Bulphan World War II bombing decoy, 850m and 890m south west of Doesgate Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020998

Date first listed: 25-Feb-2004


Ordnance survey map of Bulphan World War II bombing decoy, 850m and 890m south west of Doesgate Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1020998 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 22-Oct-2018 at 09:18:09.


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

District: Thurrock (Unitary Authority)

National Grid Reference: TQ 65241 86113, TQ 65280 86120


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. `K' sites (also known as Dummy Landing Grounds [Day] or DLG[D]) were intended to replicate RAF satellite airfields, rudimentary landing grounds used as an adjunct to permanent stations for the dispersed operation of aircraft. As such, the decoy consisted of simulated grass runways, simple technical and defensive structures including trenches, dummy aircraft, a windsock, petrol and bomb dumps represented by conspicuous dug-up areas, and a limited range of facilities for the crew manning the decoy. There were ten dummy aircraft allocated to each site, the type reflecting the function of the `parent' station. Forty-two decoys in England are recorded as having a `K' component, located mostly in eastern counties. The `Q' sites were intended to simulate the flarepath lighting of permanent RAF stations as a lure to attack by night bombers and intruder aircraft. The programme lasted until August 1944 during which time the lighting configurations changed periodically to shadow developments on real airfields. Common features of Q sites included the lighting arrangements and a night shelter. The night shelter is generally all that survives. In all, 236 sites with a `Q' component are recorded in England. These are distributed mostly in the east, and in central and southern 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 the two successive Bulphan World War II bombing decoy night shelters provides a lasting reminder to the ingenuity of the home defences employed. Bulphan is of great significance to the study of the evolution of bombing decoy design. The underground design of the earlier shelter, although affording better protection from bombing raids than the later above-ground design, proved unsuitable for the surrounding geological conditions and was prone to flooding. This was therefore superceded by a replacement night shelter of above-ground earth-covered design which proved more successful, whilst still providing camouflage and protection against bombing raids. The Bulphan shelters provide a graphic illustration of the wartime process of trial and error design, the success of which was a vital component in providing a quick and effective defence against the German airborne offensive.


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


The monument includes two shelters, in separate areas of protection, designed to control a wartime decoy or `dummy' aerodrome located on the lower slopes of a hillside, 850m and 890m south west of Doesgate Farm.

Documented in contemporary records from World War II, `Bulphan' was constructed to replicate and thus draw bombing raids away from RAF Hornchurch located about 11km to the west. The decoy was both a `K' site, designed for daytime use, and a night-time `Q' site. During the day the decoy displayed grassed runways, sandbagged defence positions, ammunition dumps and plywood dummy aircraft among their simulations. At night the decoy had electric lighting illuminating two traversing `runways', obstruction/recognition lights and moving `headlamps'. Most of these structures were ephemeral and are no longer present on the site. However, the decoy airfield was controlled from two bunkers, known as night shelters. These have both survived and are included in the scheduling.

The first night shelter to be built was constructed below ground level. Of concrete construction it had two entrances, one with steps halfway along the southern face and one taking the form of an escape hatch with vertical steel ladder (the former is now infilled). These gave access to at least two underground rooms. The only part of this shelter visible above-ground is the escape hatch and a steel chimney pipe. This structure was found to be prone to flooding and was replaced by an above-ground night shelter, located to the east, during the course of the war.

The above-ground shelter is constructed of brick rendered with cement and measures 13m long by 6m wide. The design is to a known wartime standard (Type 3395/40) comprising an Engine (or Generator) Room and an Operations Room, but with the addition of a small toilet cubicle just inside the entrance in the southern wall. The easternmost room, the Engine Room, has survived in its original form complete with engine plinth set into the floor. The Operations Room retains the original escape hatch in the roof at its westernmost end.

Local residents recall that the decoy airfield at Bulphan was manned by six airmen. The decoy was in use throughout much of the war, being successful on at least one occasion when it drew upon itself the incendiaries and high explosives of a heavy night-time bombing raid intended for nearby RAF Hornchurch.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 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: 32467

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume III, (1994), 93, 105
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume III, (1994), 10-26
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume III, (1994), 10-26
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume III, (1994), 93, 105
Doyle, P, 'Airfield Review' in Airfield Review: August, (1993), 40
15 frames in ESMR, Nash, F, Colour photos, (2002)
June 1960, Hunting Surveys Ltd., Run 37-036, (1960)
Meridian Airmaps Ltd., MAL 05/75/205, (1975)
Nash, F, World War Two Decoy Bombing Sites in Essex, 2002, Project Report: March 2002
wartime resident and landowner, (2002)
wartime resident and landowner, Fearby, Robert, (2002)

End of official listing