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World War II bombing decoy, 500m north west of John Cross

A Scheduled Monument in Sneaton, North Yorkshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.4139 / 54°24'49"N

Longitude: -0.6079 / 0°36'28"W

OS Eastings: 490440.916043

OS Northings: 502940.07506

OS Grid: NZ904029

Mapcode National: GBR SK6D.5J

Mapcode Global: WHGBB.MBQ2

Entry Name: World War II bombing decoy, 500m north west of John Cross

Scheduled Date: 9 March 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019757

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34409

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Sneaton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Fylingdales St Stephen

Church of England Diocese: York

Details

The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a World War II bombing
decoy site. It is located on a gentle east facing slope on Sneaton Moor, 5.5km
from the North Sea coast.
The primary purpose of the site was to divert enemy bombers from targets on
Teesside, particularly the important chemical and steel-making centre at
Middlesbrough 45km to the north west. The monument was one of a series of
decoy sites protecting the city and was also part of a wider network of
defensive measures protecting other targets on the north east coast. The site
was under the direct control of No 80 Wing RAF which co-ordinated the
sophisticated communications network established to monitor the movements
of enemy aicraft 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 were housed in tents and Nissen huts in woodland 1.5km to
the north west. It is believed that similar units in the northern area were
staffed by one sergeant, two corporals, 17 airmen and one electrician.
The first currently known reference to the site is dated 15th October 1941 and
the last 8 December 1943. The site was scaled down and decommissioned by 1944
when the threat from enemy bombers had faded. The area was then used for
military training for the build up to the D-Day invasion of continental Europe
in 1944: tank tracks from these activities still survive extending north-south
across the monument and the surrounding moorland.
In common with most decoys for large urban targets, the Sneaton Moor site
operated two versions of the decoy principle. One code-named `QL' simulated
urban lighting, which included street lighting, lights from open doors and
flashes from tram wires, and also industrial lighting such as furnace glows,
dock and railway lights. The other, code-named `Starfish' simulated different
types of bomb damage. This was achieved by igniting different types of fire in
separate areas, each defined by a firebreak trench excavated around it.
At Sneaton Moor the surviving remains are primarily associated with the
Starfish decoy. The firebreaks, which enclosed the fires, survive as clearly
identifiable earthworks. They take the form of shallow ditches measuring up to
1.5m wide and 0.75m deep, each describing a roughly circular shape. There are
seven of these enclosures ranging in size from 40m to 100m in diameter. They
extend over an area approximately 400m by 300m. Each of these enclosures was
sub-divided into sections which contained the different types of fire in use.
Fragments of concrete and brick from decoy equipment and pieces of coal from
the fires can be found in at least one of the enclosures. Remains of the QL
decoy are less prominent. The equipment used to achieve the lighting effects
were a range of simple devices most of which were free standing and were
cleared away after the war leaving little surface trace.
The various elements of the site were linked by access roads. These were
camouflaged with soil and turf and may survive as buried features.
The decoys were operated from a concrete shelter thought to have been located
1.3km to the north west of the firebreaks. This shelter can no longer be
accurately located.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 30 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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, saving many lives by drawing attacks
otherwise destined for towns, cities and aerodromes.
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. QL decoys were first operational in August 1941, and
at its peak in December 1942, 209 were active. Most of these were `Civil QLs',
serving non military targets, the majority of which lay in the industrial
Midlands and north, with other concentrations on the Tyne and Tees, and in the
Bristol and Avonmouth areas; many were co-located with Starfish. Like
Starfish, QLs were sited in clusters with a dozen or more decoys protecting
the larger towns and cities. In operation the decoys would usually be
illuminated in groups, representing the apparent extent of the target. In
addition to Civil QLs, several specialised series of QL decoys were
established: the `A' series comprising a handful of sites operated by the
army, mostly protecting ordnance factories; Mobile QL sites which were created
in the south east in May 1943 in response to a sudden upsurge in night bombing
attacks; and the `N' series established for the protection of naval
installations, and usually co-located with naval QF sites. Also in this last
group were the decoys comprising mobile equipment used to simulate activities
around dummy embarkation points in the cover plan for Operation Overlord.
QL sites relied upon diversity to retain realism, and no two were alike.
Standard layouts were explicitly avoided and sophisticated light displays
varied from 5-30 acres in area, the size depending on the target it was
intended to replicate. Since most were co-located with Starfish, their night
shelters and ancillary structures were often also used to serve the QL site.
Isolated sites were, however, provided with shelters of their own. Some 230
decoys in England had a QL component; 142 of these were QL sites alone. 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, 500m north west of John Cross on Sneaton Moor
survives very well. Evidence of the firebreaks' construction and their use
will be preserved. Further evidence of the techniques used for both the dummy
lighting and the bomb damage will survive in and around the firebreaks.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Harwood, J, Norman, B, 'Defence Lines' in Tiger Moth Seeks Starfish, , Vol. VOL 6, (1996), 11-12
Harwood, J, Norman, B, 'Defence Lines' in Tiger Moth Seeks Starfish, , Vol. VOL 6, (1996), 11-12
Other
Crawshaw, A, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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