Air Raid Shelters in Letchworth
Air raid shelters were built in various places throughout the town to protect the residents at home, at work or on the streets. People recall their experiences.
A mouth organ
I can remember diving into the air-raid shelters during the War. There was always somebody down there with a mouth organ or something to cheer the kids up so you couldn’t hear what was going on outside if there was anything.
A shelter under Kennedy Gardens
No one seems to know about the air raid shelter under Kennedy Gardens. I actually watched it being dug during my first visit here in the war years. I suppose I was about 11 or 12. I was in the town centre and I made my way to KennedyGardens. They had actually started doing it and being inquisitive to see how this thing was going to go, I was lying looking over the top and the next thing I knew I was in it. I went head over heels into this pit they were starting to dig. On the car park as it now is there used to be an ambulance parked. I can remember them getting me out of the hole, being carried into the ambulance. They cleaned me up and checked me out and kept me there for about on hour, but all I remember that I got from the fall was a bruised back.
Trenches in the Arena
Trenches were dug on the Arena – opposite the Council Offices. The Arena at that time was a square of grassland
My first job was with an evacuated firm from London, namely the Phoenix Book Company that were taking shelter within the offices of Dents, the publishers, in Dunham’s Lane. When the sirens sounded we had to take shelter in the storage area where we were surrounded by shelves of books and paper. Taking shelter brings back a memory of the first time that we heard a siren at the very beginning of the war. We were in the Broadway Cinema watching a film with Joan Crawford starring when the siren sounded. As a body we all made for the shelters that were in the Arena, adjacent to the car park. We never did see the end of the film, and did not get our money back either.
My first cigarette
In Jackmans Place they were building the trenches and at the Ascot in Pixmore Avenue, the Government Training Centre there. All the trenches were dug in that lovely sports field there – long soft grass where the skylarks used to nest. It was a sports field but they never seemed to do much with it. Beautiful soft grass there. I suppose the trenches were to hide in – air raid trenches. I suppose they would have covered them over with shelters. There was a hostel there for people who came to the training centre. Then they rebuilt and trebled the size of the hostel and covered everything up, but it was where I seem to remember having my first cigarette, sitting under the planks in the trenches, puffing a bit of smoke and not feeling so good afterwards.
extract from “Letchworth Remembered” – memories of Letchworth 1939 to 1960