World War II bombing decoy, 500m north west of John Cross


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of World War II bombing decoy, 500m north west of John Cross
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Scarborough (District Authority)
LCPs of Fylingdales and Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NZ 90442 02973

Reasons for Designation

World War II saw the emergence of aerial bombardment as a decisive instrument of warfare and, to counter this threat, the United Kingdom maintained a flexible and diverse mechanism of air defence throughout the war. This included the early warning of approaching aircraft, through radar and visual detection, and the local defence of towns, cities and other vulnerable points using anti-aircraft gunnery and balloon barrages. But less conspicuously, many potential targets were shadowed by decoys - dummy structures, lighting displays and fires - designed to draw enemy bombs from the intended points of attack. Britain's decoy programme began in January 1940 and developed into a complex deception strategy, using four main methods: day and night dummy aerodromes (`K' and `Q' sites); diversionary fires (`QF' sites and `Starfish'); simulated urban lighting (`QL' sites); and dummy factories and buildings. In all, some 839 decoys are recorded for England in official records, built on 602 sites (some sites containing decoys of more than one type). This makes up the greater proportion of the c 1000 decoys recorded for the United Kingdom. The programme represented a large investment of time and resources. Apart from construction costs, several thousand men were employed in operating decoys, the fortunes of which were closely tied to the wartime targets they served. The decoys were often successful, saving many lives by drawing attacks otherwise destined for towns, cities and aerodromes. Urban decoy fires were known as `SF', `Special Fires' and Starfish, to distinguish them from the smaller QF installations. Each town was protected by a cluster of these decoys, the most technically sophisticated of all the types, with each Starfish replicating the fire effects an enemy aircrew would expect to see when their target had been successfully set alight. The decoys included variation in fire type, duration of burning and speed of ignition. In a permanent Starfish all fire types were used, set in discrete areas defined by firebreak trenches and controlled from a remote shelter. The whole array was linked by a network of metalled access roads. `Temporary Starfish' (all built in 1942 to counter the threat from the so-called Baedeker raids against historic towns and cities) only had basket fires. In all, 228 decoys with a Starfish component are recorded in England, 37 of which were Temporary Starfish, and the rest `Permanent'. The Permanent sites were located mostly in central England, close to the urban and industrial targets they were intended to protect; temporary sites, like the Baedeker targets they were protecting, were confined to southern and eastern England. QF sites were first provided for the night protection of RAF airfields, but from August 1941 their role was extended to protect urban centres. Although similar to Starfish, they differed in being considerably smaller, using a limited range of fire types and being sited for the local protection of specific vulnerable points rather than whole cities or conurbations. These new QF sites of 1941-2 fell into four groups, for the protection of: urban and industrial targets (the `Civil Series', located mostly in the west Midlands, north-west and in the Middlesbrough area); Royal Navy sites (these were few in number and sited to protect coastal bases); Army sites, to protect ordnance factories or military installations (these existed in a sparse belt running from central southern England into the west Midlands); and oil installations and tank farms (the `Oil QF' sites). In all, only about 100 QF sites were operational in England. QL decoys were first operational in August 1941, and at its peak in December 1942, 209 were active. Most of these were `Civil QLs', serving non military targets, the majority of which lay in the industrial Midlands and north, with other concentrations on the Tyne and Tees, and in the Bristol and Avonmouth areas; many were co-located with Starfish. Like Starfish, QLs were sited in clusters with a dozen or more decoys protecting the larger towns and cities. In operation the decoys would usually be illuminated in groups, representing the apparent extent of the target. In addition to Civil QLs, several specialised series of QL decoys were established: the `A' series comprising a handful of sites operated by the army, mostly protecting ordnance factories; Mobile QL sites which were created in the south east in May 1943 in response to a sudden upsurge in night bombing attacks; and the `N' series established for the protection of naval installations, and usually co-located with naval QF sites. Also in this last group were the decoys comprising mobile equipment used to simulate activities around dummy embarkation points in the cover plan for Operation Overlord. QL sites relied upon diversity to retain realism, and no two were alike. Standard layouts were explicitly avoided and sophisticated light displays varied from 5-30 acres in area, the size depending on the target it was intended to replicate. Since most were co-located with Starfish, their night shelters and ancillary structures were often also used to serve the QL site. Isolated sites were, however, provided with shelters of their own. Some 230 decoys in England had a QL component; 142 of these were QL sites alone. Very little now survives of any of these decoys, most having been cleared after the war. All sites with significant surviving remains will be considered of national importance, as will those where a well-preserved night shelter has been identified. The World War II bombing decoy, 500m north west of John Cross on Sneaton Moor survives very well. Evidence of the firebreaks' construction and their use will be preserved. Further evidence of the techniques used for both the dummy lighting and the bomb damage will survive in and around the firebreaks.


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a World War II bombing decoy site. It is located on a gentle east facing slope on Sneaton Moor, 5.5km from the North Sea coast. The primary purpose of the site was to divert enemy bombers from targets on Teesside, particularly the important chemical and steel-making centre at Middlesbrough 45km to the north west. The monument was one of a series of decoy sites protecting the city and was also part of a wider network of defensive measures protecting other targets on the north east coast. The site was under the direct control of No 80 Wing RAF which co-ordinated the sophisticated communications network established to monitor the movements of enemy aicraft and alert the personnel at the relevant site. The day to day operation of the site was maintained by RAF Middleton-St-George. The personnel staffing the site were housed in tents and Nissen huts in woodland 1.5km to the north west. It is believed that similar units in the northern area were staffed by one sergeant, two corporals, 17 airmen and one electrician. The first currently known reference to the site is dated 15th October 1941 and the last 8 December 1943. The site was scaled down and decommissioned by 1944 when the threat from enemy bombers had faded. The area was then used for military training for the build up to the D-Day invasion of continental Europe in 1944: tank tracks from these activities still survive extending north-south across the monument and the surrounding moorland. In common with most decoys for large urban targets, the Sneaton Moor site operated two versions of the decoy principle. One code-named `QL' simulated urban lighting, which included street lighting, lights from open doors and flashes from tram wires, and also industrial lighting such as furnace glows, dock and railway lights. The other, code-named `Starfish' simulated different types of bomb damage. This was achieved by igniting different types of fire in separate areas, each defined by a firebreak trench excavated around it. At Sneaton Moor the surviving remains are primarily associated with the Starfish decoy. The firebreaks, which enclosed the fires, survive as clearly identifiable earthworks. They take the form of shallow ditches measuring up to 1.5m wide and 0.75m deep, each describing a roughly circular shape. There are seven of these enclosures ranging in size from 40m to 100m in diameter. They extend over an area approximately 400m by 300m. Each of these enclosures was sub-divided into sections which contained the different types of fire in use. Fragments of concrete and brick from decoy equipment and pieces of coal from the fires can be found in at least one of the enclosures. Remains of the QL decoy are less prominent. The equipment used to achieve the lighting effects were a range of simple devices most of which were free standing and were cleared away after the war leaving little surface trace. The various elements of the site were linked by access roads. These were camouflaged with soil and turf and may survive as buried features. The decoys were operated from a concrete shelter thought to have been located 1.3km to the north west of the firebreaks. This shelter can no longer be accurately located.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 30 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Harwood, J, Norman, B, 'Defence Lines' in Tiger Moth Seeks Starfish, , Vol. VOL 6, (1996), 11-12
Harwood, J, Norman, B, 'Defence Lines' in Tiger Moth Seeks Starfish, , Vol. VOL 6, (1996), 11-12
Crawshaw, A, (1993)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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