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Tadpole Bridge Decoy Airfield, Oxfordshire

The remains of a WW2 decoy airfield near Bampton, Oxfordshire.

This site is a former WW2 decoy airfield on river meadows by the River Thames near Bampton in West Oxfordshire. It took the form of a large array of oil fired runway lights spread out across open farmland in the shape of the runways at nearby RAF Brize Norton, the intent being to confuse Luftwaffe bomber crews into wasting their bombs.

Today the site is simply a large field with the shelter once used by the RAF personnel in the middle of it, partially covered by undergrowth. This shelter is of different design to the single room shelter at Grendon Underwood decoy, in this case it is a three room structure partially recessed into the ground. An overview of the site shows both the shelter and the field where the lights once stood.

Moving towards the shelter, the entrance is half way down one side. A set of steps take you down to floor level, at the moment under 6 inches or so of water. This being a river meadow it has a high water table and is likely to flood at least once a year so you have to question the logic behind recessing the shelter in the ground when the pillboxes on the nearby Thames defensive stop line are built up on concrete plinths to escape the flooding.

The shelter has three rooms. Standing at the bottom of the steps in the entranceway you have the main room to your left and a smaller room with what looks like a hole for a generator exhause to your right. Excusing the poor quality of photographs taken balanced precariously on submerged rubble, here is a view of the main room which though it is now full of rubbish looks as though it has been furnished and fitted with a new door at some time since the war.

On the other side the small room is simply full of earth and rubble.

At the far end of the main room is the usual escape hatch in the roof. The view down it merely gives a new perspective on the rubbish inside.

 Standing back from the shelter for a minute you can see that it retains some of its earth covering.

This is not a legendary site. It wasn't destined for distinguished service and it wasn't designed to last long. It is unclear whether even it served its purpose of attracting the Luftwaffe. As you can see from the photographs above it's now little more than a rubbish-filled and half flooded ruin in a field. So what's the attraction? For me it's the very unremarkability that gives it interest. People make pilgrimages to high profile sites like Biggin Hill or the Normandy beaches yet who thinks of the RAF servicemen who spent their nights here, no doubt freezing their nuts off waiting for the Luftwaffe to spot them?

Hazards are few, nettles, a few inches of water. It does lie on private property so have a care for the farmers livelihood if you find it. To locate it stop at the pub by the bridge, have a pint, put on your walking boots and follow your nose.