HeritageGateway - Home
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.

HER Number:MDV72100
Name:Starfish Bombing Decoy, Ide


Second World War "Starfish" bombing decoy for Exeter, visible as ephemeral earthworks and cropmarks on aerial photographs taken during 1945 and 1946; large sub-oval enclosure ditches served as firebreaks, and small circular ring-shaped level areas used for light emplacements. Any temporary structures had been removed by September 1945 and no remains were observed on available aerial photographs that post-dated April 1946.


Grid Reference:SX 901 893
Map Sheet:SX98NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishShillingford St. George
Ecclesiastical ParishEXMINSTER

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 1469940

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BOMBING DECOY (World War II - 1939 AD to 1945 AD (Between))

Full description

Royal Air Force, 1945, RAF/106G/UK/865, RAF/106G/UK/865 RVp1 6056-6057 30-SEP-1945 (Aerial Photograph). SDV355699.

Numerous circular ring-shaped earthwork banks, three slight sub-oval earthwork ditches and four cropmark enclosures are visible.

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/106G/UK/1412, RAF/106G/UK/1412 RP 3255-3256 13-APR-1946 (Aerial Photograph). SDV352504.

Three pale irregularly shaped cropmarks are visible.

Dobinson, C. S., 1996, Bombing decoys of WWII (Report - non-specific). SDV324125.

Francis, P., 1999, Exeter Airport. Historic Airport Survey for Devon County Council & East Devon District Council, 60 (Report - non-specific). SDV323390.

The Starfish was the result of the 1942 Baedeker raids on historic cities. Its purpose was to provide a similar range of fire effects to those that an enemy bomber aircrew would expect to see when their target city (Exeter) had been hit.

Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R., 2014-2015, East and Mid Devon River Catchments National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV356883.

The decoy site is visible as a range of ephemeral or slight earthwork features on aerial photographs taken in 1945 and 1946. In one field, three pale suboval ring shaped features, between 40 and 50 metres in maximum extent, appear to be slight ditched earthworks of circa 5 metres in width, each with numerous narrower internal subrectangular or curving pale areas, also probably slight ditches or maybe compacted surfaces. In the field immediately to the west, four further irregular ring-shaped features are visible as cropmarks of broadly the same dimensions, although internal features are indistinctly visible in only one. Numerous much smaller and almost circular features are visible in the former field, as ring-shaped probable earthworks approximately 6 metres in diameter, the raised lip less than a metre wide. Only the three large earthwork features are visible on aerial photographs taken in 1946, and they were not observed on any of the later available aerial photographs. The features correspond to the location of a bombing decoy, and it is likely that they are the remains of a ‘starfish’ site created to draw enemy aircraft away from Exeter during the Second World War. The sub-oval features may be the remains of firebreaks around temporary structures. The smaller circular features resemble bomb craters in size and plan, but they do not appear to have any depth and are more likely to be a part of the decoy site. The superstructures were probably removed soon after the war ended, and the ephemeral remains do not seem to have survived beyond the 1940s.

Roger Thomas, Historic England, 2015, Correspondence by email and telephone, 02/07/2015 (Personal Comment). SDV358718.

The small circular features are light positions to simulate breaks in the blackout. They are rarely if ever seen on aerial photographs. They require level ground, but a cut would not necessarily be deep. There were originally probably similar features in the field to the west.
The features inside the northernmost of the 3 clearest firebreaks (SX9022889433) are probably from firebaskets, the ground beneath having been compacted (depending on how whether or many times they had been fired). The two other clearly visible firebreaks in this field contain more widely dispersed features, probably from oil fires.
The absence of visible bomb craters does not imply that this decoy was unsuccessful; the effect on air crews was not necessarily predictable and decoys that are known to have attracted bombing on several occasions will not always have bomb craters on site.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV323390Report - non-specific: Francis, P.. 1999. Exeter Airport. Historic Airport Survey for Devon County Council & East Devon District Council. Airfield Research Publishing Report. Digital + A4. 60.
SDV324125Report - non-specific: Dobinson, C. S.. 1996. Bombing decoys of WWII. Twentieth Century Fortifications in England. III. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV352504Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/106G/UK/1412. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF/106G/UK/1412 RP 3255-3256 13-APR-1946.
SDV355699Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1945. RAF/106G/UK/865. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF/106G/UK/865 RVp1 6056-6057 30-SEP-1945. [Mapped feature: #99789 ]
SDV356883Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R.. 2014-2015. East and Mid Devon River Catchments National Mapping Programme Project. AC Archaeology Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV358718Personal Comment: Roger Thomas, Historic England. 2015. Correspondence by email and telephone. Not Applicable. 02/07/2015.

Associated Monuments

MDV112967Related to: Possible Bomb Crater North of Little Silver Plantation (Monument)
MDV112637Related to: Probable Bomb Craters South-East of Pynes Farm (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4774 - Historic Airport Survey, Exeter Airport
  • EDV6530 - The East and Mid-Devon Rivers Catchment NMP project (Ref: ACD613)

Date Last Edited:Oct 19 2015 5:53PM