World War II bombing decoy control shelter 180m north east of Solomon's House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020041

Date first listed: 25-Jun-2001


Ordnance survey map of World War II bombing decoy control shelter 180m north east of Solomon's House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Hambleton (District Authority)

Parish: Osmotherley


National Grid Reference: SE 47375 97906


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 World War II bombing decoy control shelter 180m north east of Solomon's House survives well and significant information about the function and technology of the Starfish site and its role in the wider decoy system in the North East of England will be preserved.


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


The monument includes the standing remains of a control shelter for a World War II bombing decoy site. It is located on rising ground on the western part of the North York Moors 2km north east of Osmotherley. The primary purpose of the decoy was to divert enemy bombers from the important chemical and steel-making centre at Middlesbrough which is visible 20km to the north. This was done by lighting fires to replicate successful bomb damage: a type of decoy site code-named Starfish. At the Osmotherley site only basket fires were used. These were raised wooden frames containing layers of scrap wood and other flammable waste mixed with creosote which was ignited electronically from a remote control shelter. The monument was one of a series of decoy sites protecting Middlesbrough and was also part of a wider network of defensive measures protecting other targets in the north east. The site, which was known as Middlesbrough 10.c Osmotherley, was under the direct control of No 80 Wing RAF which co-ordinated the sophisticated communications network established to monitor the movements of enemy aircraft and alert the personnel at the relevant site. The day to day operation of the site was maintained by RAF Thornaby. The personnel staffing the site comprised one corporal, 5 airmen and one electrician who were billeted nearby. The first currently known reference to the site is dated 1 August 1941 and the last 8 April 1943. A local witness has suggested that the fires were never lit. The surviving control shelter follows the standard Air Ministry design for Starfish sites (CT 557/41). The shelter is a brick walled rectangular structure with a reinforced concrete roof, standing on a concrete base. It measures 3.75m north to south by 3.10m east to west and stands approximately 2m high. There is an entrance passage 3m in length extending west from the south western angle in front of which is a brick blast wall. There is an entrance/observation hatch in the roof and the voids for the ventilation ducts can still be seen. The whole shelter was originally protected by earth banking however most of this has now eroded away. The control building housed the electronic ignition gear, offered protection to the operating crew and provided communication, through a telephone line. Located 6m to the south of the shelter is a concrete plinth measuring 7.5m north to south by 3.5m east to west. This has been interpreted as the base for a guard house, probably a Nissen hut, known from a contemporary document to have been part of the site. This is now mostly covered with grass but is clearly visible as a level platform with the western edge of the concrete exposed. The decoy fire baskets were located in enclosed land 500m to the north of the shelter. There are no known surviving remains of firebreaks currently visible and the area is not included in the monument.

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: 34824

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Fields of Deception: Britains Bombing Decoys of WWII, (2000)
Harwood, J, (2000)
Thomas, R, (2000)

End of official listing