The shelters were built with a strong steel structure. The Home Office authorized the concept in January 1941, and the first supplies were distributed by the end of March. They were welded in the form of a table, but with wire mesh sides and a strong steel plate 1/8 inch thick for the top, as well as high-tensile steel legs. Each seat was upholstered in leather or cloth.
They followed the same plan as the earlier Hohner tents: one central aisle running the length of the tent, with individual rooms on either side. There were two sets of doors at each end, one opening onto the aisle and the other into the room. A flap at the back of the room served as a door. Each room had a washbasin, toilet, and heating lamp.
There were some improvements made to the design over time. The first change came in February 1942 when the Ministry of Food ordered that all future shelters be fitted with fire extinguishers. This was done by adding small metal boxes to the inside walls near the ceiling. These boxes could hold an extinguisher of about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) pressure.
In September of that year, it was reported that 75 percent of all people sheltered under Morissonians were still living there at the end of their grants. This percentage increased to 85 percent by November 1943. By December 1944, more than a million meals had been served in the shelters.
Anderson shelters were quite simple to construct. They were constructed from six curved corrugated (wavy) steel panels that were connected together at the top. They were 1.95m tall by 1.35m wide and featured steel plates on either end. The shelters were erected and then buried up to 1 m into the earth. They could be moved if necessary, but would always be returned to its original location.
The exterior of an Anderson shelter provides very little protection from weather or attack. It is the interior space that makes these shelters effective survival tools. Each panel can be folded up to create a small internal room.
The shelters, named for Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, were built of thick steel and could be placed in the living room and utilized as a table. One wire side was raised so that people could crawl beneath and inside. Morrison shelters were rather spacious and could accommodate two or three persons. Each had a gas heater, toilet, and shower.
Morrison shelters were used from late 1943 until mid-1945 when they were replaced by smaller improvised shelters. A total of 9,264 Morrison shelters were constructed during World War II.
Here is how one person described her experience in a Morrison shelter: "It was like being under a big blanket. There was a little window near the top to see out of but it was closed most of the time because there were no lights in the house. It wasn't very comfortable but it was better than sleeping in the park."
The government ordered a total of 91,000 Morrison shelters but only about 6,500 were actually delivered because of manufacturing delays due to shortages of metal and labor.
However, even with delays some communities were able to get their shelters early. In fact, Baltimore got its shelters before London because the American manufacturers worked more quickly than their British counterparts. Also, many independent contractors were women who did not want to be drafted into the army and so they made their own shelters. These personal shelters were sometimes called "tin cans" or "bathtubs".
Anderson shelters were built to house up to six people. The primary protective approach was based on curved and straight galvanised corrugated steel panels. These were held in place by metal clips and fastened to a concrete foundation. The shelters included a roof with an opening for ventilation and storage space underneath.
The shelters were named after their inventor, Donald A. Anderson. They were first produced in 1966 and were very popular with both consumers and manufacturers at the time. Around five million shelters had been sold by 1975. However, they became obsolete when compact cars started using external rear-view mirrors as standard equipment. In response, Anderson developed a mirror-less shelter called "Mirror" which was released in 1977. This model was also available with vinyl or carpet flooring.
Shelters remain popular today with campers, trailer owners and those who want to add some style to their home garage.
A shelter can be built easily from commonly available materials such as plywood, fabric, and metal. They can also be bought pre-built. The most important thing is to ensure that you select a site where it will be safe from damage caused by heavy winds or flooding. If you plan to use the shelter more than once, consider adding insulation to reduce your energy costs.
At the conclusion of the war, the authorities gathered the corrugated iron roofing of the majority of the shelters. Others were sold to residents for P1 apiece. These were frequently dug up and re-erected above ground as workshops or garden shelters, complete with real wooden doors.
Today these would be called doghouses and they remain in widespread use all over the world. They are easy to build and very effective if you do it right. I've seen pictures of Japanese dog houses that look exactly like the Anderson shelters except that they are made out of wood instead of metal. Apparently these are too expensive to make in large numbers so ordinary corrugated iron is used instead.
The important thing is that dogs can't get in them when the family isn't home. They provide protection from the wind and rain and let your dog sleep in comfort even if you have to go away for a few days. If you have a big yard, you could probably afford one of these doghouses for yourself too. They cost about $50 - $100 today but people who lived through World War II will tell you they were much cheaper back then.
Here's how you build an Anderson shelter: First, find a location on the property where you can site the shelter without blocking access or causing damage to landscaping or buildings.