Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

Decoy Site for Lower Darwen,

Blackburn ROF - Haslingden Grane Road

Just a stonesthrow away from another decoy site off the Grane Road (between Haslingden and Blackburn), is this one. While the other was one of five to protect Accrington, this site was on its own to protect the ROF factory at Lower Darwen, Blackburn, known locally as 'The Fuse' or 'Fuze'. Whether it was manned by the same team who looked after the decoy site for Accrington is unknown - but due to their close proximity, you would imagine it to be the case.

 

This site is a different in design to the surviving ones for Accrington. Colin Dobinson ('Fields Of Deception' (Methuen 2000)) lists it as a QF/QL site on Oswaldtwistle Moor (though the control building pictured here is just "off" the area of the moor to my mind.

 

Dobinson lists it as one of the first "army decoy" sites which opened in the Spring/early Summer of 1941.

Further explanation of QL, QF, Starfish and other terms can be found on our general Decoy Page HERE.

 

See photos of the Munitions Factory, known locally as "The Fuse" at the bottom of the page.

021 (640x480) 014 (480x640) 005 (640x480) 009 (480x640) 003 (640x480) 010 (640x480) ROF Darwen 1 (640x480) ROF Darwen 2 (640x480) (2) darwen ammunition factory Lower Darwen ROF Lower Darwen ROF 2009

The Haslingden Grane Road decoy site on Oswaldtwistle Moor was located to protect the Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) at Lower Darwen, Blackburn.

 

 

Right, are two Google earth images of the site. The Top one shows the factory still standing in around 2000. The one below shows the demolished factory around 2009. The site is currently for sale and will probably become housing, based on the modern housing estate built adjacent to it which expands across the two photos.

ROF Blackburn, according to Wikipedia: "Commonly known locally as the "Fuse" or "Fuze", because the majority of components in production related to the fuse mechanisms used on most explosive devices at the time, bombs.

 

Along with mass production of fuse mechanisms, it also developed Safety and Arming Mechanisms, S&A Units for many more of the sophisticated weapons in development during and after WWII. These S&A units provided safe handling for missiles whilst under transit conditions and safety for operator personnel up to the time of having to be armed. Bombs and missiles need specific launch conditions to be fulfilled to stop injury and fatalities to handlers during pre-launch."

Pastscape states: "A Second World War bombing decoy site on Oswaldtwistle Moor. It was built as part of the 'A-series' of army decoys to deflect enemy bombing from the Royal Ordnance Factory at Blackburn, for which it also operated as part of the 'C-series' of civil decoys. The site functioned as both a 'QF' and 'QL' decoy.

 

The 'QF' decoy consisted of a series of controlled fires lit during an air raid to replicate a target struck by bombs. The 'QL' decoy displayed simulated factory lighting to reconstruct the Royal Ordnance Factory during a poor blackout. The site is referenced as being in use during 1942 and 1943. Aerial photography from 1964 shows that the remains of a mound is all that survived of the decoys.

Above: bomb devices from Darwen munitions factory, taken in Blackburn museum.

There is a kind of terrible beauty to them.

Below Left: the Fuse in 1941

Below right: The King & Queen visit The Fuse in 1941

Right: Two photos of the site in 2014.

The factory is now demolished and no doubt it will become housing.

Fuse 1941 Fuse Blackburn

Postscript: courtesy of Lancashire Telegraph Wednesday, 12 February 2014

 

"Blackburn’s Royal Ordnance Factory produced fuses for the shells and bombs that would later fall on the Western desert and German cities, including Munich and Berlin.

In its production halls clockwork mechanisms were machined and assembled, mainly by women.

It is said there were three men, to every 200 women, as most of them were fighting in the conflict.

The site at Blackamoor was a prime target for enemy planes, so it was covered in special camouflage paint, designed to reflect the landscape and make the buildings invisible to pilots in the sky.

 

There was a pillbox, where machine gunners would have been scrambled if a lucky Luftwaffe crew managed to pinpoint it – as well as a lookout post, where, one day employee Albert Whiston spotted a German Dornier aircraft on its bomb run.

The enemy did know about ROF Blackburn, however, and several unsuccessful raids were made, though production continued round the clock.

During the war, the factory employed a 5,000-strong workforce on two 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, while a big loudspeaker would belt out wartime favourites across the shopfloor."

Update November 2017

The above text says that "the enemy" knew about ROF Blackburn and here is the evidence. This luftwaffe reconnaissance photo from 1941. We have "circled in yellow" the factory they correctly identified.

 

If you look closely you can see that they wrote on the photo the numbers 1 to 5 and drew lines to these points of interest. In the text they have described what these are. Using Google Translate we have done our best to translate them, though the description of one point (4) is missing from the photo.

 

"State weapons and munitions factory R. O. F.

 

1. Ansch power plant, massive, various roof types, chimneys. About 1200sqm

 

2 Design and construction of the same production and manufacturing building for the manufacture of scales and flak grenades, one - storey. Shed and ash flat roofers. about 14500sqm

 

3. Further fabrication and production hall, massive

 

5. Plant and outbuildings are massive, different types of roofs about 1700 sqm

 

Built up area about 19400 sqm

Total expansion 76400 sqm

 

The work is said to have underground weapons but are not in the picture"

ROF Blackburn (826x1024)

ROF Blackburn