RAF Alert Shack By The dispersal, or Royal Air Force alert shack, sat at the end of a runway and sheltered pilots standing alert waiting to defend the area from enemy attack. It was boring duty and one pilot claimed to have counted every board and nail in the flimsy building. Pulling alert was like an actor waiting to go on stage or a fireman waiting for the alarm bell. At some airfields two pilots were on alert five-minute alert while 10 pilots were on stand-by, waiting in the barracks. When the alarm sounded, it took less than 10 minutes for 12 aircraft to be in the air and on their way. Like the dispersal on display, a bicycle would often lean against the side of the building, ready for use by a messenger. The dispersal could have maps on the walls, identifications models of aircraft hung from the ceiling, blackboards with flight information, chairs and chaise lounges. It might also include a pilot's dog. The dispersals were built mostly of wood with the roof covered with tar paper, tin or other material. Some shacks were heated by a pot-bellied stove. Click here to return to the Early Years Gallery.