Limpsfield School's air raid shelters

A group sitting inside the air raid shelter

During the Second World War, especially during the Battle of Britain, many ferocious dog fights occurred in the skies above East Surrey and Kent. German bomber planes were also frequently seen in the Limpsfield area heading for London. The children attending Limpsfield School needed protecting.

Air raid shelters

Air raid shelters were built in accordance with the Board of Education’s instructions on ‘Air Raid Precautions in Schools’. The Board advised that ‘in times of danger children should not be assembled in groups of 50 in any one protected room or compartment’.
They also recommended that air raid shelters should be:
  • of trench type design
  • separate from the school but in easy reach 
  • have secure roofs giving them 'immunity from splinters, anti-aircraft shell fragments and machine gun fire'
Following these guidelines six trench style shelters were constructed on Limpsfield Common, approximately 550 yards (500m) from the school buildings, to hold around 50 children in each.

Digging and building

A trench of approximately 4 foot deep was dug and, a concrete base was laid in the bottom of each shelter. The roofs and walls were formed by pouring concrete behind wooden shuttering (5 inch thick). Today you can still see the imprint of some of the wooden shuttering on the walls and ceilings.

Inside a shelter

There was a short flight of steps down into the shelter before turning right and passing through a slatted wooden door. Wooden benches ran down either side of the building (for the children to sit on) and, at the far end there was a small curtained off area. 
Behind the curtain there was a very basic bucket style toilet and, next to the toilet was a metal ladder. This ladder led to the escape hatch which was used if the main entrance was damaged.
Initially the shelters were just lit by small oil lamps, hung from hooks along the walls. But there is evidence of cable and fixings so probably electricity was installed at a later date.