2019 | Jun
I.Metaxa’s government, the “4th August” regime which came to power in 1936, considered conflict in Europe to be a real possibility. Moreover they realized that the airplane was going to dominate the fields of battle and as a consequence urban bombardments (provoking mass casualties) were more than probable (Εθνική Ένωσις Αεροχημικής Προστασίας/ National Association for Aero-chemical Protection 1936). This scenario drove Metaxa’s regime to conceive and implement a vast project of Civil Protection (Βλάσσης 2013) , focusing on the construction of numerous air–raid shelters. Noteworthy are the diversities in the type and size of the shelters that ranged from narrow underground galleries or small chambers, to organized shelters of hundreds of square meters including hygiene infrastructure, water tanks, numerous chambers and auxiliary rooms (Κυρίμης 2017).
Photo 1: Exemplary shelter with WC and autonomous water tank
Mandatory construction of shelters in public places and key infrastructure (government buildings, ports, stations, industries, refineries and elsewhere) was enforced via emergency laws (Πετράκη 2014) .
Photo 2: Refinery shelter plan
At the same time, the construction of a shelter was mandatory for every newly built building, of three floors or higher (ground floor included). Essentially, the submission of an air defense shelter plan and its approval was a prerequisite for issuing a building permit for any building (ΓΕΣ/ΔΙΣ Φάκελος 766/Β/11).
Photo 3 :A shelter in an apartment building in Kolonaki
Despite those measures, the shelters that were constructed were not enough to protect the entire population of Attica. Thus, many existing premises (underground buildings, mining galleries, caverns, ancient quarries, etc.) were reinforced and refurbished in shelters.
Photo 4: A tunnel carved into a rock-formation, used as a shelter
According to Field Marshal Papagos, during the period 1936-40, 400 public shelters were built in Attica, capable of protecting almost 40,000 people (Παπάγος 1997). At the same time, at least 5,000 private shelters were built, protecting several tens of thousands of citizens. With a small dose of exaggeration, we could claim that , “a city under the city” was built.
Photo 5: A shelter under a factory, partially filled with water
From a construction point of view, shelters were governed by a particularly strict regulatory framework («Τεχνικαί Οδηγίαι δια την μελέτην…» 1941). The competent state authority was the “Supreme Air Defense Administration” (SADA – ΑΔΑΑ in greek), which was staffed by both military (chiefly engineer officers) and civilian personnel (professors of the National Technical University of Athens and civil engineers). The regulations concerned all aspects of a shelter: the thickness of the walls, the building materials, the dimensions, the nature of the individual spaces, the layout, etc.
Photo 6: Underground corridor of a shelter
Each shelter was required to have an emergency exit on the opposite side of the main entrance. Through the emergency exit – and usually by opening a metallic hatch on the roof – it was possible to escape safely to the nearest outside space.
Photo 7: A typical emergency exit of a shelter
Another feature of the shelters of the era was the heavy armored doors, which sealed airtight and watertight. There were strict specifications for the shelter doors (door dimensions, metal densities, etc.). These specifications were compiled by the “Shelter Door Controlling Committee” (SDCC – ΕΕΔΚ in greek ) and were essentially a Greek version of the equivalent German specifications.
Photo 8: A heavy armored door
The problem with the strictness of these specifications was that until 1938 there was no industry in Greece that was capable of producing armored doors of such high standards. Thus, armored doors had to be imported from Germany. This led to the historic oxymoron, that the country which supplied Greece with means of protection, attacked her a few years later.
Photo 9: Armored door, built in Germany, in a shelter located near Syntagma square
Within a shelter, each person was entitled to an area of 0.8 square meters and a volume of 3 cubic meters. This space / volume allowed the person to stay in the shelter for 3 hours, subject to complete immobility. In case work had to be performed in a shelter, or the space was not enough for everyone, it was imperative to have a mechanical ventilation system installed.
Photo 10 : Going down the dark gallery of an 1938 shelter
Entering a shelter was a complex process. People first entered a small room, just after the entrance, which was officially called the “airlock”. From there, the healthy ones could go directly to one of the central chambers. On the contrary, those who had been affected by chemical gases, had to go through a special disinfection chamber before they were allowed to enter the inner shelter.
Photo 11: The main gallery of a shelter within the Electric Company
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