Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

Haslingden Decoy Site

The Haslingden decoy site is one of five decoy sites set up to defend Accrington. The others were Burnley, Worsthorne, Hambledon Hill and Accrington.

 

To learn more about these decoy sites and their role in World War Two - click on our Decoy Site Page HERE

 

For some time we thought all evidence of this site had been lost. Others had looked and come to the same conclusion. What didn't help was the Army Decoy site just up the road for The Fuse in Darwen, which just sought to confuse us more. Then one day we found a reference and map in 'The Spirit of Haslingden & Helmshore' by Chris Aspin & John Simpson. And there was a clear map of the main control bunker and the field where the decoys were set out.

 

So a second visit was made to the site to see what was there. And just where Aspin and Simpson said the control bunker lay, behind the houses called Virgin's Row, is a large grass covered mound of the right size and dimensions. A local man confirmed to me that it was indeed the control bunker. It can be seen close up Right and centrally Below.

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Right: A photo of the airmen who looked after this particular decoy site, pictured, we think, with Far Prietentax (farm) in the background. It was a ruin then as now. Aspin and Simpson name it as the nearby Priestentax (farm) but we believe this to be an error.

 

According to Colin Dobson's "Field of Deception" book, the Accrington sites were set up in Spring 1941 and were under the RAF's Balloon Command. At this stage the Accrington sites were Starfish sites - or Special Fire sites - where fires were lit to look like the target site from the first wave of bombers. In the hope that latter waves would then mistake these sites as the real target and bomb them accordingly. Later these Accrington sites had a QL role - where electric lights were set up to look like a stray light of a factory or the lights of a marshalling yard being common, to again fool the enemy. These QLS were added in Autumn 1941.

 

But by early 1942 two of Accrington's five sites were closed - we do not know which two these were.

 

Right: The field (in the foreground) where the decoys were set up (see Google Earth aerial view of the site below).

 

Below Right: The ruins of Far Priestentax, including the large tree (seen then as a small tree) which features behind the Airmen who worked at the site. The field where the decoys were is below it.

 

I always think to myself when someone asked these men what they did in the war, what did they say? "Well, we deliberately lit fires and shone lights so that the German bombers would drop their bombs on us by accident...."

 

Below: A Google Earth image of the site where the QL and QF (Starfish) decoys were set up - the field is highlighted in yellow. The control bunker is out of the picture further south behind the row of cottages on the Grane Road.

 

Far Priestentax is the ruins just to the west of the top of the field - between the trees. Priestentax is to the right of the field, slightly lower than Far Priestentax, again it has several trees around it.