Lancashire At War.co.uk
Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire
Formby War Walk
This page is informed mostly by two walks which centered around forgotten history and structures belonging to World War Two and The Cold War (and other sites of less interest to our specific areas of investigation: the establishment of a late 19th Century resort) by the Formby Civic Society. Our thanks to them for taking the time to research these sites and then creating accessible walks for the public and for publicising them.
These walks include sites from World War Two and the Cold War, including: WW2 & Cold War Royal Observer Corps sites; WW2 Decoy sites, A WW2 Firing Range, A lost WW2 Radar Site and a possible WW2 bomb crater.
The West Coast of Britain was seen as a threat during WW2 for various reasons - including its long flat beaches that were deemed a good invasion threat for both sea and air (especially glider) invasion. But also as the neutrality of Ireland was always a concern to the British government - was there a possibility Germany cound make some sort of deal with Britain's nearest neighbours? And so it was that the West coast received all sorts of anti-invasion structures.
We did not follow either walk in its entirety, nor in a particular order. So lets look at the remaining structures one by one:
First up is a firing range dating back to WW2 (RIGHT & BELOW). According to Formby Civic Society: "This is our only surviving structural reminder of King's Liverpool Regiment [whose] main depot was here in Formby at Harrington Barracks throughout the Second World War."
Click on one of the ABOVE photos to make them bigger. The firing range is in a natural bowl in the dunes. The large curved wall shows a great deal of bullet holes, surprisingly the large buttresses are on the firing side. This structure has suffered a lot of vandalism and is slowly being engulfed by nature.
BELOW LEFT: This remaining structure is a WW2 Starfish Control Shelter. This is where the generators were housed to give the decoy its power, it would also have been where the operatives sheltered in case the site drew enemy bombs - which it was meant to do. It was one of fourteen local sites (Ref: Colin Dobinson) all intended to fool enemy planes into thinking the lights these decoys generated were in fact, Liverpool. Liverpool's decoys failed to protect the city, although perhaps this one took one bomb away from the city centre - according to the Formby Civic Society, the nearby 'Devil's Hole' (BELOW RIGHT) is not seen on pre-1940's aerial photography and could have been caused by a German bomb.
BELOW: More photos of the Starfish Control Shelter - Click on one to make it bigger.
One structure that no longer survives is the Stella Maris Hotel, built in 1905. LIke other buildings built nearby in an attempt to create the resort Formby-By-The-Sea, it was demolished after the resort failed to take off. However, what is of interest is that according to the Formby Civic Society, this hotel was adapted for war use during WW2.
In their Ravenmeols Heritage walks guide, Formby Civic Society, state that this building during WW2 became a Chain Home High Radar Station. A drawing (BELOW) shows the hotel with a kind of radar set up built on its roof. This image is taken from the Society's Heritage Walk pdf available on line (see link lower down the page).
ABOVE: Photos of the Stella Maris Hotel from the information boards located on the walk.
RIGHT: The site today. Nothing remains of the building. However, the Formby Civic Society walk pdf says that the concrete (seen here) is the base for the generators.
A map of many of the features found on the two Formby Civic Society walks, this photograph taken from one of the information boards on the walk.
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BELOW: Two Royal Observor Corps structures side by side. The square concrete structure is the surviving part of a relatively rare ROC Observation Post from WW2. According to the website http://www.subbrit.org.uk/ , the WW2 structure was from the Royal Navy, not ROC as Formby Civic Society say. Plus they have a photo of it before demolition HERE
Next to it is a much vandalised Cold War ROC monitoring bunker. There are thousands of these across the country (see our Cold War page HERE). It is nice to see them side by side. The Cold War post is interesting in that it is built on sand dunes and the Bottom Right photo shows a sloping concrete and mesh support, we presume, built to help support it. The Subbrit.org.uk site says it was abandoned during the 1960's due to erosion - see the above link for more details.