Nazeing Common 'KQ' site.
One of wartimes carefully kept secrets was the building of dummy or decoy airfields. Nazeing Common, just to the south of present day Harlow, was such a site.
Designed to be a decoy for nearby North Weald airfield, this site was for day and night use, hence the designation 'KQ'.
The idea for dummy structures or installations was designed to attract bombs away from the real airfield, It stemmed from an idea by Colonel John Turner, a Civil Engineer who became head of 'Works & Buildings' with the Air Ministry.
He was instrumental in conceiving these decoy airfield sites, of which over two hundred and thirty were built. He was himself a pilot and also understood the infrastructure and design of military airfields. With his HQ in the Shepperton Film studios, his department had the knowledge of deceptive construction, the big film company's were masters at creating an illusion from canvas and wood.
Dummy Hawker Hurricane aircraft made from These materials, among other things, were produced by a company called Greens Engineering, and were deemed very effective when in place. On these sites these dummy aircraft were moved around to simulate day to day movement on the 'airfield' to German reconnaisance aircraft and also their night bombers.
Regular RAF airmen were used to man these 'airfields'. They were also protected by anti-aircraft guns and had the same lighting system in appearance as a normal airfield. By the use of some very clever lighting the men could simulate moving aircraft and create flarepaths, the illusion to German bomber crews was very effective. and for all intents and purposes, from a height, these dummy airfields looked like the real thing and succesfully attracted bombs away from the real airfield.
Command and control bunkers were built away from the layout of the 'airfield' so as to give the crews some protection. These buildings housed generators for powering the lighting and had an ops room where the the lights were operated from, and where contact could be maintained by telephone to the controlling station ie: North Weald itself. The other bunker at Nazeing was used for shelter and a general area for sleeping and cooking.
There were two incidents involving aircraft trying to attempt a landing on the decoy airfield at Nazeing common. A Vickers Wellington of 9 squadron from Honington Norfolk was returning from an operational flight and made a less than perfect landing. It was dismantled by an RAF recovery crew from North Weald and sent for repair. A Percival Proctor training aircraft also suffered the same fate.
The land on the site is as it appears today, very hilly, and not at all what you expect from an 'airfield'. The lighting was mounted on wooden poles of varying lengths, so as to keep the proportion and angles right in it's appearance from the air.
These sites were in operation from June 1940, but it is thought the Germans had detected Nazeing as a decoy site by the end of December. The site probably closed by the end of July 1941 as land was needed for increased agriculture. The decoy was originally built on common grazing land, and this was put to the plough in August 1941.
Today, as you drive from Bumbles Green towards Harlow, it is possible to see one of the bunkers protruding from the field. The main part of the decoy airfield was further to the east on farmland.
A small page from a diary kept by a pupil at the nearby Bumbles Green school reveals the amount of ordnance dropped by German bombers in the vicinity of the Decoy airfield at Nazeing common. This page was found during renovations at the old school that is now being converted to a house.