Thebarton Air Raid Shelter

92 South Road TORRENSVILLE SA (Corner Ashley Street & South Road TORRENSVILLE SA)

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Have you ever noticed this structure on South Road, just near the Thebarton Oval? Or wondered what it is? This is an air raid shelter built in the suburb of Thebarton (it is now it Torrensville due to re-zoning) in 1942 during World War 11. It took 4 months to build and cost £2000 to complete – that’s about $AU140,000 in today’s money.

It was decided by Lt-Col Shaw, the Commissioner of Civil Defence, that the shelter would be built in this location because ovals were known landmarks with plenty of space. They were considered to be unlikely targets for enemy bombs. The function of the Thebarton shelter was a communication and dispatch point. It had 16 telephone lines – 6 in and 10 out, and should there be an enemy attack the personnel in the shelter would coordinate evacuation and rescue efforts with staff in the communication centre in the basement of the SA Savings Bank in King William Street in the city of Adelaide.

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The centre was also the base for ARP (Air Raid Protection) wardens. Inside the shelter there were stockpiles of food, blankets, batteries, medicines and other essential supplies. If Adelaide was attacked, the people of Adelaide were encouraged to assemble at this location and be transported by bus to safer areas away from the city.

It is worth noting that the shelter at Thebarton was not intended as a refuge point and neither were other similar control centres that were built throughout Adelaide. Slit trenches and pipe trenches were used for the protection of civilians and many people built their own in backyards and gardens.

CONSTRUCTION

The shelter is made of concrete and timber and is mostly underground. The thick roof weights about 70 tons and two staircases lead down into the shelter. The reinforced external concrete walls are 30 cms thick while the internal ones are 23 cms thick. It is not a particularly large structure measuring only about 30 X 20 metres. While there are 6 rooms inside, the largest one is only about 10 X 6 metres.

CURRENT OCCUPATION

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For a short time after the War, the shelter was used by St John’s Ambulance Brigade and then by the Girl Guides’ Association. Since 1969 the shelter has been used by two thriving magicians’ clubs – the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Australian Society of Magicians who use the facility to hold meetings, store equipment and to house club rooms, a gallery and a museum. Note the art work featured on the South Road side of the shelter. The Society maintains the site and occasionally conducts public performances and lectures there, the last one being in May 2016. While I have not been able to find any open days scheduled for 2017, I will post dates as they are released.

While the SA Heritage Places Register lists the shelter as one of the few  in good condition in this state, it is possible that it could be removed as South Road is widened and extended. Even though you cannot see inside this facility, it is still worth a visit to the outside to see first hand what a structure of this nature looked like – while you still can.

For more information on the Air Raid Shelter –  The West Torrens Historian

Contact details for the Australian Society of Magicians are listed in the City of West Torrens Community Directory 2016 as
Peter Lohmann Phone: 0430 787 257 Email peeweetheclown@hotmail.com

Contact details for the International Brotherhood of Magicians:
call Don Gagliardi on 0428 435 778 or Drew Ames on 0439 821 708