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Flat Bastion Road Hospital Shelter

Ref: SH005

Gibraltar City Council No.4 A.R.P. Shelter was converted into an underground hospital after the civilian population had been evacuated. It was constructed at a cost of £11,475 (£2,020 below the original estimate).

The shelter consisted of a vehicular entrance at the top of Flat Bastion Road and an exit opposite Godley Mansions. Its main rectangular chamber consisted of approximately 1242sqm capable of accommodating up to 1,400 people before converting to a military hospital after the civilian population had been evacuated.

Today, this shelter is used as an underground car park for residents.


A.R.P. Shelters in Gibraltar

In 1939, with a possible war with Germany looming, Britain began to increase its precautionary measures against possible attacks form the air. Gibraltar’s Governor, Field Marshal Sir William Edmund Ironside, who arrived in Gibraltar in August 1938 was well aware of the deteriorating political situation in Europe and had wasted no time in placing the colony on a war footing: strengthening the Rock’s defences and increasing the garrison in preparation for a possible long siege. By February 1939, his scheme for the construction of civilian air-raid protection shelters at Gibraltar was well under way and would be completed by July. The estimated £100,000 incurred for the construction of these shelters was to be borne by the Gibraltar Colonial Government, with a contribution from the Gibraltar City Council.

The proposed A.R.P Shelters were as follows:

  1. Calpe
  2. Turnbull’s and Engineer’s Lane
  3. Willis’s Road (never built)
  4. Flat Bastion
  5. Lopez’s and Devil’s Gap (Flat Bastion Road)
  6. Commercial Square
  7. Governor’s Parade
  8. Herbert Miles Promenade
  9. Married Quarter’s, Prince Edward’s Road
  10. Gowland’s
  11. Open Space (Castle Ramp)

The eventual cost for the civilian shelters was £91,622 due in part to a decision to discard a proposed shelter for Willis’s Road. The ten remaining shelters were originally designed to accommodate a minimum of 7,330 persons instead of 8,330 prior to the Willis’s Shelter been discarded.

The City Engineer, W. H. Pearce who was responsible for drawing up the plans, originally made provision for these shelter to provide around 2-4 hours of ventilation in the event of an attack. However, the City Council, considering the possibility of prolonged or very frequent bombardment, later approved an improved ventilation system which reduced the standard requirement of 10 square feet per person to 6 feet per person within these shelters. This decision could potentially have increased the capacity of these ten shelters from 7,330 to 12,200 persons but this higher-end figure did not take into consideration the fact that the ventilation plants ordered were still based on the minimum number of occupants but with a longer period of occupancy in mind – 10 -12 hours.

In addition, five shelters of reinforced concrete were planned for the South District. However, due to the prohibitive costs of construction, cheaper alternatives were implemented, including converting the crypt at St. Joseph’s Church and other large basements in the area into a splinter-proof shelters. Two small splinter-proof shelters of reinforced concrete were eventually built in the South District – one at Witham’s Road and the other at Rosia Steps. Another shelter was excavated from rock in Europa Road, on the junction with Green Lane.

Another small shelter was built at Catalan Bay, which today is used as a store. A proposal to build a larger shelter with entrances by the sloped entrance road to the village was started but soon scrapped after the civilian population was evacuation. The location of the public toilets, which are partly underground, may have been the intended entrance to this proposed shelter.

A number of basements and bomb-proof shelters were also made available for use in cases of emergency in the following locations:

Civil Police Barracks, Hospital Hill (300 persons)

Bristol Hotel (100 persons)

183, Main Street (50 persons)

15, Tuckey’s Lane (100 persons)

83, Main Street (50 persons)

Piccadilly Bar (80 persons)

2, Mediterranean Terrace (80 persons)

10, George’s Lane (50 Persons)

212, Main Street – Lipton’s (100 persons)

54, Irish Town – Mackintosh’s (50 persons)

Flat Bastion Shelters.

Flat Bastion Road Shelter, now a car park entrance at top of hill.

Flat Bastion Shelter South exit opposite Godley Mansions.

Flat Bastion Road Hospital Shelter Image