World War II air raid shelter unlocked for the first time in 65 years at Explosion Museum

By Culture24 Staff | 05 January 2011
a photo of an underground bunker with cobwebs and girders and water
The bunker discovered at Explosion could be opened up as a public attraction
A subterranean discovery at the evocatively named Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower in Gosport Hampshire is revealing the hidden wartime history of the former ordnance base.

A surviving World War Two air raid shelter on the Priddy's Hard site has been opened and explored by museum staff for the first time in 65 years and discovered to be remarkably intact.

a photograph of a man in a camouflage jacket opening the entrance to a concret bunker
Armed with waders and cap lamp, Phil Hazell removes the heavy locks
The concrete and steel underground structure, which dates to 1940 and is sited within the grounds of the museum, would have provided shelter during air raids to staff working at the former ordnance depot.

During World War Two the site was fully utilised by the Royal Navy with the introduction of 2,500 women workers who filled jobs vacated by men on active service.

Due to the constant problems of flooding, the shelter was gated and locked at the end of the war and remained sealed until curiosity got the better of the Museum staff.

a photo of steps leading down a damp concrete passageway towards an iron gated doorway
the bunker is prone to flooding
Armed with waders and a cap lamp, Phil Hazell removed the heavy locks and viewed the interior, finding that little has changed over the course of 65 years.

“I was amazed to find all the original features such as duck boards, seating and a sump pump still in place,” says Hazell. “The timber work was mainly made from hardwood so it has survived the damp conditions well.

“So few buildings of this type have survived in their original condition, with most being either demolished or filled with litter and graffiti."

Phil and his colleagues now hope to open the shelter for special behind the scenes tours at the award winning hands-on museum, which tells the story of naval warfare from the days of gunpowder to modern missiles.
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