AIR RAID SHELTERS
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THE WORLD WAR II UNDERGROUND PUBLIC AIR RAID SHELTER (A.R.S. or U.S.) AT THE FORMER DEVONPORT HIGH SCHOOL FOR BOYS IN ALBERT ROAD, PLYMOUTH
LATTERLY PLYMOUTH COLLEGE OF FURTHER EDUCATION, ALBERT ROAD ANNEXE
1991 Shelter entrance - lost - 2001 Shelter found
FOUND 11th MAY 2001
World War II in Plymouth saw the consrtuction of many public underground air raid shelters - see my other pages on this subject. This particular shelter was well known well written about and even my own Father used to shelter there when he was on duty at the nearby Polish Navy centre - then based in Stoke Damerel Girls School in Healy Place. Ironically I now live in Healy Place about a minutes walk from where my Dad would sound the alert at the school's entrance on his bugle.
Despite a wealth of information on it, many attempts to gain entry by precise location of a sealed entrance had failed for years. As you can see above I was pretty confident that I had at least found an emergency entrance, but it was in such a public and obvious location that I could not gain entry, also of course I may have been wrong.
This was in 1991.
It's now 2001 - A Steve Odyssey.
So for the past 10 years the shelter and all that in it slept as it has since the war, although evidence points to it be used by the Civil Defence as a Training Location in the 1950`s.
Despite being able to walk around it, and even park on it's roof, there was no way that I could possibly gain entrance.
At least until I took up a new job. I needed to employ an electrician and as if God had head, Andrew walked into the shop offering his services. Then in one of those odd twists of fate I received a phone call from "someone" working on the building site - it's being converted into flats - telling me that the staff of the nearby and adjacent library had told him that there was an air raid shelter under the site - and they had given him my phone number.
He recognized me, I recognized him, he now works for us and Bingo!! I was in this secret place that 10 years ago seemed to be for ever sealed to me and shut away for all time.
Thanks to Andrew Brewer!!
So it was fitting that he was the first person to step back into time ahead of me. Back in 1991 we were correct in thinking we had found the sealed emergency exit. It's just that the time wasn't ready for it to give up it's secrets.
Inside was some great graffiti, see above of RAF aircraft and a downed German plane. best of all was one of the best "V" for Victories I have so far seen, big and red with the "... _" spelling out "den, den,den, dennnn" which I believe is the first bar of Beethoven's 5th was adopted to signify the eventual Victory to come, being simple to send in morse code.
There was a great deal of old electric type wire inside as well as 2 sorts of switch box type items, one was close to a toilet section - note the mass of wiring. I have found wiring in other shelters but nothing like here. There seemed to be a bench type construction, wooden, seeming covered with silver sand from sand bags (often seen - an aid to blast protection) - with bits of wire in/on/around it. This a position for an electric light, note the basic protection designed to help prevent in being smashed, and if broken by blast, hopefully to retard the trajectory of at least the big bits!
Back in 1991 - I found a bit of wire sticking out -...of what I believed - correctly - to be an exit!! But no more could be done at that time......time revealed all eventually.
The toilets were pretty standard, a large square metal bucket, ..(in a cubicle, once closed by a basic wooden door)...with handle and a flip up wooden seat, here you can see part of the wooden seat.
Back in 1991 I would have often had my hand running on the OTHER SIDE of this breeze block wall. I knew these steps were just hidden behind - forming one of the air lock shelter entrances.
It is a sobering thought that my Father would have spend many hours when he was ashore in this dark and secret place and that 60 years ago he may have even hung his coat on one of these hooks!
At the end of one of the trenches - passageways was an alcove, with a drain located therein, the cover being lifted. This alcove seemed to be sectioned off from the main shelter area by a way too small wooden door, chopped off at an odd angle!! Don't ask me!
The site is now well under construction and happily the shelter has been resealed and will remain intact in it's lonely voyage into the future - sleep well. How long before someone awakens it slumber again. What will the world be like then I wonder!
The big space in the foreground is where the school was, the shelter is basically the huge concrete mass in the background. Here we see the way in in 2001 ringed in the photo - the library is at right. This huge concrete mass was once the schools croquet pitch/lawn as far as I am aware. The schoolboys helped dig it up!! before the school was evacuated.
HERE IS A NOT TO SCALE PLAN OF THE SHELTER
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