Sandy Haven was a decoy site for Luftwaffe bombers

Today the hamlet of Sandy Haven, with its 6 houses, is a sleepy quiet hollow on the tidal creek, best suited for summer holidays where small boats are moored, children and families play, catch crabs, swim and kayak.   Not many people know that during World War II the fields lying on either side of Sandy Haven Pill were used to decoy Luftwaffe bombers away from the town and docks of Milford Haven.    The town of Milford Haven is built on either side of another tidal creek known as “Priory Pill” and Milford Docks occupy the mouth of this pill (it is now being filled in to provide flat ground for supermarkets such as Tesco, Milford Haven).   Priory Pill lies only 3 miles (5 km) east of Sandy Haven Pill.  The town of Milford Haven with its docks and ship repair facility (including a dry dock) and on its eastern margin, the then mine-filled tunnels of the Royal Naval Armaments Depot, was a target for bombing.  At Pembroke Dock there was a naval dockyard and airbase for Sunderland aircraft.   Nearby on the Dale peninsula there were two airfields, one above the cliffs above Marloes Sands and the other near Broad Haven beach at Talbenny.     Convoys were assembled in the waterway, which was sealed by an anti-submarine net.    The area was of such military importance that it was bombed by long range aircraft of the German Luftwaffe.   The town of Pembroke Dock received most attention with whole streets destroyed and a set of oil tanks at Llanreath above the town set on fire.  Mines were also dropped into the Milford Haven Waterway by the Luftwaffe and several ships were sunk and still lie on the sea bed.

The British High Command soon thought up an ingenious way to alleviate the effects of the bombing.  This was to establish decoy sites to misdirect enemy bombers.   These included dummy airfields with dummy aircraft, bomb dumps and fuel stores.  Sheets of painted canvas were pegged out to resemble aircraft hangers.  The increased use of night raids and incendiary bombs resulted in decoy sites where fires would be lit.   Pembroke Dock had three decoy sites – PD1 at Cosheston Hall, PD2 at East Popton Farm and PD3 at Sawdern Point.

Because of the general similarity of Sandy Haven and Priory Pills, a night-time bombing decoy site was established in the fields on either side of Sandy Haven Pill.     The sites were known as MF1 Sandy Haven and MF2 Herbrandston Hall. The idea was that when Milford Haven was bombed at night any fires were to be extinguished as fast as possible, and bails of hay were to be ignited in the fields around Sandy Haven.  Each area had a night shelter for the men operating the sites and most of these remain today, although now much overgrown.  Recently I met somebody at Sandy Haven who told me his father had spent the war in a shelter in a field above Sandy Haven making tea and waiting to light the hay bales.  Gravel and lime lines were drawn across the fields to resemble roads, weak lights resembling poorly blacked out buildings were put up and in some places lights were shown reflecting off water as though in Milford Docks.  By the end of the war there were 237 of these decoy sites in the UK.

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