Visitors to Dover Castle will be able to see an original WWII Morrison air raid shelter, part of a new Home Front Exhibition, which kicks off a whole weekend of WWII entertainment at the castle.
Provided for those with no outside garden space, or those reluctant to leave their homes during an air raid, the Morrison shelter was an indoor alternative to the Anderson Shelter – which also doubled up as the living room table.
Set with tea-time crockery on the top, the cage-like steel box will be on display with original bedding and other items including paraffin cooking facilities, tins of food and games – plus the all-essential bucket – to show the low cramped area families would have endured in the hours they spent inside during an enemy bombing raid. Unlikely to protect from a direct hit, the steel shelters were designed to save lives from blast damage or partial building collapse.
As an original WWII wireless plays music and makes public announcement broadcasts, visitors will be able to find out about (table) Morrison and (outdoor) Anderson shelters and pin-point the public shelters around Dover on maps and photos. There will be information and exhibits on the volunteer services in the area, including Air Raid Precaution Wardens and Home Front troops plus original bandages donated by the family of a nurse who worked at Hothfield Hospital in Ashford.
Rationing and evacuation will be explained, and for young visitors there will be cut and colour activities with the chance to create their own evacuation label.
From the following day until Monday June 4 the wartime theme continues as the castle when visitors will discover the 1940s bustle of an everyday street which will be recreated as part of the annual World War II Weekend – this year promising to be bigger and more spectacular than ever, with an explosive highlight each afternoon.
Rubbing shoulders with the air-raid warden on patrol and mixing with the hub-bub of washday and ration queues, visitors will join the daily drama of life in a country coping with war. As off-duty flying ‘aces’ relax between sorties and the Ministry of Food gives demonstrations for austerity cooking on a ration, visitors will watch a picture of wartime Britain unfold.
Soldiers, ATS and medical staff will be quartered in authentic tents with their equipment, weapons and period vehicles, including an original 1938 RAF staff car. A full size reproduction Spitfire plane will take centre stage at the RAF airfield, where visitors will experience the tension for pilots and personnel under enemy attack.
And they may need to take cover for the outbreak of a World War II battle re-enactment each afternoon.
Youngsters will be kept on their toes with children’s drills and the chance to discover if service life is for them when they are put through their paces reporting for uniform and saluting the officers. An authentic NAAFI tea wagon, will offer a welcome cuppa and a sustaining slice of bread and butter pudding. Completing the nostalgia will be sounds from a live 1940s band and a series of talks – including the chance to find out how to stop a Nazi tank using only blankets and plates.