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World War II bombing decoy on Fobbing Marshes, 1.11km and 1.15km north west of Oozedam

A Scheduled Monument in Corringham and Fobbing, Thurrock

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Latitude: 51.5284 / 51°31'42"N

Longitude: 0.4924 / 0°29'32"E

OS Eastings: 572984.3608

OS Northings: 184003.6158

OS Grid: TQ729840

Mapcode National: GBR PN2.59G

Mapcode Global: VHJL1.HV55

Entry Name: World War II bombing decoy on Fobbing Marshes, 1.11km and 1.15km north west of Oozedam

Scheduled Date: 5 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020489

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32445

County: Thurrock

Electoral Ward/Division: Corringham and Fobbing

Built-Up Area: Stanford-le-Hope

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Fobbing

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument lies in an area of open marshland known as Fobbing Marshes,
to the north of the Shell Haven Oil Refinery which occupies a large site
on the north bank of the River Thames. It is in two areas of protection.

Documented in wartime records as `Shell Haven, Fobbing' the monument is
the night shelter and oil storage bay of a World War II Oil QF
(diversionary fire) decoy designed to protect the Shell Haven oil
refinery. At the peak of its operation the decoy would have had many
burning pools of oil and simulated ring fires from burning oil storage
tanks; these would have been ignited electrically from the night shelter,
situated some distance away, which also housed the generator and decoy
manning personnel. Although nothing remains of the arrangement of decoy
fires, the night shelter and the walls of an oil storage facility remain.
The night shelter is built of concrete; it is 6m long by 3.2m wide,
aligned north-south and has a single sloping entrance on its northern
side. Inside are two rooms: the southernmost is the Operations Room, with
the smaller Engine Room to its north. The Operations Room measures 2.9m by
2.5m and has an escape hatch in the roof at its southern end with steel
rungs leading up to it. Two steel connection pipes which match up with
pipework on the outside, probably contained the wiring terminals for the
electrical ignition of the decoy devices. The Engine Room measures 2.5m by
2.3m and would have contained the generator (no longer present), bolted
onto a low concrete base which still survives.

Approximately 17m to the west of the night shelter, on heavy concrete
foundations, are four parallel walls each 7m long by 1.3m high, aligned
east-west. With railway sleepers formerly bridging the gaps, these walls
are thought to have functioned as six storage bays for the drums of oil
necessary for the operation of the site.

War Office documents relating to the equipment and manning of the bombing
decoy show that it was operational in August 1941 (the earliest reference
to it dated 1st August) and was certainly in use in March 1942 (latest
written reference); although no further specific documentary references
can be found it may have continued in use through to the end of the war.

All modern fencelines are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath them is included.

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.

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
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 `Shell Haven, Fobbing' is of great
importance to the study of bombing decoy design. The Oil QF decoy is one
of an original deployment of only two such sites in Essex (the other being
`Thames Haven, Stanford-le-Hope') whose purpose was to simulate the
results of a successful night-time bombing raid on an oil refinery. Beset
by development problems and expensive oil usage, only twelve Oil QFs were
constructed throughout Britain. The Fobbing night shelter is a good
example of this rare type of structure, and the survival of associated
storage bays adds to the overall importance of the site.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume 3. Bombing Decoys of WWII, (1996), 141-2
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England: Volume 3. Bombing Decoys of WWII, (1996), 116-8
7 colour prints in ESMR, Nash, F, Untitled, (1999)
7 unreferenced frames in the ESMR, Nash, F, Untitled, (1999)
Tyler, S, MPP Film , (2000)
Tyler, S, MPP Film , (2000)

Source: Historic England

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