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

A Scheduled Monument in Orsett, Thurrock

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5497 / 51°32'59"N

Longitude: 0.3821 / 0°22'55"E

OS Eastings: 565259.929244

OS Northings: 186116.580224

OS Grid: TQ652861

Mapcode National: GBR NL7.TNQ

Mapcode Global: VHJKZ.K9WT

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

Scheduled Date: 25 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020998

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32467

County: Thurrock

Electoral Ward/Division: Orsett

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Bulphan St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

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.

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.
`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.

Source: Historic England

Sources

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
Other
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)

Source: Historic England

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