Saturday 23 October 2010

The Langstone Archipelego

Went out with Langstone Cutters in the Clayton skiff Mabel today. The forecast predicted a heavy shower midday, so we got out the instant we could get Mabel in - she lives on a mooring 200 yards out in the harbour that only gets wet a couple of hours before high tide.
It was a bit breezy and the wide expanse of Langstone Harbour gets quite choppy compared with the relatively narrow channels of Chichester Harbour, so we stayed at the top end where the waves were more manageable. This also gave us a chance to row round the islands.
North and South Binness Islands, Long Island and Baker's Island were dotted with lights in the Second World War to distract attention from Portsmouth on one side and the air base at Thorney Island on the other.
It got blitzed regularly, according to the fascinating Langstone Harbour WW2 Decoy Site:
"To help protect Portsmouth from German night bombing, a series of 'Q' decoy sites were built in Langstone Harbour and on Sinah Common Hayling Island. These elaborate constructions consisted of two main elements. Firstly a string of carefully positioned structures were erected, mainly in the north of the harbour, which when lit from the inside would mimic the effect of light shining through chinks in doors and windows in a carelessly blacked out area. The second, and most crucial element of the deception plan was the deployment of decoy fires known as "Starfish" sites. These decoys were designed to present to the enemy pilots a convincing illusion of a city under attack.
This site was often dramatically successful; on the night of 17/18 April 1941, over 140 enemy aircraft were lured away and un-loaded in excess of 200 air-dropped munitions, originally intended for the City of Portsmouth, into Langstone Harbour and Farlington Marshes. This was the most successful Q-site operation of the entire war."
The islands are now owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who maintain it as a reserve and very successfully too, judging by the huge flocks of godwits and Brent geese we saw. Then an osprey appeared, majestically soaring overhead, and all the birds buggered off sharpish.

1 comment:

Tillerman said...

Cool. We read about that decoy operation in WW2 when we were there. Poor Hayling Island!

One day when I wasn't sailing we walked the Hayling Billy trail. We would have seen you if you had been out rowing that same route on that day!