Fobbing Bombing Decoy

Back Fobbing Marches, Essex, UK

Documented in contemporary records, "Fobbing" was a World War Two "Oil QF" decoy parented by Shell Haven oil refinery, 2 miles (3.2 km) to the SE. QF decoys were an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to simulate the results of a night-time bombing raid on an oil installation. Ignited at the beginning of an attack, burning pools of oil and simulated "ring fires" from burning oil storage tanks would, hopefully, induce following bombers to drop their loads on this position, in open countryside, rather than that of the genuine installation. Control and electrical power for the ignition of the fires came from a substantial earth-covered "night-shelter", situated some distance away, which housed the generator and decoy manning personnel.

Documented in contemporary records, "Fobbing" was a World War Two "Oil QF" decoy parented by Shell Haven oil refinery, 2 miles (3.2 km) to the SE. QF decoys were an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to simulate the results of a night-time bombing raid on an oil installation. Ignited at the beginning of an attack, burning pools of oil and simulated "ring fires" from burning oil storage tanks would, hopefully, induce following bombers to drop their loads on this position, in open countryside, rather than that of the genuine installation. Control and electrical power for the ignition of the fires came from a substantial earth-covered "night-shelter", situated some distance away, which housed the generator and decoy manning personnel.

Site visit September 1999: The contemporary Military Grid Reference of the site, 108/175025, is on open pasture land between Shell Haven and Fobbing. Although nothing survives of the decoy itself, the night shelter and what is thought to be the walls of oil storage bays remain extant in fine condition. The night shelter is built of concrete, is 18' (5.5 m) long x 9'6" (2.9 m)  wide and has a single sloping entrance on its N side. Inside, there are two rooms, which, if this type of night shelter was designed along the same lines as the airfield decoys (see SMR 10107, Nazeing ‘Q’ decoy), would have been the Operations Room and the Engine Room. The Operations Room measures 8'6" (2.6 m) x 7'5" (2.3 m) and has an escape hatch in the roof at its far end with steel rungs leading up to it. Two steel connection points, which match up with pipework on the outside, were probably the wiring terminals for the electrical ignition of the various decoy devices. Oddly, there are two loopholes in the walls of this chamber. Although providing a means of defence against ground attack, this would have severely limited the amount of earth which could have covered the shelter. The smaller room measures 7'6" (2.3 m) x 7' (2.1m) . This probably contained the generator, bolted onto a low concrete base, but the floor of the shelter is covered in rubble and nothing of the base could be seen at the time of the site visit.

Fifty yards to the W of the shelter, on heavy concrete foundations, stands four 21'  *(6.4 m) long x 4' (1.2 m) high walls, each with a 12" (0.3 m) gap in the middle. It is thought that these supported a large steel oil reservoir, necessary for the operation of the site.

Seven photographs were taken of the site 

Site Assessment: Beset by development problems and expensive oil usage, only twelve Oil QFs were constructed throughout Britain. It is very possible that the Fobbing site retains the last surviving night shelter of this decoy type.

Visit in August 2013: Approx. 80 yards (73 m) N of the decoy bunker a large concrete block was found, 3' (0.9 m)  cubed. Concreted into the top of this were two upright metal pipes, 5' (1.5 m) high x 3.5 " (1 m) diameter. Between these uprights, cemented into the top of the block horizontally, were two more pipes, one diagonally across from corner to corner and another beneath this at right-angles. These horizontal pipes have been anchored into the block with wrapped-around steel cables.

Studying a photo of the decoy bunker taken in 1994, this showed a pipe, apparently the same, leading from the bunker into the grass. It appears probable that the new discovery was, in fact, part of one of the oil fire arrays which were constructed to simulate the successful bombing and burning of the storage tanks to the south. The pipes would have channelled the fuel to the various decoy arrays.

Aerial photo of decoy

Aerial photo of decoy

Night shelter house

Night shelter house

Night shelter house

Night shelter house

Inside night shelter house

Inside night shelter house

Concrete foundations, possibly for oil reservoir

Concrete foundations, possibly for oil reservoir

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