There is so much World War 2 heritage and history in the Totton and Ashurst areas of Southampton that I felt they deserved a bit of an explore this weekend. As a result, my son and I decided to go on an air raid shelter hunt in the Ashurst, Calmore, Eling, and Totton areas to see what we could find.
Many of the shelters are in private gardens, but we were lucky enough to be invited to film on a friend’s property in Totton where they still have a concrete air raid shelter.
You can see what we found including all the Totton air raid shelters in the video below, with photos of our finds further down the page.
Ashurst air raid shelters
Our first stop off was in Ashurst to visit two air raid shelters. You can see photos of them both below, one of which you might have seen on our website or YouTube channel before.
Air raid shelter near the railway crossing
The first WW2 air raid shelter is off the beaten track and hidden in some woods. It is said to have served the railway crossing keeper’s cottage which is no longer there.
It’s been burned out at some point in time, and the blast wall has been knocked down and moved to one side… I have no idea how someone would have had the strength to move it into the position it’s in today!
After we visited this one, we found out that it was on private land. We didn’t see any fencing or signage, so weren’t aware at time of visiting it. If you do decide to find it yourself, please do get the landowner’s permission in advance before accessing it.
Civic air raid shelter near Ashurst railway station
The second visit was to the large civic air raid shelter near the New Forest pub and Ashurst railway station. We’ve visited this one before, so you can see more photos in this blog post here, but this time we were brave enough to go inside through the escape hatch.
Many air raid shelters had an escape hole, and this one was no different. Whilst it meant we were able to crawl inside; I don’t recommend you do. It was very dirty and didn’t feel at all safe. It might even be used for drug use, like I suspect the next one in Totton is too.
Totton air raid shelters
We then had a quick pitstop in Eling. Unfortunately, the air raid shelter in a garden was no longer visible due to hedge growth, so decided to head on to Totton.
In Totton there would have been plenty of air raid shelters. In fact, military historians have identified around 10 spots in the Totton area that have now mostly been demolished.
In fact, a large one was said to once be on the site of the Totton Asda car park.
Surface air raid shelter on Totton Bypass
You might have seen this green painted brick building before and not really given it much notice. But it’s an air raid shelter believe it or not.
Surface air raid shelters didn’t offer a lot of protection from a hit or blast but did offer protection from flying debris and collapsing buildings. It would have been far safer to sit in this than your house once the bombs started.
It looked like someone has been sleeping in this Totton air raid shelter, so we didn’t enter, and instead moved onto our next spot…
Buried Anderson shelters on Totton Bypass
Right next to the surface air raid shelter are two mounds of earth now covered with grass and ivy. According to reports, this is the site of two buried Anderson air raid shelters.
They are said to have been covered over after the war and haven’t been opened up since. Nobody knows what’s inside them, but there is a community initiative to possibly excavate them next year. If that happens I will update you with the details as I hope to attend the dig.
Concrete air raid shelter in our friend’s garden
Next on our Totton trip was to visit our friend’s garden where they still have a concrete Anderson style air raid shelter. It’s in amazing condition, is about 3-foot-deep into the ground, and extremely sturdy.
Air raid shelter north of Calmore and Totton
Our final air raid shelter fvisitnd was just north of Calmore and west of Nursling. Located on a country lane, you would not know it was there as it’s completely hidden by bushes and brambles… but not to us!
What I love about this air raid shelter near Totton and Calmore is that old graffiti that’s been etched into the walls. Various names have been scratched into the brick, including the names Paul and Phillip. I wonder if they were local boys who lived through the Second World War and had to use this air raid shelter during the Southampton Blitz?
I won’t be giving the location away as whilst it’s on public land, it’s very near to people’s homes and is in stunning condition – I believe it should be left that way and don’t want the local people to be disturbed and upset.
Interesting history we learned
As part of our preparation for the video we learned many interesting facts from the author John Leete. John wrote The New Forest at War book and was kind enough to tell us a little bit of wartime history about the area.
Testwood School in WW2
This included some fascinating details about Testwood School in Totton. Built in 1939 it didn’t have the chance to open as a school due to the war. Instead it was commandeered by the Home Office and turned into a headquarters for the National Fire Service (see photo below).
The school was staffed by teams of firefighters who were tasked with putting out fires, including those caused by bombs dropping on Southampton.
Canadian volunteers came over to England to help out, also being based at Testwood School. One of the Canadian fireman died helping with the bombs in Southampton. His body and coffin were laid out in the school gym for people to come and pay their respects before his burial.
It has been estimated that there were over 2,000 bombs, dropped on Southampton during World War 2. Whilst Eling and Totton are on the periphery of the city, they still did get damaged.
In fact, according to research I’ve done, 2 people were killed in separate bombings in the Totton area. And in fact, even in the small village of Eling there are accounts from people who remember bombs hitting the village twice.
You can read one of those on the BBC history website.
Pillboxes under the Redbridge Causeway near Totton
During our day out we tried to catch sight of pillboxes that are under the Redbridge Causeway. We were unable to find a vantage point to see them, but John Leete was kind enough to supply a photo of this as well (below).
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