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

A Scheduled Monument in Cheddar, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.3108 / 51°18'39"N

Longitude: -2.7472 / 2°44'49"W

OS Eastings: 348013.314477

OS Northings: 157124.208898

OS Grid: ST480571

Mapcode National: GBR JJ.XMPB

Mapcode Global: VH89B.B9HY

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

Scheduled Date: 20 July 1933

Last Amended: 8 September 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020995

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33064

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Cheddar

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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.

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, 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.

Source: Historic England

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,

Source: Historic England

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