Pranksters move Loch Ness signs

Pranksters in Inverness have made it even more difficult to find Nessie by moving the road signs for Loch Ness so that they point in the wrong direction. The leading suspects are concert-goers attending the RockNess music festival.

But here's the part of the article I found interesting. One resident "likened the alterations to World War II, when the authorities removed signs to prevent German soldiers from navigating their way round the country if they invaded."

I didn't know that had been done during WWII. I can't imagine that a lack of road signs would have significantly slowed down a German invasion. [Press and Journal]

Places Pranks

Posted on Thu Jun 25, 2009


This is true: road signs were removed in Britain in the early part of WWII.

It would certainly have hindered the speed of an invasion. England, certainly the rural southern part, was and is riddled with small hamlets and small roads. It is very easy to get lost in them if you don't have roadsign names to compare to a map.
Posted by LaMa  on  Fri Jun 26, 2009  at  05:57 AM
Actually, it was done all over Europe.

In my country, Belgium, the Germans finally noticed it and used to paint the correct signs on the very wall of houses located near crossroads. You can still find many today, as long as the facade hasn't been renovated.
Posted by Quentin  on  Fri Jun 26, 2009  at  06:04 AM
This was done in many European countries during WW2, not just Britain, and was variously said to be intended to stall invaders, confuse spies or prevent sabotage. It was probably equally confusing to any allied forces moving about the country, of course.

As well as roadsigns, all railway station names were removed, along with all platform illumination. With all windows and doors obscured because of "blackout" regulations, it became impossible to know where you were whenever night fell. In response passengers would frequently alight at every stop and call out asking the station's name. This lead to numerous accidents when the train stopped at signals and unwary passengers would step out into empty air.

Eventually a paper in the British Medical Journal pointed out that the new rules were causing upwards of 600 deaths/month through accidents, while costing the Luftwaffer nothing. Restrictions were loosened slightly and "glimmer lighting" allowed at stations, road crossings, etc.

West Germany had a similar policy in place even after WW2, just in case of an imminent Soviet invasion.
Posted by David B.  on  Fri Jun 26, 2009  at  06:20 AM
The Japanese took it to a whole new level, mind you. Tokyo's road system was deliberately designed to be confusing; many roads were left unnamed and block and house numbers were non-consecutive to create a defensive maze around the Imperial Palace (Bruce Schneier, "Beyond Fear").
Posted by David B.  on  Fri Jun 26, 2009  at  06:27 AM
These comments show why the internet is so great.
Posted by cavalier  on  Fri Jun 26, 2009  at  08:05 AM
In Britain in the 1940s, unless a paratropper landed IN a town they'd have no idea where they were without roadsigns. No motorways or strong network of roads (even if they did, you still wouldn't know where you were going).

Leaving them up would have just made Jerry's job that bit easier. And part of a war is making life difficult for the enemy every way you can.
Posted by Renquist  on  Fri Jun 26, 2009  at  08:45 AM
Didn't you ever see the beginning of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks"?
Posted by Vern  on  Fri Jun 26, 2009  at  09:32 AM
In Holland, to this day we still have the habit of pointing German-speaking people the wrong way when they ask for directions... "Immer gerade aus!" is a famous slogan here, to the detriment of many a German.... ;-p
Posted by LaMa  on  Sat Jun 27, 2009  at  12:41 AM
This Way To The Egress
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sat Jun 27, 2009  at  10:30 AM
What've female eagles go to do with anything?

I suspect that the real purpose of steps like removing road signs was to provide a sense of purpose and involvement for the locals, to make them feel safer and give them an illusiory sense that they were doing their bit. Somethiong akin to bomb-taped windows, duck&cover;, contemporary airport security checks, and other ineffective but visible precautions.
Posted by outeast  on  Mon Jun 29, 2009  at  02:13 AM
My Grandfather was in a job that exempted him from Military Service and involved travelling. He would have to ask for directions and was often refused them and treated with suspicion or hostility as he was suspected of being a German spy.
Posted by Croydon Bob  on  Mon Jun 29, 2009  at  08:31 AM
There's a wonderful little routine about this from a 60's-era British comedy group called Beyond the Fringe, which included Dudley Moore. Some bumbling home guard chaps moving signs around to fool the Germans, then can't figure out how to get home, that sort of thing.
Posted by snowkilts  on  Mon Jun 29, 2009  at  11:15 AM
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