Well before the Japanese attacks on Darwin, Broome and other parts of Northern Australia, a series of air-raid shelters were built by the South Australian government. They were built in preparation should World War 2 come to Adelaide. Suburban sporting ovals, including Glenelg’s, were chosen because they had plenty of space, were known to the locals and considered unlikely targets.
Glenelg Air-Raid Control Shelter 1707 was built in Rugless Terrace, next to the Glenelg Football Oval. It was built by the Engineering and Water Supply Department (as it was known then) for the Civil Defence Authorities as one of a number of shelters that formed part of a communication network.
Glenelg Air Raid Shelter
The head office was housed in the basement of the Savings Bank of South Australia, Adelaide. The old northernmost grandstand basement was changed to a casualty clearing station and first aid post. Electric light poles in the surrounding adjacent suburbs had signs with arrows pointing to the air-raid shelter and oval so that residents could find the facility at night.
The shelters served to store and protect emergency food, blankets and other supplies held there for distribution to citizens who, in the event of a bombing raid, were to assemble at the oval, be given emergency supplies from the store and bussed to Strathalbyn. The shelters were also part of a secure communications centre with battery room to power the communications system should Adelaide’s main electricity system be destroyed. Fortunately air raids never happened.
Interestingly, the Glenelg Air-Raid Shelter has had many uses since it was built in 1942, although never specifically as a ‘people shelter’. After the war it was used by the Scouts as a meeting room and by the Glenelg Football Club as a locker room.
In 1995 it was returned to the then Glenelg Council and became an exhibition space as part of the Australia Remembers 1945-1995 celebrations.
By means of grants and funds from a donations box, the exhibitions are gradually being upgraded to tell the stories of the City of Holdfast Bay’s community involvement in the various wars, be it at home or abroad.
Regular opening times are from 1.00-4.00pm on the third Sunday of the month and Anzac Day and Armistice Day opening has also been introduced. It is also opened by appointment through the Holdfast Bay History Centre - please call (08) 82299869 to make an appointment. Please be aware that access is by a steep flight of stairs.
The Air-Raid Shelter is staffed by volunteers who would love to hear your war related stories.