Growing up in Scotland I’ve always been taught about the involvement we had in World War 2, from the ship building on the River Clyde to the thousands of men and women who lost their lives fighting for the country’s freedom and the typical air raid shelter that saved a lot of lives at the same time. Whilst others are not so lucky I greatly appreciate the fact that I have not had to experience anything like it so far in my lifetime. The thought of wondering whether my house would be the next one to be destroyed in a bombing run is something that I have never had to comprehend. Nor can I begin to understand the feelings and emotions that such events would bring.
Scotland is littered with relics from World War 2 and other military encounters of a bygone time. Many anti-aircraft positions still occupy the hills around Glasgow and ROC posts can be seen in almost anywhere if you look hard enough. One relic, which is one of only a few examples of its kind left over from the War is Inverclyde’s Air Raid Shelter.
The Air Raid Shelter was one of the largest when it was constructed measuring almost 600 feet in length and was built to save 1,000 workers from the nearby Ropeworks in the event of an air raid. One thing that I felt when visiting the shelter was how low the ceiling felt, even at it centre. The tunnels are said to be 10 feet wide and 7 feet high but over the years the floor has been caked in enough debris to make the roof seem so much smaller. I’m just over 6 feet tall and I could only just stand up between the arches at its tallest point.
People often ask if we’ve ever experienced anything supernatural during our explores. On this explore for some unexplainable reason I felt quite uneasy for the first time. Why? I’ve no idea. Walking around underground railway tunnels in pitch black almost feels like second nature to me now, having visited so many. So what should be so different about an underground air raid shelter? I regularly felt the need to double check what was behind me when walking along the tunnel or when turning a corner. Looking back on the experience I’d put it down to my mind over reacting to the place and letting my imagination run in the direction of a dark forrest with narrow slit eyes watching as I grew closer.
Clydebank is often seen as the main place in the west coast of Scotland that was almost flattened into non existence during World War 2. People forget that Inverclyde suffered greatly on the 6th and 7th May 1941. Whilst the main targets of the bombing runs were the ships and shipyards around Greenock the brunt of the bombing was taken by the civilians of the area. I’ve read that around 25,000 homes suffered damage and 5,000 were completely destroyed. Over 10,000 people were injured and about 270 were killed. Given that Greenock’s population in 2001 was 45,000, that would have been a large percentage of the population that suffered over those 2 nights.
Buildings like this Air Raid Shelter would have been seen as a place of refuge but how safe would you have felt waiting inside whilst the walls, floor and ceiling shook with each bomb dropped above you? At the time the Government specified that underground air raid shelters had to be at a minimum depth of 25 feet. This one lives around the 45 feet mark and was believed to be almost indestructible even if it was directly hit. I’m not sure how much comfort that would have brought the occupants though.
Interested on a different view of the Air Raid Shelter? Take a look at this video.