World War II bombing decoy Nazeing


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


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

Epping Forest (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 41730 05697, TL 41742 05742

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 `Nazeing' is of particular interest to the study of bombing decoy design, being one of a very small number of airfield decoys to survive in any form in the country. The night shelters survive in particularly good condition. As airfield decoy shelters differ in design from shelters associated with other types of bombing decoy (such as naval, oil or civil decoys), they are the last of their kind in Essex and are extremely rare nationally. In addition, the shelters retain many of their internal and external components, allowing increased understanding of the operation of these throughout the war.


The monument includes a World War Two bombing decoy, located on a south-facing hillside, some 1.2km south west of Lodge Farm. It is in two separate areas of protection, the first encompassing the above ground earth-covered night shelter, the second enclosing the subterranean night shelter. Documented in wartime records, `Nazeing' was a World War II airfield decoy controlled by RAF North Weald some four miles to the east. The decoy was both a daytime `K' site and a night-time `Q' site. `K' sites included grassed runways, defence positions and plywood aircraft amongst their simulations; Nazeing was equipped with dummy Hurricanes. `Q' site deceptions included runway lighting, obstruction/recognition lights and moving headlamps. The control bunkers which housed the switchgear and decoy personnel were for safety located some distance away on the hillside overlooking the decoy area. The monument includes two night shelters (the control bunkers which housed the generator, switchgear and decoy manning personnel) situated on the high ground which would have given a good view over the area of the decoy airfield. The northernmost shelter is a substantial building of brick and concrete construction of a standard design known as Type 3395/40. The whole structure is constructed above ground level and is covered by earth. It is a total of 16.5m long and 11m wide. The building itself is entered by a brick passageway on its southern side; to the west is the Operations Room (6m long by 2.8m wide) which has an escape hatch at the far end. To the east of the passageway is the Engine Room (2.9m long by 3.2m wide) which on the floor has a concrete engine bed complete with four mounting bolts. The far wall has several features of interest: a large concrete block with vertical cavities running through it may have acted as a baffle for the reduction of Engine Room noise; a hole some 10cm in diameter provided access for the power source, and the remains of at least six electricity cables are still visible. The subterranean shelter is built of concrete and curved corrugated steel sheeting. The shelter is entered via concrete steps down into a passageway which connects two rooms. The walls of the Operations Room are constructed of fully curved corrugated steel sheeting with a concrete floor; the overall dimensions of the room are some 3m wide by 6m long. Internal features include steel racking on the walls and an escape hatch complete with ladder at the far end. The Engine Room, some 2.5m long and 3.5m wide, is also of corrugated steel sheet construction; internal features include a concrete engine bed and a large concrete block with vertical cavities. This probably functioned as an expansion chamber or baffle to reduce noise from the engine. War Office documents relating to the equipment and manning of the bombing decoy at Nazeing show that it was operational in March 1940 (the earliest reference to the daytime `K' site dated 13th March and to the night-time `Q' site dated 19th June) and was certainly still in use in August 1941 (the latest written reference).

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:
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Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume 3. Bombing Decoys of WWII, (1996), 93, 104
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume 3. Bombing Decoys of WWII, (1996), 93, 104
23 colour prints in the ESMR, Nash, F, Untitled, (1999)
23 colour prints in the ESMR, Nash, F, Untitled, (1999)
Tyler, S, MPP Film , (2000)
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

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