The excavation of the clay works air raid shelter was undertaken in February 2016. The entrance and part of the roof had been demolished and the rubble dropped into the shelter and also the entrance, so access was not immediately possible.
We had to remove the rubble that had been pushed into the shelter, no easy task with the size and weight of some of the pieces, once this was done we were able to start clearing out the interior. This was a much easier task as not too much of the rubble had not been pushed inside and it was mainly soil to be removed.
The above photograph shows where the entrance and some of the roof had been demolished. Some of the rubble that we had taken out and the first of the steps into the shelter are also shown.
The shelter does not look professionally built but it was quite substantial, the walls were between 23 and 28 cms thick. The roof 18 cms. Thick with Iron bars and struts, lined with corrugated iron, making a former for the concrete.
It also shows the remains of the iron sheeting, that covered the roof, for extra strength.
There is an escape hatch, half buried in this photograph that would have been used in an emergency.
The above photograph shows the corrugated iron sheet and iron pipe and angle iron that was used to support the concrete roof. The profile of the corrugated sheet can be seen in the edge of the roof.
Air raid shelters were not built to withstand a direct hit but to protect against shrapnel and debris from a bomb blast.
The clay works was a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week operation so the shelter was probably used quite frequently, first from the bombs being dropped and then in June 1944 the V1 followed by the V2 in September 1944. Some 6,725 were launched, mainly aimed at London but due to the lack of technology their accuracy wasn’t very good and they landed all over Kent. The first V1 landed in Swanscombe on the 13th June 1944, killing 13, wounding 22 and making 150 homeless.
(Thanks to Trevor Bent)