Lancashire At War.co.uk
Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire
Ramsbottom ERP - a case study of all the Emergency Rendezvous Points in a town.
The ERP map of Ramsbottom shows how, in the dark early days of World War Two, we were planning for the worst case scenarios - widespread aerial bombardment and the probability of gas attacks.
The area of Ramsbottom was divided into ten sectors (1 to 10) to and each sectors sub-divided into a further three areas (A to C). Each of these ten sectors had a Rendezvous Point. This was usually found painted on a wall on a junction of two roads, though few still exist today - only one of the ten can still be seen in Ramsbottom. A map in Bury Archives shows all the rendezvous Points (marked by a circle) and associated sectors. The sectors run roughly North to South with Sector 1 being the most northerly and Sector 10 the furthest south. Ramsbottom was in Lancashire "G" Area.
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. To read more about exactly how Rendezvous Points worked SEE OUR PAGE HERE.
The map in Bury Archives has, interestingly, more features marked on it, in pencil, other than the neatly printed coloured ERP circles and sector borders. They seem to therefore be latter additions and what exactly they all mean is down to some conjecture. We have not seen these extra features on other RP maps from elsewhere in the country.
For instance, the pencilled initials "R.S." appear on several points on the map. These are most commonly marked at Primary Schools - could R.S. stand for "Rendezvous Site"? This site needed to be: “…just off a main road to avoid traffic congestion, should provide ample parking space with good deployment facilities, and have a telephone." (ARP TM 2B)
"R.S.'s" pinpointed on the map include Edenfield Primary School, Stubbins Primary School, Hazelhurst Primary School and others. These would seem to meet the necessary requirements.
See some of the schools below as they appear today:
Below are the ten ERP points marked on the map as they appear today. Most are on road junctions. Only No.7, Rostron Road, is not. The reason for its position is still a mystery, but it is also the only surviving ERP sign. Several are next to Public Houses, probably because these also are often at the meeting point of major roads.
There are other symbols and initials marked in pencil on the ERP map for Ramsbottom, other than the letters 'R.S.'
These include 'S', which probably stands for Shelter.
While 'D', we believe stands for Decontamination. At the start of the war in particular, there was a real fear of gas attacks (hence everyone had to carry gas masks). Because no attacks ever came, we often forget this fear. But to that generation, the terrible effects of gas in the First World War were still in living memory. 'D1', 'D2' etc can be found marked on the map, with pencilled arrows pointing to a specific building.
The Council owned site in the centre of Ramsbottom (now the swimming baths and play area) marked as 'Refuse Destructor' has several symbols and letters drawn in pencil around it including a cross in a circle which we think means a First Aid Post (see photo BELOW). There is a large circled number one at the tennis pavilion in Holcombe Brook where the Home Guard used to meet. But is the large circled number two which occurs near the Refuse Destructor where the Ramsbottom Home Guard met? They were often photographed outside the nearby Drill Hall on Crow Lane.
There is also a map of Fire Points for Ramsbottom in Bury Archives and interestingly there is some correlation between ERP and FPs.
Also, one of the ERP points (Stubbins) is also an ARP point (SEE OUR STUBBINS PAGE HERE).
However, there are always anomalies that cannot be explained. As well as the one remaining ERP sign on Rostron Road (BELOW LEFT) there is another extant ERP sign on Nuttal Road. Unlike most ERP signs it is not on a wall or building. It is on a stone pillar (BELOW CENTRE & RIGHT). Why is this one not marked on the map? Was it a later addition?
To read more about Emergency Rendezvous Sites,
what they were and how they worked
SEE OUR PAGE HERE
Update August 2017
We think we have solved some of the mysteries of the symbols added in pencil onto the official ERP map.
Our friend and contributor, Euan Withersby, has found a contemporary map showing similar sites in another Lancashire town - Blackpool. This map thankfully has a "Key". It shows similar symbols and tells us what they mean.
SEE BLACKPOOL FIRE MAP HERE
A cross ("George's cross") is a "casualty and cleansing station, manned whole time". While a star ("Star of David") with a "C" in it is "Cleansing stations - manned only during air raids".
The "mystery symbol" to us, was what looked like two propeller blades mirroring each other. Then this week it all became clear. On the Ramsbottom Heritage Society's website was a photo by Keith Burroughs of an air raid siren in the centre of Ramsbottom. This was as close to the site as possible to mark it on the map and we therefore realised it signified a siren.
See the image BELOW and the pencilled in symbol. And see RIGHT our photos of the siren itself, still present in 2017.
ABOVE: The former Council Buildings in the centre of Ramsbottom. Look closely and you will see and air raid siren on the right hand chimney. No? Another, closer view from a different angle can be seen BELOW.
It is marked on the Ramsbottom ERP map BELOW LEFT.