MHG48328 - Decoy Airfield, Thrumster


A complex of Second World War dummy runways, taxiing strips and service roads.

Type and Period (3)

  • DECOY AIRFIELD (Second World War - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • RUNWAY (Second World War - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • K SITE (Second World War - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

This Second World War decoy airfield is situated in low-lying peat-bog and improved pasture fields at the foot of the NE flank of the Hill of Ulbster. It comprises a control bunker, an air-raid shelter and several other buildings and earthworks, as well as dummy runways, taxiing strips and service roads. The layout of the decoy is best appreciated on vertical aerial photographs, including NLA 1, 24-25 and 324-325, flown 6 February 1941 & and OS 22 87, print 59, flown 7 October 1987.
The surviving remains show that the decoy was designed to operate both by day and by night, and that it was intended to distract the enemy from the 'parent' target at Wick, under whose command it lay (Dobinson 2000; 244). It is also clear, from both the surviving remains and the aerial photographs, that the layout of the decoy broadly mimicked the plan of the airfield at Wick (Smith 1983, 220), although the decoy is only about 70% of the size of Wick.
A complex of dummy runways, taxiing strips and service roads was created in peaty moorland by a mixture of quarry dust and lime, probably after the heather was removed. The complex extends from the road between Thrumster village and Mains of Ulbster Farms on the E to at least the edge of the drier, improved fields on Borrowston farm on the W, covering an area measuring 920m from NW to SE by 880m transversely. The three dummy runways are aligned N to S, NW to SE, and NE to SW respectively, and are enclosed by a dummy perimeter road. Two oval-shaped areas, one on the NW side of the complex and the other on the SE side, may have been created to give the impression of taxiing stances.
Visited by RCAHMS (ATW) 24 August 2004

As stated in previous entry the site is best appreciated from aerial photographs; Sortie CPE/UK/0225, Photo no 3158 & 3159 (1947) are good examples, as is Sortie 106G/UK/0076, Photo no 3279 (1946). From the ground the Hill of Ulbster to the south gives the best viewing point. The NE-SW runway is still very clear until it reaches the triangular plantation to the north, as is the perimetre road <1>. Photographs taken from Hill of Ulbster (from and around chambered cairn MHG2184) to south of decoy airfield <2>.

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred ND 336 435 (728m by 1065m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND34SW
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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