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  • Stephen Jennings

Site in Focus - Air Raid Shelters of WWII


The remains of air raid shelters from World War Two can be found dotted throughout the Shetland landscape, from Sumburgh to Scatsta and points in between. Sometimes these are found as large, semi-cylindrical Nissen hut type shelters such as the three clustered together behind Anderson High School. Presumed for use by men at the nearby firing range, each hut likely accommodated upwards of fifty men.

As opposed to the military, domestic shelters were constructed under the guidance of the Air Raid Precautions Act which was passed in 1937. This gave the local authority responsibility for protecting the civilian population in the event of an air raid. By early in the war, the Zetland County Council had spent £8000 building school, public and domestic air raid protection with select sandbagging. Also included in this figure was the reconstruction of St Clement’s Hall on St Olaf’s St in Lerwick as a first aid post.

The most common of the domestic type of air raid shelter were the small structures we still often see in back gardens. Designed to hold up to fourteen people, the temporary protection consisted of concrete walls, a reinforced concrete roof, a blast wall running parallel to the main entrance and an escape hatch to the rear. Since the war these have been frequently repurposed as sheds, ad hoc storage or an occasional place to get away from it all. Having survived the harsh climate, they now fill a more peaceful space in our lives.