Bombing Decoy, "Kirby-le-Soken"

Back Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex

The monument includes a World War II bombing decoy situated on an area of agricultural land and salt marsh south of Kirby Creek and west of The Wade.

The monument includes a World War II bombing decoy situated on an area of agricultural land and salt marsh south of Kirby Creek and west of The Wade.
The monument is in two separate areas of protection, the first encompassing the night shelter from which the decoy would have been operated, the second enclosing the oil tank which would have fuelled the decoy fires. The night shelter is sited next to the sea wall, some distance away from the decoy area.
Documented in contemporary records as HA2 Kirby-le-Soken, the site was a World War II N Series (Naval) decoy controlled from Harwich. This class of decoy was designed specifically for the protection of naval installations, in this case Harwich dockyard itself. The site was both a QL and an SF site, meaning it not only replicated the night-time lights of the dockyard (QL site), but also provided the large fires expected from a successful raid (SF or Starfish site).
The decoy site was an elaborate affair, utilising complex lighting arrays and numerous fires of which nothing remains. However, the earth-covered shelter which would have housed the generator needed to power the lights and switchgear and to electrically ignite the fires does survive. An aerial photograph taken shortly after the end of the World War II shows a large area of amorphous dark patches and linear features representing the sites of the decoy fires and fire breaks, bounded by the sea wall to the north and east, and by drainage ditches to the west and south.
The shelter is a brick and concrete bunker, covered by earth to protect it from stray bombs, with a maximum external length of 16.5m and width of 10.75m.
Internally it is divided into three rooms: the Operations Room (4m by 3.2m), the Engine Room (3.5m by 3.8m) and the small toilet room. The Operations Room has an escape hatch and steel ladder at one end and a concrete stove base and flue outlet at the other; four ceramic outlet pipes, probably chanelling for the electric cabling, are on the south wall. The Engine Room still retains its generator mounting base and three steel exhaust pipes on the wall.
In the second area of protection, some 30m to the west of the shelter, is a rectangular concrete building 11m long by 4m wide with a pitched asbestos roof. On its north wall is an oil outlet terminal. This was originally a tank for the great volume of oil required to keep the decoy fires burning for long periods. Contemporary records state the the tank was found to be porous and was replaced by a steel one.
War Office documents relating to the equipment and manning of the bombing decoy HA2 Kirby-le-Soken show that it was operational in August 1941 (the earliest reference to it is 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.

External view of the night shelter

External view of the night shelter

Inside the night shelter

Inside the night shelter

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