World War II bombing decoy HA2 Kirby-le-Soken


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019882

Date first listed: 20-Jul-2001


Ordnance survey map of World War II bombing decoy HA2 Kirby-le-Soken
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1019882 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 09-Dec-2018 at 21:44:17.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Tendring (District Authority)

Parish: Thorpe-le-Soken

National Grid Reference: TM 21847 23905, TM 21887 23914


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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, drawing many attacks otherwise destined for towns, cities and aerodromes. They saved many lives. 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. 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 survival of major components of the World War II bombing decoy documented in wartime records as `HA2 Kirby-le-Soken' is of particular interest to the study of bombing decoy design. The decoy is a World War II N series (naval) decoy, one of an original wartime deployment of five in Essex, of which HA2 Kirby-le-Soken is one of only two which survive in good condition. The other at Spinnel's Farm, the subject of a separate scheduling, can be seen as a partner to this one in the defence of Harwich. The night shelter survives in particularly good condition, and the oil tank is thought to be the only surviving example in this country; together they provide a unique record of decoy architecture.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a World War II bombing decoy situated on an area of agricultural land and salt marsh south of Kirby Creek and west of The Wade. The monument is in two separate areas of protection, the first encompassing the night shelter from which the decoy would have been operated, the second enclosing the oil tank which would have fuelled the decoy fires. The night shelter is sited next to the sea wall, some distance away from the decoy area. Documented in contemporary records as HA2 Kirby-le-Soken, the site was a World War II N Series (Naval) decoy controlled from Harwich. This class of decoy was designed specifically for the protection of naval installations, in this case Harwich dockyard itself. The site was both a QL and an SF site, meaning it not only replicated the night-time lights of the dockyard (QL site), but also provided the large fires expected from a successful raid (SF or Starfish site). The decoy site was an elaborate affair, utilising complex lighting arrays and numerous fires of which nothing remains. However, the earth-covered shelter which would have housed the generator needed to power the lights and switchgear and to electrically ignite the fires does survive. An aerial photograph taken shortly after the end of the World War II shows a large area of amorphous dark patches and linear features representing the sites of the decoy fires and fire breaks, bounded by the sea wall to the north and east, and by drainage ditches to the west and south. The shelter is a brick and concrete bunker, covered by earth to protect it from stray bombs, with a maximum external length of 16.5m and width of 10.75m. Internally it is divided into three rooms: the Operations Room (4m by 3.2m), the Engine Room (3.5m by 3.8m) and the small toilet room. The Operations Room has an escape hatch and steel ladder at one end and a concrete stove base and flue outlet at the other; four ceramic outlet pipes, probably chanelling for the electric cabling, are on the south wall. The Engine Room still retains its generator mounting base and three steel exhaust pipes on the wall. In the second area of protection, some 30m to the west of the shelter, is a rectangular concrete building 11m long by 4m wide with a pitched asbestos roof. On its north wall is an oil outlet terminal. This was originally a tank for the great volume of oil required to keep the decoy fires burning for long periods. Contemporary records state the the tank was found to be porous and was replaced by a steel one. War Office documents relating to the equipment and manning of the bombing decoy HA2 Kirby-le-Soken show that it was operational in August 1941 (the earliest reference to it is dated 1st August) and was certainly in use in March 1942 (latest written reference); although no further specific documentary references can be found, it may have continued in use through to the end of the war. All modern fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 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: 32443

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume 3. Bombing Decoys of WWII, (1996), 116-8
14 colour prints in ESMR, Nash, F, (1999)
Black and white vertical, RAF, 106G-UK 1673-3161, (1946)
Tyler, S, MPP Film , (2000)

End of official listing