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World War II bombing decoy control shelter 600m south east of Great Burdon Farm

List Entry Summary

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.

Name: World War II bombing decoy control shelter 600m south east of Great Burdon Farm

List entry Number: 1020759


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.


District: Darlington

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Great Burdon

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 28-Jan-2003

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 34848

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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 control shelter at Great Burdon 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 and the base of an associated structure. It is located on slightly undulating ground approximately 3.5km north east of the centre of Darlington. The primary purpose of the decoy was to divert enemy bombers from attacking the important industrial and transport centre at Darlington. This was done by lighting fires to replicate successful bomb damage: a type of decoy site code-named special fire or Starfish. A variety of types of fire were used and these were ignited electronically from a remote control shelter. The decoy site was located to the north east of the city on the anticipated line of approach of enemy aircraft heading inland from raids over Middlesbrough and Stockton on Tees. The monument was part of two decoys protecting Darlington, the other being located at Eryholme, approximately 9km to the south east of the city. No significant remains of this other decoy survives. The decoys were part of a wider network of defensive measures and would have been part of the deception strategy for other targets such as the industrial centre of Middlesbrough and the nearby airfield of Middleton St George. The site, which was known as Darlington 48A, Great Burdon, was under the direct control of No.80 Wing RAF which coordinated 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 Middleton St George. The personnel staffing the site comprised one sergeant, two corporals and eleven airmen all of whom were billeted nearby. The decoy site included a control building, a Nissen hut and a guard house. The control building and footings for the Nissen hut still survive although the location of the guard house and the actual decoy fires and their safety enclosures is currently unknown. The first currently known reference to the site is dated 1 August 1941 and the last 8 April 1943. 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 up to 1m above the surrounding earth mound. There is an entrance passage 1.5m wide and 3m in length extending east from the north eastern angle. The standard design included a blast wall in front of the entrance passage, however this does not survive as an upstanding feature at this site. There is an emergency exit/observation hatch in the roof and the voids for the ventilation ducts can still be seen. The whole shelter was originally covered by a protective mound of earth. The top 1m of this has eroded away leaving a mound 1m high and 4m wide encircling the structure. Remains of the ducts which ventilated the shelter and the ignition cables will survive within the mound. 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 north of the shelter is a concrete plinth measuring 7m north to south by 4m east to west. This was the base for the Nissen hut, which would have been used for storage and accommodation for the duty crew. The monument includes a margin of 2m around the surviving remains for their support and preservation. The water trough standing on the concrete base and the associated pipe work is excluded from the monument, although the ground beneath these features 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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Fields of Deception: Britains Bombing Decoys of WWII, (2000)
Upton, D, 'The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Bombing of Yorkshire 1939-1945, , Vol. VOL 59, (1987), 159-174

National Grid Reference: NZ 32482 16097


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End of official listing