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Report - Bidston Hill Air Raid Shelter, Wirral - March '13

Xan_Asmodi

Cave Monster
28DL Full Member
#1
Visited With The Kwan

This is something I've been waiting to see since I first got into exploring and I've been to Dodge Hill shelters in Stockport before I got to see these. Anyway, I was off work and the missus was in uni when I got a message from The Kwan; "Bidston Tunnels are open again, big hole...". Well that'd be too good an opportunity to pass up so collecting my gear I walked from my house to the tunnels, stopping along the way to snap a photo which ended up getting published in the local rag :D Thanks to a bit of misunderstanding and ambiguity, I thought The Kwan was referring to the emergency exit that people had used last time. Getting there to find that place well and truly sealed (5 foot of slurry 'crete capping, anyone?) I dejectedly wandered to the main road, planning a quick check on the other entrances which I do every now and again. Low and behold, we have a winner! I got straight on the phone to The Kwan and we arranged to meet just half an hour later!

The tunnel project was born in 1941, probably out of the devastating effects of the Luftwaffe blitz on Merseyside. During these dark months many infrastructure targets were hit, many people were killed and many more made homeless. The first week of May 1941 saw the peak of the attack, it involved 681 Luftwaffe bombers; 2,315 high explosive bombs and 119 other explosives. The raids put 69 out of 144 cargo berths out of action and inflicted 2,895 casualties, 1,741 of them fatalities.

Minutes of Wirrals Civil Defence Emergency Committee in 1941 reveal that the peninsulas skilled workforce of shipbuilders, steel workers and other industries meant that it was granted almost unprecedented funds to establish two deep air raid shelters, one being in Tranmere and the other in Bidston. Built over the next two years there were 2213 bunks and 793 seats, as well as a canteen staff dormitory, toilets, medical posts and a ventilation shaft which could double as an emergency escape hatch if necessary. The work was not without incident and setbacks; the project was apparently plagued with trespassers and vandalism, and as with modern projects the cost of the work increase with the discovery of poor quality rock. In June 1943 the final bill for the project was in; £163;48,006 which is a considerable sum. Although the shelters were used the reducing frequency of the bombing raids meant that it never saw the levels of use it was designed for.

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A schematic floor plan.

When The Kwan arrived I guided him to my find only to discover there were people already there. After swift introductions we discovered that these blokes were the people who late one night had come down, dug the place out and gone at the wall with a Kango Hammer. We squeezed through the entrance and into the darkness of this WW2 relic. The ground quickly sloped off to become an ankle deep quagmire of water, bricks, other detritus and submerged manholes stretching most of the length of the corridor.

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Being the well prepared explorer I am, I had to bow out at this point; not because of timing but because I only had a pair of white trainers with me. You see, dear reader, I had totaled my other pair on a recce a few weeks prior and didn't fancy being bounced round my flat by the missus for wrecking another pair. No thanks! Disappointingly agreeing that it wasn't worth my life, I made plans with the Kwan to revisit, better equipped with overalls and wellies later that evening.

The appointed hour arrived and I duly met up with The Kwan and back we went.

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We walked the length and breadth of the shelter, trying to absorb the minutiae of the place. Every nook and cranny was examined and we made mental notes to check out other areas when we returned.

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Look, then shoot. And here are the results: some parts look mid-demolition.

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Others appear like the warden has just stepped outside for some fresh air.
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What you realise is the sheer scale of the place on an individual level, it's huge! I'm not small; 6' 1"/1.86m, well built and weighing in at 18st 10lb/119kg and I felt dwarfed by the the size of the place. With just The Kwan and myself underground it was vast, but if the shelter had seen the scale of use it that was envisaged - over 3,000 people - it would have been a cramped environment.

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For me the shelters have become somewhat of a chimera; an invaluable, extant piece of my local areas war history and heritage and at the same time a prime example of neglect by authorities and the mindless destructive nature of idiots.

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That's your lot, I'm afraid. I did revisit in a fashion; Pickle1984, Figjamuk and myself revisited a few days later and upon approaching the entrance noticed that there was a pall of thick black smoke issuing forth. Despite our eagerness to have a look, we decided that if someone had been stupid enough to light a fire inside we weren't going in because the O2 may have been depleted. It's not worth our lives! As with everything, we were all busy for various reasons and kept on having to put the revisit on hold. Well, the best laid plans and all that, it ain't going to be happening for the foreseeable future. They were backfilled on the 26th March. As with anything to do with these shelters, let's see what time will bring. ;)

Thanks for looking :thumb
 

Gruesometwosome

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#2
Lucky bugger getting in there attempted a few times walked all over that hill by the observatory and the gardens. Apparently there is a entrance via manhole on a street close by??? Anyone know if this is true??? Also a house close by has a entrance.
 

mattybeds

28DL Member
28DL Member
#3
Hi, Whats the situation with these ? How come the ground looks very wet does it flood ?. Im currently just over the water and looking for similar.
 

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