Tube Stations as Air Raid Shelters

Tube Stations as Air Raid Shelters

People Sheltering in the Tube, Elephant and Castle Underground Station, Bill Brandt, 1940 © Bill Brandt Archive Ltd.

In the last post Anderson Shelters and Air Raids, we learned that most people in London during WWII did not use Anderson Shelters.  In fact, a census conducted in November 1940 revealed that only 27% used these specially created shelters.  So where did people go to escape from the long stretch of continuous bombings in London?  One popular escape, was London’s tube stations.

Every night during the Blitz, people did what they had to do to stay safe, even if it meant sheltering underground, with no access to toilets or running water.  According to,

“[People] would buy platform tickets and camp on the platforms for the night. Sheltering in the tube was popular because it was dry, warm and quiet down there.”

Initially, the government had enacted a policy stating that tube stations were not to be used as air raid shelters, for reasons such as:

  1. Danger of people falling on the tracks.
  2. Spread of disease due to lack of toilet facilities.
  3. Disruption of troop movements due to overcrowded platforms.

However, after an act of mass disobedience in September 1940, when thousands of Londoners flocked into tube stations for cover, the policy was changed, and Londoners were allowed to seek the tube stations for shelter. In fact, many stations were permanently shut down, their tracks concreted over, and tens of thousands of bunks installed. Shelter Marshals were even appointed to keep the peace, and issue first aid in the case of any emergencies.

Overall, it is estimated that 170,000 Londoners used tube stations as shelter from Luftwaffe air raids.

In our next post, we’ll learn more about where Londoners went to escape the persistent bombings of Germany’s Luftwaffe. We’ll also touch upon a genius defense the Brits invented, to lower the number of bombings throughout major cities.


Photo Courtesy of