RAF Decoy scheme - "Manchester on the moors"

Discussion in 'Stories' started by James Pickering, Dec 24, 2005.

  1. James Pickering

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    My hometown of Burnley was involved in a decoy/subterfuge scheme in WW2 as were other locations in Great Britain.

    The government literally created "Manchester on the Moors" -- the idea was to build a fake or simulated industrial complex in a remote area, but in close proximity to Manchester and on the Luftwaffe bombing run approach, thereby enticing the bombardiers to drop their load there.

    A large expanse of desolate moor land to the south of Burnley, in the vicinity of Crown Point, was set aside -- cordoned off and guarded 24 hours a day -- and a good sized mock industrial complex of plywood structures erected. Each of these mockups contained a single electric light bulb and enough discreet chinks were provided to wink an attractive target from the air at night.

    I believe this elaborate decoy was erected and activated sometime in 1940. The construction, maintenance and guarding was accomplished by a detachment of RAF all of whom were from Ulster, Northern Ireland, who were voluntarily (and patriotically) billeted with local residents (the government provided extra food rations) living on the southern fringes of Burnley. My Auntie Clara and uncle Jim Howarth housed two of them in their house at 59 Glen View Road, -- A/C Billy Russell and A/C Sidney Watters. They were fine men and became good friends of the family -- including me.

    Both Billy and Sidney maintained contact with us after the war -- Sidney, who became a Bank officer in London, used to visit Auntie Clara every year until she died in 1979. I would dearly like to make contact with him if he is still alive -- he would be in his eighties now.

    The whole project was hush-hush and I don't recall any press coverage of it. I don't think many people in Burnley were even aware of its existence -- outside of those actually involved in it.

    Did the scheme work? Well, I don't think it was at all successful -- I only recall a couple of stray bombs being dropped on "Manchester on the Moors" during the entire war.

    Another interesting type of decoy plus a good reference on this subject can be found at:
    http://www.ajg41.clara.co.uk/mirrors/cherrycobbdecoy.html
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I never knew the Brits did that. Thanks for the info.

    Ive seen pix of fake cities being built over some US aircraft factories. I will have to see if theres any internet pics available.
     
  3. Medvedya

    Medvedya Active Member

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    I'm surprised they chose that spot, you'd have thought they'd want to keep bombers away from the industrial centres of Accrington and Blackburn.

    They could have bombed Colne of course - that wouldn't have mattered much :twisted:
     
  4. James Pickering

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    Actually quite a distance from those two places -- Burnley had more extensive war essential industries than Accrington.
     
  5. the lancaster kicks ass

    the lancaster kicks ass Active Member

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    and they had to be in the same area as the target city to look realistic........
     
  6. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Very true Lanc, if what is in the wrong place they might not take notice of it, although they might of noted down where it was and come back another night to bomb it.

    I have heard about this before but very interesting all the same James, thank you for sharing the information.

    The British also did this with airfields building fake airfields on moors around England, by using lights in the same pattern as found on a real airfield. These sights (can't remember the codenames they were either 'Q' or 'T' sites. The Germans then where fooled into thinking that the airfield was a real one by the way the lights where switched off, they where then dragged in (so to speak) and bombed the airfield instead of one of the 'real' airfields in the vicinity.
     
  7. the lancaster kicks ass

    the lancaster kicks ass Active Member

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    although in saying that during the nighttime blitz the bomber crews would've been glad to find anything that resembled a city, they weren't picky if it was a few miles out :lol:
     
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