plus allowances for children) could now apply for a free Morrison Indoor Shelter providing they did not already possess an Anderson Shelter; alternatively residents not entitled to a free shelter might purchase one for the sum of £7 (DET 11 Dec 1941). Although the advertisement does not specify why part of Morley Road and Lime Lane were excluded, it was presumably due to the fact that their location placed them outside any official “at-risk” list.


The hasty construction of some public air-raid shelters resulted in some of them having to be strengthened, and on 21 February 1942 Shardlow RDC was inviting tenders for strengthening twelve such surface shelters with brick and reinforced concrete, one of which was stated to be at Chaddesden, although no precise location is given. A few weeks later a tender had been accepted and the price of reinforcing this Chaddesden shelter was stated to be £115 9s 0d (DET 2 Mar 1942).


Given the essential nature of public air-raid shelters it is difficult to believe that anyone could be so stupid as to vandalise them, but sadly this appears to have been quite a frequent occurrence. The Derby Evening Telegraph of 5 September 1941 noted that Mr. Llewellyn, Clerk to the Parish Council, would write to the County Council concerning “nuisances caused in air-raid shelters in the parish.” Mr. Leuty, one of the Parish Councillors said that “children were the worst offenders.” Further problems of this nature must have arisen, for a meeting of the Parish Council held almost a year later was told that repair work to public air-raid shelters in the village which had been damaged “mainly by children” had now been completed (DET 7 Aug 1942).


Many villagers resorted to the public shelters whenever the air-raid sirens sounded. My own father, his sister and their parents, who then lived on Wood Road, often made the trip down Willetts Road and over the playing field to Morley Road School in the evening, spending several hours in the shelters before returning home once the “All-clear” was heard. As the war progressed more and more households were provided with Anderson or Morrison Shelters or even built their own, and gradually Chaddesden’s public air-raid shelters were resorted to somewhat less frequently, a fact highlighted in a Derby Evening Telegraph article by Glynne Eaglesfield on 3 January 2007. Glynne remembered that the shelters at Morley Road School were of a concrete construction and partly buried in the ground. “The front entrance was through a heavy metal door at the bottom of the steps. Inside there were wooden benches down each side and at the other end was a steel ladder which led up to an escape hatch.” Glynne recalled his neighbours and members of his own family spending nights in the shelters, which despite the inevitable damp, always seemed to be full. The shelters couldn’t have been too unwelcoming as this entry taken from the records of ARP Post S17 on Friday 11 July 1941 demonstrates: “22:55 hrs, Wm. Clews & W. Clews, ‘Edale’, Brookfield Ave, called to make a complaint to Head Warden about a man named Rees who makes a habit of sleeping in Morley Road School Shelters without an ‘alert’ being sounded”!


Another reference in an ARP log-book refers to a survey of public shelters in early 1942. On Friday 2 January 1942 an entry read thus: “16:25 hrs, RCS – Please instruct Wardens to carry out a Census of Shelter occupants on the night of Jany 5th 1942” [Note 12]. This was presumably connected with the following entry two days later, on Sunday 4 January 1942: “11:00 hrs, Head Warden sent out keys for Public Shelters to Post Wardens of S17, S18 and S19. 6 Keys by S19 Messengers.” The results of the census would have made interesting reading, but don’t appear to have been retained locally.


The ARP wardens had to keep a watchful eye on the shelters under their control, to make sure they were fit for purpose. On Wednesday 23 September 1942, W. Smith was the resident warden at S17 Post and his log-book entry states that he “Oiled locks on Main Rd Shelters and reported locks & fittings missing from Field Shelter at Cherry Tree Hill to Hd. Warden”. Once again, we are left wondering about the type and locations of these shelters. The “Main Rd” referred to is presumably Nottingham Road, so perhaps the shelters were those previously mentioned near Chaddesden Lane End or Reginald Road; but was the field shelter anything to do with the shelters at Cherry Tree Hill School or something entirely separate?


As far as Europe was concerned, the war came to an end on 8 May 1945 with the surrender of Germany, whilst three months later in the Far East the Japanese surrender was announced on 15 August. Shardlow RDC lost no time in giving seven days’ notice of the closure of its public air-raid shelters (Fig. 4, DET 14 May 1945). In late October, Derby Borough officials were busy inviting tenders for the demolition of air-raid shelters and wardens’ posts, etc (DET 26 Oct 1945), and by early November those residents of the Borough who had been provided with Anderson or Morrison Shelters were informed they could buy them for the sums of £1 and £1 10s respectively. Anyone who had a blast wall in front of their house could purchase the individual blocks for a few pennies each (DET 2 Nov 1945).


Fig 4 The Closure of Public Air-raid Shelters, Shardlow RDC, May 1945

A shortage of labour delayed the County Council’s programme of shelter demolition, but it eventually seems to have commenced in the spring of 1946 when it invited tenders for “demolishing air-raid shelters in various parts of the county” (DET 16 & 21 May 1946). At Chaddesden the Morley Road School public air-raid shelters certainly remained in place for many years after the war. The school was renamed Cavendish Close School in 1956 and, as I mentioned above, the air-raid shelters were still there in 1966 when I left, though it appears they were obliterated fairly soon afterwards, possibly in 1968 or thereabouts. Another account relating to the Cavendish Close School shelters was given by Andrew Yeoman, writing in the Derby Telegraph on 6 January 2016. He also attended the school from 1962 to 1966 and recollected that “next to the playground were lots of air-raid shelters covered in bushes which we could play on in dry weather.” Andrew commented that once in a while “an entrance slab was removed and we would peer down the steep concrete steps, all too frightened to venture in. Everyone knew someone’s elder brother who had been in and seen skeletons!”

As regards Cherry Tree Hill School, John Mann, writing from Australia in the Derby Telegraph of 14 March 2012, noted that the school air-raid shelters were still intact when he was a pupil there from 1950 to 1957. On the Chaddesden Historical Group’s website, an article by Neil Johnson entitled “Memories of Cherry Tree Hill” attracted this remark from Jonty Willis on 20 May 2015 … “Cherry Tree Hill junior school had air raid shelters next to the playground when I went there, but not many kids dared to go down to explore them.” The website also carried another comment about the school’s shelters when Don Shaw’s article “Adolf’s bombs and Cherry Tree Hill School” was featured … “J.P.” commenting on 24 September 2013 that he went to Cherry Tree Hill School in 1955 and one day was given the cane by Mr. Heath, the Headmaster, “for going down the Air Raid shelter [as] it was out of bounds.” Roger Evans of Belper also had reminiscences about Cherry Tree Hill School which he attended during the war years … he remembered “the awful smell of the gas mask” he had to take to school every day, and “the air-raid shelters in the school grounds.” (DT 7 Feb 2011.)


Today these fleeting personal recollections and occasional documentary references are all that remain to remind us of Chaddesden’s public air-raid shelters, which during the Second World War were an essential part of so many people’s lives. Eventually demolished or backfilled in the post-war years, the Chaddesden shelters have never featured (as far as I can tell) on any large-scale Ordnance Survey maps and nowadays their precise number, size and location still remain something of a mystery … maybe someone reading this article will be able to add more details!


© Peter Cholerton, 2017





ARP … Air Raid Precautions

DET … Derby Evening Telegraph (later renamed Derby Telegraph)

DLSL … Derby Local Studies Library

DT … Derby Telegraph

RDC … Rural District Council

Note 1. Figs. 1 and 2 are based on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map of 1952 and reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (


Note 2. Of course, it was always possible to build your own shelter. Before the onset of the war, local entrepreneur and builder, Tom Anthony, had patented a special interlocking stone block measuring 18 inches x 9 inches by 4 inches (doubtless on the same principle as his renowned Stanley Building Blocks), enabling underground shelters to be built quickly. Mr. Anthony estimated the cost of such a shelter to be in the region of £4 (DET 5 May 1938 and DET 28 September 1938).


Note 3. A picture of this garage “schoolroom” is featured on page 21 of my book “Britain in Old Photographs – Chaddesden”, Stroud, 1999.


Note 4. Apparently Government guidelines suggested that standard shelters and trenches should accommodate no more than 50 people to lessen the number of casualties from a direct hit.


Note 5. “Civil Defence: From the First World War to the Cold War”, R. J. C. Thomas, Historic England, 2016.


Note 6. For example, Photo No.103 in “Derby at War”, by Clive Hardy & Russ Brown, 2nd Edn., Huddersfield, 1989.


Note 7. Chaddesden Historical Group Newsletter, Issue No.45, October 2014. As a child, Mrs. Taylor lived at 76 Bangor Street and her article goes on to say that her mother “became an air raid warden and wore a long black coat with an armband with ARP on it as did her black tin helmet. At the bottom of our street was the ARP office, it was a small square brick building with one tiny window, a table, two chairs, a sink, field glasses, first aid equipment, stretchers and a telephone.”


Note 8. Information from Len Seale.


Note 9. DLSL, BA 940.5, No.44913, Air Raid Shelters in Derby, 1940.


Note 10. Might this shelter have anything to do with the “air raid tunnels” referred to by “Steve” on 15 January 2014 in a comment about Neil Johnson’s article “Chaddesden Sidings” on Chaddesden Historical Group’s website (originally posted on 29 April 2012). “Steve”, who apparently once lived in the vicinity of Highfield Lane near the sidings, recalled “Adventures in ‘miles’ of air raid tunnels underneath, which to a child was always ‘haunted with ghosts around every corner.'”


Note 11. A good general guide as to what happened in Chaddesden when the air-raid sirens sounded is Rev. Basil Denno’s article “The Bombs on Chaddesden Park”.

Note 12. “RCS” seems to have been the commonly used abbreviation for Report Centre (Shardlow), based at The Coppice, Littleover.