Surface Sites - 'Q' Decoy Site

 Created 16-03-2002   Last update 19-01-2013

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aerial photo of Farlington Marshes 1969

 This aerial photo of Farlington Marshes was spotted in the Natural History Museum in Cumberland House Portsmouth. It was taken in 1969. The location of the Q decoy site (arrowed) and its access road are clearly visible. There is no evidence of either today.

farlington starfish site

 This was the site of the Farlington starfish. Enough fuel was stored here to allow the the decoy fires to burn at full intensity for 4 hours on 2 consecutive nights. The Farlington Control No2 bunker is in the bushes, one third the way down and one third in from the left. 

Farlington Starfish control site

 The Farlington Control No2 bunker. This is a cut-down version of  the Farlington Control No1 bunker, measuring 19 feet by 12 feet. It has no observation hatch. The blast wall protected entrance is on the other side. 

 Fort Purbrook, the  main control, is on the centre of the skyline on Portsdown in the background. 

q site - Hayling Control

 The Hayling Island control centre. The roof has been removed and the building filled in. Access was to the rear of the structure. The opening was the observation position, commanding a fine view across Langstone Harbour. The residents of Hayling Island were a touch annoyed at having the decoy site so close to them, and what started off as a top secret installation ended up the subject of public debate.   

Sinah Common sub control

 Sinah Golf Course Hayling Island, formerly Sinah Common. This was the location of the Hayling Starfish. To the extreme right of the picture is one of the many  pill-boxes (Type FW3/22) in the area. The copse to the left of the large maintenance building contains a well preserved Sinah Control bunker of a type similar to the one at Farlington Marshes.

South Hayling HAA gunsite


This was the Heavy Anti-aircraft Artillery (HAA) battery at southwest Hayling, located half a mile from the Sinah Common Q decoy site. On the night of 17/18 April 1941, with the Q decoy site in full operation,  it was destroyed by direct hits with heavy loss of life. 




The following emails have been received relating to the Farlington Q-Site.


NEW - 19-01-2013

I don't know if you are still adding things to your Portsdown Tunnels website - I was just having a look at it and found the page about the old foundations discovered on the small island out on Farlington Marshes [see below].

To confirm it was indeed a house that was built there and there is a photograph of it attached to this email if you wanted to share it. As your reports suggest it was used to guard the oyster beds but there is confusion as to whether the house was destroyed in the war or demolished due to rising sea levels in the 1950's.

Sam Miller - January 2013


Oyster Catcher's House

The Oyster Catcher's House. See below for how this story developed.



NEW - 19-01-2013

I came across your site a while ago and being both interested and impressed I often refer back to it.

I am a member of Langstone Sailing Club, and I often wonder about the success of the Starfish SF16 set-up when out on the mud driving in spades working on moorings !

My late friend Jenny used to tell of her dad, Bob Milne, a test pilot for Airspeed at Portsmouth. One of his daily jobs on test flights was to 'count the new bomb craters in Langstone Harbour'. This always sounded a bit of an odd thing to ask a busy test pilot to do, so I took to the internet and found the answer courtesy of your efforts - thank you!

Bob Milne started with Sopwith Camels in the anti-Bolshevik Campaign and flew just about every WWII aircraft going and retired testing Comet jet airliners.

Jenny also told me that on one of his test flight he discovered a clear pathway through the barrage balloons [in Portsmouth] straight to the docks. This was quietly but urgently reported and Bob up took a chap who was responsible for the balloons to demonstrate. The gap was then closed; Bob always suspected 'Fifth Columnists'.


Andy Lawson - Langstone Sailing Club - January 2013



 NEW - 18-04-2012

I promised you we'd have a go at getting some shots of the Binness Islands when we were next there. Yesterday was our club's dinghy cruise round the harbour, and I've attached some shots that may be of interest. The first and best one is of the South West shore of Baker's Island [shown below], where there are 4 brick structures that can plainly be seen close to the shore. On your chart this is listed as a fires site, so perhaps these were some sort of kilns.

Most of the Islands are now protected as bird nesting sites, so unfortunately landing is prohibited and the sites are closely monitored.

The only permitted landing site is now part of Long Island, which I explored thoroughly. This is listed as a lights site, and there are no traces that I could find. The island is very low lying, little more than grass and shells, and is obviously overtopped by winter storms, so I don't think any metalwork would stand much chance of surviving all this time.

It certainly gave us all pause for thought on such a glorious spring day to reflect on the role those little islands played 70 years ago to the week. I could see no obvious evidence on any of the other islands from a close pass to seaward, but Baker's Island is certainly worth further investigation if something can be negotiated with the Bird Police.

Anyway, hope this is of some help and thanks again for a great website that constantly fascinates.

Paul Lovejoy - Tudor Sailing Club - April 2011

Baker's Island 2011

The four brick structures on the south west shore of Baker's Island.



NEW - 29-05-2012

I have just visited you site from a link on the Wikipedia site and I came a cross the photo [see above] of a line of four brick buildings on the south western shore line of Baker's Island. I can confirm that the buildings in question are not kilns, but are Second World War pillboxes. know this as I did some research into the fortifications of the Portsmouth area from the Second World War in the later part of the last century.


Roger Dyer - May 2012


I personally don't think this is correct. Anyone care to help? Bob Hunt



NEW - 04-06-2010

Roger Thompson's email, of June 2009 asks where Garden House was on Hayling Island. The 1939 directory in the local museum shows that going from west to east Garden House was the second house on the south side of Hollow Lane. I have heard the story about a Mr Jones being killed, when the air-raid shelter he built was bombed. I was told that his daughter, on losing her father was so shocked that she lost her hair.

There was other damage to property in Hollow Lane and Fry's cottage was flattened but I don't know if this was on the same night.

Ann Griffiths - June 2010



NEW - 08-06-2009

My Grand Uncle was Archibald Thomas Jones the very successful Builder whose main Office was situated in Havant. Since I discovered this fact and the fact that he and his current family were killed by a German bomb in their shelter in Hollow Lane on that dreadful night of 17th April 1941, I have been trying to find out more about the incident. I particularly would like to know where exactly his large house called "Garden House" was situated in Hollow Lane. I have been told that it stood opposite "Garden Close" where there is now a block of Flats and I have also been told that an Anti-Aircraft Site was destroyed on that same night, both of which I wanted to confirm.

Amazingly, I key in to my Computer:  "Hayling Island Bombs" and I find your brilliant web-site telling me virtually everything that I wanted to know, including all the information on the Decoy systems employed during the war to protect Portsmouth! Sadly, the Decoys being so effective on that fateful night made the Hayling civilians more vulnerable to being bombed themselves, which of course, is what happened to my relations!!
Anyway, well done in creating this Gem of a website which I shall use often.

Roger Thompson - June 2009



NEW - 26-11-2007


I did your walk [no3 walk] when the tide was very low indeed, and was able to reach a small island to the south of the tip of the marsh. On the island there are the remains of a curious structure which I photographed [see below].

The brickwork looks like it is of the same date and type as the two Starfish bunkers. Any idea what it was? Apart from starfish I cannot think of any other reason for building out there!

Anyway: thank you for a very interesting walk, and for putting together such a fascinating website.

John Turner - November 2007 (a relative of the Colonel JF Turner)

  Possible Q-site structure  

What started off as a totally unidentified structure has now become very well documented due to Portsdown Tunnels contributors'.

Many thanks to you all.


Replies so far...  Notation between [] brackets is mine.


I was very interested today to see the Portsdown Tunnels website and to see the photograph by John Turner of the little island off tip of Farlington marshes, on which my ancestor Matthew Russell Snr (who married Jane Tilley, as stated), had an oyster watchman's house built in 1819 on the tiny island. Matthew Russell was previously a pilot of Portsea, but I have been unable in 30 years to find his origins or where he came from.

About 30 years ago I was sent a line and wash picture of the island with the house on it, painted by a yachtsman who knew the last of the Russell family who owned it. I was told it was bombed during the war and never rebuilt [this is not surprising given that it was located in the middle of the Q-Site!].


"This is the picture which was sent to me in the early 1980s, which the artist and yachtsman, Mr J. L. Hudson copied from his c.1939 picture and kindly sent to me. As I told you previously, Mr Hudson knew the two last Russells to be connected to the island - one was very 'sailing orientated' and I think the other one lived on the mainland".

Kathleen Hollingsbee


I was therefore particularly interested to see the colour photo showing the old foundations of the house, sent to your website by Mr John Turner.

Matthew Russell Senior's eldest son, also Matthew, became an oyster fisherman/dealer at Southwick near Brighton, and his son Thomas Russell, master mariner was my great-grandfather, born at Southwick.

Kathleen Hollingsbee - East Kent - January 2009






I would like to say first of all, thank you for putting together a very interesting web site. I knew that there were tunnel systems and bunkers all over this area, I was just unaware that they were this incredible!

With regards to the picture (above), I believe that this is the Oyster Catchers House. From the directions you have provided on how to get there, and looking at the ruins, I am quite sure that is what this is. To be 100% sure I seem to remember that near the house is an old well, I think it is blocked up now. But if that is near these ruins then you have the Oyster Catchers House. I could not think of a creepier place to live. I remember my Dad taking me out there when I was 14. It was cold and a little bit foggy and it spooked me.

Apparently, the Oyster Catcher lived here right up to the late 1940s early 1950s. Allegedly he was called Russell and to the left of the green finger of mud is where he used to moor his boats and itís called Russellís Creek. He used to catch the Oysters from the Hayling Oyster Bed and sell them in Portsmouth and Hayling. I am unsure why he moved off the Island but when he did the house was just left to crumble into the sea.

Sorry the information I have on this is limited. When you ask the old fishermen about it, itís difficult to tell when they are pulling your leg about wrecks or the islands around these parts. (Apparently there are the ruins of a church on North Binness Island, but I am unable to find any information about this).

Jim Roberts - May 2008




Matthew Russell, who gave his name to the channel leading northwards from Sword Sands towards North Binness Island, married Jane Tilley at St Marys Church Portsea on 12 November 1798. Around 1819, when presumably his family of six sons and two daughters were complete, he took the lease of the small island about 200 metres off the southerly point of Farlington Marshes peninsula. Here a house was built, both as a home, and as a place from which to establish, maintain, and most importantly, guard the proposed oyster beds which were to continue as a viable business for 130 years. The house was called the "Black house" or "Lone house"  and was demolished in 1950.

Ken and Mo - January 2008


I have visited your website on a number of occasions, and find it very interesting.  The picture of what appear to be foundations (update 26/11/2007), reminded me of something I was told just after I left school in 1972 .I happened to mention to my then employer that I saw a house, or what was left of one just off Farlington Marshes to the south. I was told by his Father that it used to be a house(?) used by the oyster fishermen. Perhaps this is what the picture shows?

There are oyster beds at Hayling Island, but the original ones dated from the early 1800's until they fell into disuse in the 1970s. I hope this may shed some light on the subject.

Bob Palframan - December 2007


NEW - 30-03-2006

I found your site while I was researching my grandfather's wartime service. One of my aunts recently gave me a letter which I have scanned in and attach to this e-mail. 

My Grandfather was Thomas Cardwell - he never spoke about his wartime experiences and it was very moving to see the pictures on your site which show where he was stationed.

Congratulations on a very comprehensive and interesting site.

Bob Bell - March 2006


Air Ministry,    
c/o G.P.O.    




  S. 67751.

25TH April, 1941  

I have received a report on the excellent work carried out by Sergeant Cardwell, Corporal Mills and the airmen of the FARLINGTON site detachment after the raid on the night of 10th/11th April. The manner in which the detachment worked unceasingly throughout night in rescue and evacuation operations, regardless of personal danger, reflects great credit on Sergeant Cardwell and the airmen concerned. I understand that the Police and the Vicar of Farlington are also writing to me warmly commending the detachment for their services on this night.

I wish you to parade the FARLINGTON Detachment at the earliest opportunity and read out this letter, and at the same time express my congratulations and appreciation for their work, courage and behaviour under trying circumstances.

Sgd.      J.F. TURNER.      COL.     

The night in question was only one week before the UK's most successful decoy operation of the entire war which is described on page 1. Notice that the letter is from the man himself: Colonel JF Turner who established the Q-Sites. (also discussed on page 1)


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