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Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII

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JBagley
Coventry
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1 of 15  Mon 13th Feb 2017 1:35pm  
: Joined Jan 2014  Total posts:10

In 1941 (or possibly '42) an attempt was made to camouflage large bodies of water that were being used by the Luftwaffe as navigation aids. These were often visible at great distances particularly on moonlight nights - RAF crews raiding Kiel could spot the Elbe river 50 miles away and test flights found that Liverpool docks were visible from 35 miles. The project was handed to the Admiralties' Department of Miscellaneous Weapon Development or DMWD
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Not Local
Bedworth
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2 of 15  Tue 14th Feb 2017 9:06pm  
: Joined Feb 2014  Total posts:253

An old friend of mine, sadly long departed, used to tell the tale of his old boss Mr Turner who during the war years lived in St. Nicholas Street very close to the canal basin. Apparently Mr Turner had the job of covering the canal basin with a wooden framework covered in canvas so that the German bombers could not see it. He did this whenever there was an air raid warning.
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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3 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 10:28am  
: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3354

Not Local, we viewed all these things as closing the barn door, after the horse had bolted, after they had bombed and emptied the canal at Sutton Stop. How far could they cover the canal, between London and 'Brum' with the boats working as well? There was lots of rumours about ideas to fool the enemy, and some worked perfectly. But the canal?
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Norman Conquest
Allesley
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4 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 11:16am  
: Joined Oct 2014  Total posts:545

I have heard many times that the lake at Coombe Abbey was drained so that enemy aircraft wouldn't be able to find Coventry. If true the ploy certainly didn't work. I would like to see any newspaper reports or photographs of this event. It didn't happen. I believe that most of these stories are just fiction. I also have heard about covering the Coventry basin with canvas when the siren sounded. I certainly wouldn't like to be the guy who had to do this, as the enemy aircraft would often be overhead very shortly after the siren sounded.
Just old and knackered

Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
walrus
cheshire
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5 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 11:43am  
: Joined Dec 2011  Total posts:231

There were many daft ideas suggested during both great wars. Usually these came from self formed committees of well connected people. My particular favourite, a retired admiral suggested stationing rowing boats around our coastline to counter the u-boat threat. One man would row while the other was equipped with a bag and a hammer to break the glass of the periscope. It's not what you know but who you know.
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
JBagley
Coventry
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Thread starter
6 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 11:59am  
: Joined Jan 2014  Total posts:10

As bizarre as it sounds this was actually tried. It is mentioned in several published works on WW2 Camouflage and Deception techniques and the original reports are held by the National Archives: HO186/1334: Camouflage of Water Surfaces: Summary of Experiments and Conclusions by the R&E Dept., dated 5th Sept 1940, and HO186/1985: Techinical Sub Committee 32: Camouflage of Water Surfaces by Means of Dust Films, circa May 1942. There is also mention of the draining of 'Binley Lake' - whether that refers to Coombe pool I don't know but I can't think of any other large bodies of water in that area that would be useful to German pilots.
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Norman Conquest
Allesley
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7 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 3:10pm  
: Joined Oct 2014  Total posts:545

Binley Lake, also known as Stoke Floods, lies behind Harry Shaw's bus park, top of Clifford Bridge Rd. I occasional fished it as a boy. I also fished Coombe during the war. To drain Coombe would be a mammoth task, especially removing, perhaps, a hundred tons of rotting fish. Just had a look at Binley Lake on Google Earth and it appears to be nowhere the size it once was.
Just old and knackered

Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
JBagley
Coventry
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Thread starter
8 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 3:31pm  
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Thanks Norman, that does makes more sense than draining Coombe pool. Had not heard of Stoke Floods - wrong side of town for me!
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Not Local
Bedworth
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9 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 5:16pm  
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Kaga. The canal basin story does sound like closing the barn door etc. However the canal basin is a distinctive shape and could have been a good reference point for the navigator in an aircraft approaching from the east. Norman, I have no way of proving or disproving the story about the canvas cover. My old friend worked for Mr Turner from sometime in the late 1940's until well into the 1950's. I gather that during the war Mr Turner worked as a builder and was given that particular task because he lived right by the canal basin. It could well have been part of his Home Guard duties or a vague memory says he may have worked for the council. Mr Turner's post-war business was basically scrap reclamation - he and his men worked on the sites of the bombed factories cutting up twisted girders but saving straight ones for use in the reconstruction of the city. My friend told me that the factories they worked on were the ones which had been completely destroyed during the air raids. They also recovered scrap metal from factories and worked father afield recovering scrap metal from army lorries by setting fire to the wooden bodies.
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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10 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 5:22pm  
: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3354

We knew about most of these things during the war. The cardboard tanks, the bouncing bomb etc, almost everyone was in uniform, so it all came back to the people. My cousin was aircrew bomber command, as a boy he had lived in a wooden hut at the slough, he and I used to skim pebbles across the water, so he told me about a bouncing bomb long before it was used. Several forum members have mentioned about building bikes, so you can imagine the delight I had when given a fold up bike, told to strip it down, then re-assemble it and get used to it. You should have seen my mum's face when I first put my string vests into the wash when on leave one time. The war was all about new ideas, today I look around and think, I know where that came from. Am I boring you?
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Not Local
Bedworth
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11 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 5:34pm  
: Joined Feb 2014  Total posts:253

Kaga, You have a big advantage over me in that your stories about the war are all firsthand where mine are often secondhand or in the case of the canal basin a thirdhand story. You should have kept the folding bike because they are now worth a fortune! I remember seeing them in the scrap yards in the 60's with the letters 'BSA' clearly cast into the chain wheel just to show the Germans where they were made. My father had a string vest.
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
coventry49
Budleigh Salterton, Devon
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12 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 8:37pm  
: Joined Jan 2015  Total posts:190

I know this comment isn't strictly about the Canal but may be of interest to younger members of the Forum. The rear of the factory visible on Quarry Field Lane (opposite London Road Cemetery) and on Mile Lane side had camouflage paint still visible in the 1980s. You could see the shape and colour of green hills. It was Rolls Royce then but would have been another firm during the war, perhaps Armstrong Siddeley?
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Midland Red
Cherwell
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13 of 15  Wed 15th Feb 2017 9:12pm  
Moderator, : Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:5061

There was also camouflage paint along the Bristol Siddeley factory wall on Quinton Road from Mile Lane towards the railway line
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Slim
Another Coventry kid
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14 of 15  Thu 16th Feb 2017 7:08am  
: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:614

And camouflage paint on the large ugly brick factory building skirting the A45 at Ryton. I believe it was originally Rootes/Humber, then Chrysler, then it became Peugeot. It's all gone now of course, like most of the old English engineering and car industry. Some of the Massey's buildings at Banner Lane were also camouflaged with paint; another shadow factory. Some of the things that were tried might sound like daft ideas now, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Once in a while, an idea might just work. There's nothing to lose by trying.
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII
Wearethemods
Aberdeenshire
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15 of 15  Thu 16th Feb 2017 9:42am  
: Joined Jun 2013  Total posts:449

On 15th Feb 2017 8:37pm, coventry49 said: I know this comment isn't strictly about the Canal but may be of interest to younger members of the Forum. The rear of the factory visible on Quarry Field Lane (opposite London Road Cemetery) and on Mile Lane side had camouflage paint still visible in the 1980s. You could see the shape and colour of green hills. It was Rolls Royce then but would have been another firm during the war, perhaps Armstrong Siddeley?
Yes 49, Armstrong Siddeley Thumbs up
Wartime and the Blitz - Camouflaging Coventry Canal in WWII

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