“Bomb Craters” are Chilling Reminder of Greenock Blitz

Whitelees Moor in Scotland is punctuated with possible bomb craters, due to its use as a Starfish decoy site in World War Two in a bid to lure German Luftwaffe bombers away from Clyde Shipyards. These craters may have been made during the Greenock Blitz of 1941. (Image: Lairich Rig. Possible World War Two bomb crater on Whitelees Moor above Greenock)

On the night of May 6, 1941, the German Luftwaffe launched a relentless attack against the shipyards at Greenock, a town on the south bank of the River Clyde, in Scotland’s historic county of Renfrewshire. Despite the military target, civilians bore the brunt of the two-night bombardment that became known as the Greenock Blitz. As the bombs fell, 271 people were killed, more than 10,000 were injured, and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. But had it not been for a series of decoys on the desolate moors south of the town, the casualty rate may have been far higher.

Possible bomb craters littering Whitelees Moor above the River Clyde in Scotland may have been blasted during the 1941 Greenock Blitz. (Image: Lairich Rig. The “bomb craters” are in the vicinity of a WW2 Starfish decoy site)

The British government deployed numerous decoy sites during World War Two in a bid to protect high value targets such as shipyards, airfields, factories and the like. The barren expanse of Whitelees Moor south of Greenock, between the town and Loch Thom, offered an ideal location for a “Starfish decoy” installation built as part of the Clyde Anti-Aircraft Defences. Almost 80 years later, the barren moorland still bears the scars of that subterfuge.

"Bomb crater" from the time of the Greenock Blitz. (Image: Lairich Rig)

Across Whitelees Moor, close to the Old Largs Road, are a series of waterlogged holes – believed to be bomb craters – that may thus reveal the effectiveness of the decoy fires. According to Secret Scotland, records indicate that at least one Naval “Starfish” decoy (numbered GG2) was built on the moor, and another site numbered GG3 is also mentioned.

(Image: Lairich Rig)

Starfish was the codename given to Special Fire (SF) decoys, whereby controlled fires would be deployed in depopulated areas in an effort draw enemy bombers and reconnaissance aircraft away from strategic targets. The idea was the brainchild of Colonel Sir John F. Turner of the Royal Engineers. (Click here for a more detailed summary of different decoy sites and techniques.)

(Image: Lairich Rig)

Secret Scotland writes: “Using techniques borrowed from stage and film, the decoy sites simulated factories, railway yards, docks, urban layouts such as cities and towns, airfields, and the effects of incendiaries and bombs. Many of these sites were designed and built by Sound City Films at Shepperton Studios, whose General Manager was Campbeltown born Scot Norman Louden.”

The surviving WW2 fire control bunker on Whitelees Moor above Greenock, Scotland. (Image: Raibeart MacAoidh. WW2 fire control bunker on Whitelees Moor above Greenock)

Returning to Greenock, and local reports also indicate the presence of two Naval decoys in the vicinity of Whitelees Moor, a QL (lighting) installation above Gryffe Reservoir, and a QF (fire) decoy to the west in direction of Old Largs Road. According to the website, “Q Sites” were night decoys, whereas “K” denoted day installations.

Memorial to those killed in Greenock bombings, including the intensive Greenock Blitz which occurred over two nights in May 1941. (Image: Lairich Rig. Memorial to those killed in Greenock bombings)

Whitelees is also home to a brick and concrete QF decoy control bunker, which was reportedly built by the Air Ministry to oversee the fires on the moor. The barren landscape is at peace again today, but the relics of war are never far away. Down the hill, in the town’s cemetery, a memorial bears the inscription: “Dedicated to the everlasting memory of the citizens of Greenock who died as a result of the air raids 1940-1941”. Of those raids, the Greenock Blitz of 6–7 May 1941 was the most intensive.

Related: The ‘Beaulieu Letters’: Echoes of Hampshire’s Great War Past


About the author: Tom


Website: https://www.urbanghostsmedia.com



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