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World War II bombing decoy complex, anti-aircraft obstructions and Beacon Batch round barrow cemetery on Black Down

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: World War II bombing decoy complex, anti-aircraft obstructions and Beacon Batch round barrow cemetery on Black Down

List entry Number: 1020995

Location

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

County: Somerset

District: Mendip

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Priddy

County: Somerset

District: Sedgemoor

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Cheddar

County: Somerset

District: Sedgemoor

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Shipham

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 20-Jul-1933

Date of most recent amendment: 08-Sep-2003

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 33064

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 QF diversionary fire decoy at Black Down is one of only a very few to survive following the systematic clearing of such sites in the immediate years subsequent to the end of World War II. The monument has been well-researched and it is important in understanding the operation of subterfuge decoy sites employed in the early years of the War. Its importance is enhanced by its association with a QL simulated lighting system with which it acted in tandem and with a Z anti-aircraft rocket battery to the south of it which was intended to fire on enemy aircraft lured to attack. The monument also encompasses the rare survival of World War II anti-aircraft landing obstructions in the form of mounds and cairns, this system being particularly visible from the air. These were constructed as part of a national programme in which all potential landing grounds were obstructed. Most obstructions were removed immediately after the war. The monument encompasses a prehistoric round barrow cemetery which contains, in addition to bowl barrows, two rarer barrows in the form of a bell barrow and a disc barrow.

The combination of a prehistoric ritual burial site and rare survival of World War II anti-invasion and defence elements enhances the archaeological importance of the site and the World War II remains provide a potent reminder of the steps taken to repulse a suspected German invasion and to further protect the city of Bristol from the worst excesses of air attack.

History

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

Details

The monument, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes a World War II bombing decoy together with two associated control buildings, anti-aircraft obstructions of World War II in the form of rows of earth mounds and stone cairns visible both on the ground and in aerial photographs. It also includes a number of prehistoric round barrows of various types which together form the Beacon Batch round barrow cemetery and are believed to date to the Bronze Age. The bombing decoy was constructed in the early years of World War II as part of the defences of the city of Bristol against German air raid attacks. The aircraft landing obstructions were built as part of a national programme of anti-invasion measures. The site lies on Black Down at the western end of the Mendip Hills some 25km south west of the centre of Bristol.

The bombing decoy was part of a sophisticated system aimed at diverting hostile air attacks away from Bristol whilst at the same time drawing enemy bombers to within range of anti-aircraft fire. In the event of an imminent air raid on Bristol, lighting decoys were put into operation on Black Down south of Burrington and in the vicinity of Ashridge Farm. The lighting decoys, known as QL sites, attempted to simulate the city lights of Bristol under black-out conditions and they included devices to mimic the flickering lights of railway marshalling yards as seen from the air and the characteristic arcing flash of city trams. If the decoy was considered to have been successful in attracting aircraft then pre-prepared fires (known as QF sites) were electrically ignited to create the illusion of targets having been set alight. The QF sites were operated from control buildings placed at least 400m from the decoy fires; two control buildings survive within this scheduling, the third is a separate scheduling.

The QL decoy sites on Black Down were intended to replicate the lighting patterns for the centre of Bristol and the position of main railway depots when viewed from the air. The site was known collectively as C82 and Dobinson and Schofield et al have identified the various components in documentary sources and on the ground respectively. Thus, a decoy site located to the east of the scheduling represented Bristol's East Depot whilst a site at Ashridge Farm to the south represented the West Depot. Neither of these two decoy sites have survived although the control building for the Ashridge Farm site still stands and is the subject of a separate scheduling. The focus of the QL sites was on Black Down where sites `a' `c' `d' and `e' represented Canon's Marsh marshalling yard, Temple Meads station, Pylle Hill goods yard and Kingsland Road sidings respectively. All of these sites lie within the scheduling with the exception of site `a' which appears no longer to survive. The Temple Meads site `c' was backed up by a QF fire decoy which survives in the form of the firebreak trenches which enclosed the emplacements used for simulating burning `buildings'. All of the surviving decoys retain buried features such as cabling, but also have slight earthwork remains, best seen during the winter.

Also surviving are two control buildings from which both the lighting and fire decoys were triggered. These stand on the southern boundary of the decoy site about 1.5km apart. Both are of the standard design for a control building or bunker being earth-banked and resting on a concrete raft 9m in length. Comprising two rooms, they are constructed of 0.35m thick brickwork with an outer blast-wall protecting the single entrance. The operations room would have contained a stove, switchgear, and other communications equipment; the other room would have housed the power generators. The westernmost control building at Black Down stands complete with its earth-banking and it retains a stove base in one room and three generator bases in the engine room together with some ducting. The easternmost control building also stands complete with its earth banking. It too retains a stove base in the operations room and additionally has traces of original paint on the walls - white with a black dado at waist height and green below. The engine room has bases for three generators with lagged pipes surviving in places into the outer walls.

Crossing the area utilised for the decoys on Black Down are lines of mounds or cairns set up to prevent airborne landings on this relatively flat and unwooded area of the West Mendips. The grid of obstructions comprises three parallel WSW-ENE alignments each over 1km in length with one nearer to 1.75km in length, and twelve shorter lines running roughly at right angles to the three main lines. The earth mounds vary between 0.9m-1.3m high by 2.5m-3m wide and they are generally spaced at intervals of 8.5m-11.5m. On the east and south facing slope of the site the mounds give way to drystone cairns which are often squared with dimensions of 1.3 sq m and between 0.2m-0.8m high. These relatively low cairns may have supported posts or it is possible that their appearance from the air would have deterred a landing. The square to rectilinear areas of ground enclosed by each block of the grid was between 350m-420m. The obstructions appear to have been constructed prior to the bombing decoys as it has been observed in one location that the mounds are abutted by a firebreak decoy. Considerable information regarding the location, construction, and operation of World War II decoy sites and anti-aircraft obstructions on Black Down may be found in archives held by the Public Record Office and within a paper written for the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Proceedings of 1999.

Included within the scheduling are 11 barrows which lie in close proximity to one another around the area known as Beacon Batch (ST48505720). These barrows, together with two barrows to the south east and three barrows to the west which are also included in the scheduling and which are thought to be outliers of the main group, are known collectively as the Beacon Batch barrow cemetery. The main focal group comprises nine bowl barrows, one bell barrow and one disc barrow. The bowl barrows vary from 13m to 23m in diameter and between 0.3m and 2m in height; each of these barrows was surrounded by a ditch from which material was quarried for their construction. These have become infilled over the millennia but they survive as buried features about 3m wide. The disc barrow has a central platform 15m in diameter with a slight mound 10m in diameter rising to 0.5m at its highest point. An outer bank 4m wide and 0.75m high is separated from the barrow mound by a ditch 1.5m wide and about 0.3m deep; a gap 1.5m wide in the outer bank on the south east side may be an original causewayed entrance. The bell barrow, which is the easternmost of the focal group, has a barrow mound 15m in diameter and about 2m high. Surrounding the mound is a level berm or platform 4m wide and about 0.3m high and surrounding this in turn is a ditch which has become infilled over the years but which survives as a buried feature 2m wide. The outlying barrows to the west comprise three bowl barrows with maximum diameters of 15m and maximum heights of 1.5m. The outlying barrows, about 600m to the south east of the main group, are two bowl barrows varying in diameter between 15m and 18m and in height between 1m and 1.75m. In common with other barrows in the area each of the outlying barrows would have been surrounded by a quarry ditch from which material will have been extracted for the construction of the mound; these ditches have become infilled over the years.

All fencing, drystone field walls, gateways and modern signposts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all of these features is included.





MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Brown, D, Somerset v Hitler: Secret operations in the Mendips 1939-45, (1999)
Dobinson, C, 'Twentieth Century Fortifications in England' in Bombing Decoys Of WWII, , Vol. Vol 3, (1996)
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), 93
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), 93
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), 93
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological & Nat Hist Society' in Rare Types Of Round Barrow, , Vol. Vol 85, (1939), p. 154
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural Hist Soc' in Somerset Barrows Part II, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), p. 66
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural Hist Soc' in Somerset Barrows Part II, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), p. 93
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural Hist Soc' in Somerset Barrows Part II, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), p. 81
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural Hist Soc' in Somerset Barrows Part II, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971)
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural Hist Soc' in Somerset Barrows Part II, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), p. 90
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural Hist Soc' in Somerset Barrows Part II, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), p. 93
Grinsell, L, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural Hist Soc' in Somerset Barrows Part II, , Vol. Vol 115, (1971), 93, 126
Schofield, A J, Webster, C J, Anderton, M J, 'Somerset Archaeology and Natural History' in Second World War Remains on Black Down: A Reinterpretation, (1999), 271-86
Schofield, A J, Webster, C J, Anderton, M J, 'Somerset Archaeology and Natural History' in Second World War Remains on Black Down: A Reinterpretation, (1999), 271-86
Tratman, E K, 'Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society' in Fieldwork, (1927), 32
Tratman, E K, 'Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society' in Fieldwork, (1927), 32
Tratman, EK, 'Proceedings of the Univ of Bristol Speleological Society' in Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, , Vol. Vol 3(1), (1927), p. 33
Tratman, EK, 'Proceedings of the Univ of Bristol Speleological Society' in Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, , Vol. Vol 3(1), (1927), 32-33
Tratman, EK, 'Proceedings of the Univ of Bristol Speleological Society' in Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, , Vol. Vol 3(1), (1927), p. 32
Tratman, EK, 'Proceedings of the Univ of Bristol Speleological Society' in Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, , Vol. Vol 3(1), (1927), p. 31
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, EK, 'Proceedings of the Univ of Bristol Speleological Society' in Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, , Vol. Vol 3(1), (1927), p. 31
Tratman, EK, 'Proceedings of the Univ of Bristol Speleological Society' in Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, , Vol. Vol 3(1), (1927), p.32
Tratman, EK, 'Proceedings of the Univ of Bristol Speleological Society' in Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, , Vol. Vol 3(1), (1927), p. 32
Other
Held at NMRC, Ordnance Survey, OS/71082 Frame 199, (1971)
Held at NMRC, Ordnance Survey, OS/71082 Frame 199, (1971)
Held at NMRC, RAF, 3G/TUD/UK15/21 PART IV, (1946)
Held by NMRC, RAF, 3G/TUD/UK12/21 PART IV, (1946)
mss33656 folio 28142, Skinner, BM,

National Grid Reference: ST 47960 57110, ST 48689 56621

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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