Biggest wartime shelter in Britain sheds light on life during the Second World War


The biggest air raid shelter in the UK gives an idea of how Britons lived during the biggest and deadliest conflict of the 20th century. This shelter was purpose-built and had basic facilities installed in it for the people seeking shelter from German bombing. There were flush toilets and adequate electric lighting in the shelter. The shelter consisted of numerous tunnels, which were dug alongside the River Mersey in Stockport. These tunnels had the capacity to provide shelter to around 6500 people. People came from all parts of Lancashire and Cheshire, seeking shelter from the Blitz. The Blitz is the name given to the intense German bombing of various towns and cities in Britain, especially the capital, London.

Historians suggest that the British government was extremely concerned about its people during the Second World War. The British government had realized that keeping people’s morale up was as important for those at home as for those fighting at the front. It became even more significant when the Nazi plans to break the British people’s resilience became highly evident. It all started with the U-boats, which were ambushing and destroying ships coming from the US and Canada with food for the people of Britain. Moreover, when Germany started ‘carpet bombing’ the cities and towns, it was very clear that the intention was to break the masses mentally and cause chaos in the streets of Britain. The British plan was to show their people that their government was concerned about its people, and would do anything in its power to keep them safe.


One such measure was to provide local councils with grants to build bomb shelters for the people. This had started even before the war intensified, since Britain had anticipated that very soon the Luftwaffe would start bombing their cities and towns, The Telegraph reports.

The set of tunnels dug into the cliffs alongside the Mersey River in Stockport initially had a capacity of just over 3800 people. However, later, as a result of expansion and merging of some local residents’ cellars, the capacity was increased to almost 6500. According to reports, there were always scores of people outside the shelter, looking for a safe place. No one was ever sent back and authorities were continuously working on the expansion and creation of more space for people. Although Stockport did not endure any heavy bombing by the Luftwaffe, most of the people who came seeking shelter were from other neighbouring towns and cities.

A tour of the tunnels reveals that every possible effort was made to ensure that those taking shelter there were given enough facilities to get by. This is particularly significant, when we see that Germany had no such plans for their people. Although the Nazis had spent millions on propaganda and weapons, they seldom spent any money on the safety and security of the German people.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE