Detail from one of Henry Moore’s ‘Shelter Drawings – ‘Sleepers’ … 1941


In the deep vaults of my musing mind
Where the oldest memories live
There the surest ones I find
Are those which childhood give.

In darkest times, unfelt by me,
When war was at its height
Then what to me was just a fear
For my mother was direst fright.

The siren’s call came late at night,
Always excitement there;
A change of scenery, a new-found bed,
Heralded by its blare.

Under the table I found a haven,
A primitive cave, a thrill,
A nest where I curled up and slept,
Where time and life stood still.

My mother must have been distraught
Whilst I, in raw oblivion,
Enjoyed the change of scenery,
While all around was Stygian.

And then the sound of planes above,
Heading on their mission,
Though stuttering engines sometimes brought
A faltering recognition

That maybe now the time had come
To wish and say a prayer;
No more Messerschmitt and bombs
Why won’t they go elsewhere?


Detail from one of Henry Moore’s ‘Shelter Drawings – ‘Sleepers’ … 1941

During World War 2 many homes provided themselves with an Air Raid Shelter to protect the inhabitants from bombs being dropped by German aircraft.  Anderson Shelters were those normally placed in back gardens and half-buried in the ground with earth heaped on top to protect them from bomb blasts.  Morrison shelters, named after the then Minister for Home Security, Mr. Herbert Morrison, were introduced in 1941. These were made from heavy steel, and were for indoor use, where they could also be used as a table. People sheltered underneath them during an air raid. 

Before my father built an Anderson shelter in the back garden, we sheltered under the dining table, fortunately never experiencing the heavy bombing which took place over London and many major cities in the country.




8 thoughts on “Table-Talk

  1. Thank you for this Roland, brought back memories of my parents childhood, my fathers excitement hearing small incendiaries rattling in the street and the men folk kicking them away from the houses and knocking the ones on turf into the ground with shovels !! ( they were delayed fuse not impact detonated but even so…….? But this was Pudsey, West Yorks so may be they did ! )

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  2. Thank you Roland for your beautiful and emotionally calm but clear feelings expressed in this poem. So very eloquent and touching. I have heard people talk about hiding under the table and wondered how strong these were. Never had these shelters explained before s thank you for giving me a clear picture.

    The drawing by Henry Moore are so beautiful and tells so much.

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  3. It is hard to imagine what that must have been like to experience Roland, but your excellent and graphic poem took me as near the experience as words could.

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