The Heritage Uncertainty Principle: Excavating Air Raid Shelters from the Second World War

  • Heather Burke
  • Alice Gorman
  • Ken Mayes
  • Darren Renshaw


For the last few years, archaeologists at Flinders University, Adelaide, and staff at a former military hospital have been on the trail of an elusive structure: a subterranean air raid shelter (or series of shelters) built in 1942 to protect the lives of doctors, nurses, and their soldier patients in the event of a Japanese air raid. The search has attracted enormous public interest, as well as the attention of conspiracy theorists, convinced that the air raid shelters conceal military surplus and other secrets. The project has involved professional archaeologists, students, hospital staff, patients, veterans, and members of the local residential community. However, despite the investment of resources in documentary research, oral history collection, geophysical survey, and excavation, archaeology has revealed few material traces of the shelters, stranding them largely in people’s imagination.


Collective Memory Oral History Social Memory Public Archaeology Corrugate Iron 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Successful community archaeology cannot be accomplished without the assistance of many people. We would like to thank: Elaine Hanneson for completing the historical research for this project; the students of ARCH2002: Australian Historical Archaeology 2005 for completing the initial oral history interviews; Martin Wimmer and Elaine Hanneson for conducting further oral history interviews throughout the course of the project; Ian Moffat for conducting the geophysical survey; Dr Tim Denham, director of the 2004 field season, and the students who assisted in the excavations in 2004 and 2007. Last, but by no means least, the many people who agreed to give their time to be interviewed as part of this project: Steve Basso, John, Barry, and David Critchley, Jenni Harrington, David and Maxine Ennis, Raymond Harris, Allan “Bluey” Burton, Kerry Simpson, John Olson, Lesley Jeffers, Brian Botting, Alan Giblin, Dennis Stopps, Peter Frith, Des Parker, C.E. Hosdell, Pauline Teesdale Smith, Tom Gepp, Dorothy Flint, Valerie Howe, Simon Heale, and Pamela Dale. They are the community, and to them we are extremely grateful.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather Burke
    • 1
  • Alice Gorman
    • 2
  • Ken Mayes
    • 3
  • Darren Renshaw
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Repatriation General HospitalDaw ParkAustralia

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