Thursday, May 26, 2011

Taking Shelter at the Under Fire Museum

Last week, we transferred the Anderson Shelter that used to be on display in the museum courtyard to Under Fire Museum at Twinwood, Bedford, which explores the story of the Wartime fire service.

The Anderson Shelter was not formally part of the museum collection, but had been a popular display item since being salvaged from a back garden at Queens Park, where the owner had converted it into a tool shed in the years after the Second World War.

Under Fire Museum have been preparing for their own re-display, due to open later this summer. The new displays will include an ARP wardens hut and a Morrison Shelter - they just happened to have display space where the Anderson Shelter will fit in perfectly with the overall scheme.

Unfortunately, the Anderson Shelter was not in tip top condition following years of weathering from the elements, so we were not sure if we would succeed in removing the shelter without it buckling or being damaged in the process.

The initial plan was to attempt to place straps around the shelter to secure the structure together and then attach the straps to a winch to draw the shelter up onto a trailer.

The plan was going well until Roy and Neil, our friends from Under Fire who were collecting the shelter, saw that the corroded corrugated metal was not strong enough to cope with this and could not support the extra strain being place onto it. Plan A had to be aborted to avert potential disaster.

Plan B then came into operation. This meant separating the shelter into its three sections – front, middle and back – and laying these down in the trailer. A grinder had to be used to cut the corroded bolts holding the metal panels together to free the individual sections. This seemed a reasonable compromise as we knew of some historical replacements that were in better condition than the sorry looking originals.

With a bit of manhandling and persuasion, the sections came apart and slotted together on the back of the trailer without too much difficulty.

We hope to post a picture of the shelter in situ at Under Fire in due course, once it goes on permanent display later this summer. We’re thrilled to have found the shelter a safe new home at a museum, where it will still be able to be enjoyed by the public for years to come.

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