World War II bombing decoy HA2 Kirby-le-Soken
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1019882
Date first listed: 20-Jul-2001
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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.
District: Tendring (District Authority)
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
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
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)
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