Sunday, 3 April 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered ....

World War One and The Postal Service

At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914,  the Post Office employed over 250,000 people and with a revenue of £32 million pounds it was one of the largest single employers in the world. The Post Office not only handled 5.9 billion items of post each year but was also responsible for the nation's telephone and telegraph system.

When war was declared in 1914 national fervour saw a huge amount of men enlist and the government used the post office to circulate recruitment forms.

The Post Office had its own Battalion. The Post Office Rifles (POR) was made up entirely of Post Office Staff. You can read more about the Post Office Rifles in this informative book by Duncan Barrett which I featured on Jaffareadstoo in 2014 - you can read more here


Receiving news from home was one of the best ways to keep up a soldier's spirits, and letters and gifts from family and friends helped to relieve the boredom of sitting in trenches, and understandably, a few home comforts helped to make this living hell, almost bearable. Small packages with socks, gloves and scarfs could find their way to France in just about 2 days and even perishable food items like jams, cakes and biscuits could arrive at their destination long before they had time to perish..

Goods and letters started their outward journey at a sorting station in Regent's Park, London and from there mail was shipped to the English ports before making its way to the French ports, Calais, Bolougne or Le Havre. Once on French soil the Royal Engineers Postal Section were responsible for getting the mail to the troops.

You can only imagine what joy a letter from home, a pair of knitted socks or piece of homemade fruitcake did for morale.

However, this rather a sad poem written by Eleanor Farjeon reiterates the poignancy and heartbreak of receiving, or not receiving, mail...

Easter Monday (In Memoriam E.T.) (1917)

In the last letter that I had from France
You thanked me for the silver Easter egg
Which I had hidden in the box of apples
You liked to munch beyond all other fruit.
You found the egg the Monday before Easter,
And said, ‘I will praise Easter Monday now –
It was such a lovely morning’. Then you spoke
Of the coming battle and said, ‘This is the eve.
Good-bye. And may I have a letter soon.’

That Easter Monday was a day for praise,
It was such a lovely morning. In our garden
We sowed our earliest seeds, and in the orchard
The apple-bud was ripe. It was the eve.
There are three letters that you will not get.

April 9th, 1917

The Battle of Arras - took place between 9 April - 16 May 1917 and resulted in 160,000 British casualties.



Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffa, Timmy and I appreciate your interest.