No. 289  NAI DFA Berlin Embassy 46/14

Letter from William Warnock to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

BERLIN, 28 June 1943

With reference to your minute (246/41) of the 21st May,1 I beg to state that the Legation now has a good air-raid shelter. The old wine-cellar was specially altered last year at the landlord's expense, and, while it is not proof against a direct hit, it is capable of withstanding a considerable weight of debris. It has an emergency exit, which is marked with a luminous paint preparation in order to ensure that those in the cellar can find their way out should the light fail. A first-aid cabinet is fitted on the wall beside the entrance.

The explosive power and the effective radius of the bombs now used widely exceed the figures estimated at the beginning of the war. One up-to-date heavy bomb can cause severe damage to a whole row of houses. The only way to ensure safety is to build a cellar deep down in the earth. Large underground 'bunkers' are being built at various points in the city, and now an order has come from the Führer, as reported in my telegraph No. 38,2 that special shelters be built for the diplomatic missions. A shelter will be built for us underneath the terrace at the back of the house.

No bombs have as yet fallen in the immediate vicinity of the Legation, but our position is dangerous, as there are heavy anti-aircraft batteries nearby; these batteries are an obvious target for attacking aeroplanes. We are fortunate, however, in having as next-door neighbours in the Rauchstrasse (the Legation is situated at the corner of Drakestrasse and Rauchstrasse) the head Office for Berlin of the Air-Raid Precautions Organisation, which always has a squad of men ready for emergency duty in the district.

The main danger from the air in Berlin is at night-time. During daylight there is not much danger of a serious raid, although in a few isolated cases single aircraft have reached the city in the day-time. The number of people living in the house, even if they should all retain their presence of mind, is not sufficient to cope with a fire of any size. My bedroom is on the first floor, two female servants sleep on the second floor, and the messenger and his wife and two small children sleep in the basement. The messenger can be counted on to do his level best should the house be hit by an explosive or an incendiary bomb; I do not think, however, that the nerves of any of the women would stand up to the strain.

While nobody in the house has gone through a regular course in air-raid precautions, so many instructive articles have appeared in the press during the last few years that I think we all have a good idea of what has to be done. Instructive films are shown practically every week in the cinemas. Recently one of the A.R.P. officials from next door called to give us general advice.

We have 'Minimax' fire extinguishers and several buckets for water and sand on each floor, and two stirrup-pumps, one in the basement and the other on the top floor. We have no gas-masks or steel helmets, but I shall endeavour to obtain some.

I am afraid that as there is no storage accommodation in the basement, no special steps can be taken to protect the furniture, beyond to ensure that water and sand are readily available to extinguish incendiary bombs. Work has not yet commenced on the 'bunker' to be built behind the house, but when it has been completed, I shall have the Legation archives stored there.

The general position is that with the assistance of our neighbours at the A.R.P. Headquarters we could do something to fight a fire, but that the building would not be proof against an explosive bomb of the type generally used now.

[typed] Sd. W. Warnock

1 Not printed.

2 Not printed.

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