Ever since seeing a ERP sign in Ramsbottom it has become a bit of an obsession to find out what they were for. There is nothing on the internet about them and so we turned to the archives to see if we could shed some light on what role they had in World War Two. Along the way, fellow enthusiast, Euan Withersby, joined our research team and we are now at the point where we can tell the full story of these mysterious signs.
ERP signs do not hold the same social memory as EWS (Emergency Water Supply) signs. We think this is because EWS signs signified a visible Emergency Water Supply obvious to all at the time and when later explained by parents or grandparents what EWS meant - its role was obvious and remembered. ERP, on the other hand was very much a Civil Defence matter, and because it was not ever made apparant to the general public at the time what its role was, it is not public knowledge. And so: The Mystery.
76 years later we are finally in the position to explain what these signs were for.
Here is Euan's research:
Rendezvous Points (Emergency Rendezvous Points)
Air Raid Precautions Training Manual 2B, Training (ARP TM 2B), shows that Rendezvous Points (RPs) are to provide known locations to allow the rendezvous and co-ordination of ARP and emergency services where some or all of these parties may arrive from other areas, boroughs or unitary districts (UD). This is supported by documents from London County Council in 1940 that show that Rendezvous Points (RPs) where help would arrive from other London boroughs and by the Rendezvous Points list for Civil Defence Region 10 (North West). This shows, for example, help for Liverpool arriving from Preston and N.E. rendezvousing “…by Aintree Station near S.W. corner of Aintree Racecourse.”
They could also be used to co-ordinate these services in one borough or area before moving in convoy to an RP in another. This was a national scheme as indicated by ARP TM 2B and documents from the Ministry of Home Security in May 1940. The key on maps found in archives, the numbering system and the nature of the listing of the RV points for both areas are similar both for Greater London and Ramsbottom (in CD Region 10, a region including Liverpool and Manchester). A search of Bury archives by lancashireatwar.co.uk revealed a correlation between the location of Fire Patrols (FPs) and RPs (known as ERPs in Lancashire) in Lancashire Civil Defence Sub-control Area G (Bury and surrounding areas) and that the RPs were located on the boundaries between boroughs within Area G. This is consistent with the instructions on the selection and purpose of RV points.
RPs were (mainly) positioned at road junctions (“…just off a main road to avoid traffic congestion, should provide ample parking space with good deployment facilities, and have a telephone.”) and were identified by a number and name. In London this is listed as, for example, “Rendezvous 77 Group 9, Sutton and Cheam; High Street / Grove Road, Sutton. (Post Office near Sutton Railway Station)”. The wording in brackets show landmarks, occasionally T.L. is seen (T.L. being an acronym for Traffic Lights). The Lancashire map is more descriptive: “Bolton County Borough Point 4, At Moses Gate Station, junction of Egerton Road with Bolton Road (Point G31)”. The physical wall sign is no longer visible and thus the correlation between the borough point number, the ‘G’ number and the actual number painted on the wall cannot be verified (see the Physical Evidence section on Lancashire).
Process (abriged from various documents listed in the bibliography)
A guide (who may be an ARP warden where there are a number available, otherwise another volunteer may be used for this duty) will stand at the RP with a flag three feet square of vertical Cambridge blue and white six-inch stripes (by day) or two blue hurricane lamps placed side by side (night). The number one (No. 1) guide will not leave the RP but will advise drivers arriving from the depots or other boroughs as to the location of the incident and the best way to it. Drivers only are to exit their vehicles at the RP and inform the guide what they are and which borough they have arrived from (e.g. Stretcher Party from Fulham). If other guides are available, they may travel with the ARP car convoy to the incident, but must be brought back to the RP afterwards.
Alternatively, a relay guide may be provided en route. If on reaching an RP there is no guide available, wait a short time. If no guide appears, drivers are to drive to the incident as best they can or telephone the Depot for instructions if the location of the incident is not known. The incident will be marked by a flag three feet square of Cambridge blue and white six-inch checks (day) or by two vertical blue hurricane lamps (night). The information from flags is from Operation and Training Memorandum No. 9 from the Ministry of Home Security dated 29th May 1940. Air Raid Precautions Handbook No. 10 (2nd edition, 1942) indicates that this will be a blue flag in London (pale blue, according to documentation from the archives). TM 2B suggests that permanent signs on the walls could be used, this seems to have been undertaken in Region 10 (see below).
In London, evidence of wall signs has yet been seen. It is unknown if painted wall-signs marked the RPs. Due to RPs being mainly located at road junctions, many of these have been remodelled in major urban areas and thus evidence may be lost. Walls have been cleaned, painted over, demolished or rebuilt in the intervening years potentially removing traces of signs.
In CD Region 10 (North West), physical evidence shows a vertically elongated black diamond surrounded by a broad yellow border painted on the nearest convenient wall to the RP. There are exceptions, ERP 23? on Nuttall Hall Lane in Ramsbottom is on a small post. Where signs were painted on pale walls, a further black border outside of the yellow was added for clarity (e.g. ERP 2181 Allerton Road / Yewtree Road in south Liverpool). On the interior black diamond, the letters ERP were painted in yellow. The E on the first line with RP on the line below.
Lancashire (and possibly the whole of CD Region 10) appears to have adopted a unified numbering system for the RPs. Bury has ERP numbers in the 100 and 200 series, Heywood in the 200 series and Ramsbottom has 200 and 400 series numbers. Those found in Liverpool are in the 2000 and 2100 series. Unfortunately, the single ERP sign found in St Helens is illegible. At some point Liverpool, in particular, appears to have either extended or truncated the system. In the 1940 list, only five RPs appear in the area designated as Liverpool, yet there is physical evidence for at least seven within the areas of Sefton Park, Mossley Hill and Calderstones – a relatively small area. This may indicate that the standard scheme was extended in Region 10 to have more specific subdivided points.
The Ramsbottom Heritage Society’s "Ramsbottom War News Issue 1" page 7: states "In the event of an attack a lorry or coach would have been allocated to go to the numbered point, collect the public and transport them to a safer place". As yet, no evidence
supporting this has been located, however it could well be that this process simply used existing RPs because of their convenient, planned and known location. That these buses existed is not in doubt. A contemporary letter by a civil servant based in central London during the 1944 “mini-blitz” indicates that “special buses arrived to take people away [from Piccadilly Circus] after a raid warning”. There is no corresponding RP point at Piccadilly Circus, the nearest being further down Shaftesbury Avenue thus it may have been that different areas planned such things differently.
Our thanks again to Euan Withersby for his incredible research on this previously unknown subject on the internet.
ABOVE: ERP sign on Rostron Road, Ramsbottom.
BELOW: Part of the ERP map of Area G (Ramsbottom Borough) showing the town centre.
- used by kind permision of Bury Archives
ABOVE: Rendezvous Points Map of London
- used by kind permission of London Metropolitan Archives, City of London
BELOW: ERP 275 on the junction of Rhode Street and Bury Road, Tottington.
BELOW: ERP 2181 on the junction of Allerton Road and Yewtree Road, Liverpool
Liverpool Central Library:
Air Raid Precautions Handbook No. 10: Training in First Aid for Civil Defence Purposes (2nd ed., 1942) D10699, Liverpool Central Library
London Metropolitan Archives:
Ministry of Home Security, Operation and Training Memorandum No. 9, 29th May 1940. LCC/CE/WAR/02/057
London County Council, Operations Circular No. 14, London Civil Defence Region, 29th June 1940 – Reporting at Rendezvous. LCC/CE/WAR/02/057
London County Council, Operations Circular No. 5, London Civil Defence Region, 24th January 1940 (System of Rendezvous Points and Guides, for use when ARP parties are sent from one district in the London region to assist another) LCC/PH/WAR/03/040
London County Council, Memorandum on the Duties of Guides, London Civil Defence Region, February 1940 LCC/PH/WAR/03/040
London County Council, Instructions to Drivers of Parties when sent to a Rendezvous LCC/CE/WAR/02/057
London County Council, List of fixed Rendezvous points for Greater London (January 1940) and amendments LCC/PH/WAR/03/039
London County Council, Rendezvous Points, London Civil Defence Region (1-inch scale map) COL/PL/02/A/003/h
London County Council, Rendezvous Points, Group 3, London Civil Defence Region (4-inch scale map) COL/PL/02/A/003/h
Rendezvous Points Lancs. ‘G’ Area (map)
Various Auxiliary Fire Service documents
Ministry of Home Security. Air Raid Precautions Training Manual No. 2 B – Reinforcement. Second Edition.
Office of the Regional Commissioner, North Western Civil Defence Region, Manchester. Rendezvous Points – No. 10 Region, 1943
Various memoranda and related documents.
Our thanks to all the Archive services that helped us.
You may be interested in Bury Archive's blog sites:
See our Ramsbottom ERP Page