Recollections of Maureen Brown (nee Merritt) WRAC
In 1953 it was decided to include the trade of postal worker into the WRAC. The first batch of girls, after 5 weeks basic training at Guildford, were posted to Richmond Park, Kingston on Thames under the command of 12 Bn WRAC.
We travelled, daily, to Inglis Barracks, Mill Hill, to be taught how to sort 1,000 letters, by hand, an hour. How to tie them into bundles, breaking the string with a twist and a strong tug, with our fingers. How to tie up a sack of letters with string and a lead seal. Learnt the postage rates of letters, packets and parcels, airmail and surface, to the different BFPOs all over the world.
Armed with all this knowledge we were now able to deal with the real mail. We then travelled, daily, to Home Postal Depot (HPD RE) which was situated in Raphael Street, London, near Harrods. It was originally a night club that was damaged during the war and was patched up for our use. There was no heating or modern facilities, we wore slacks and leather jerkins, and in winter worked in overcoats as well during the night shifts.
Our CO was Lt Col Reading RE, and in the beginning all the NCOs were RE, and we did exactly the same work as the lads. We worked three shifts round the clock: 0600-1400, 1400-2200 and 2200-0600, six days a week for a 48 hour week. In the build up to Christmas we started an hour earlier and finished an hour later, overlapping the shifts, making a 60 hour week. The night shifts were 5 weeks long and the other ten weeks with one week early and one week late alternating. There were no mechanical aids and a full mail sack is quite heavy. We soon learnt that two hands on the top of the sack, knee in the side, a heavy kick and lift and it could be thrown into the back of a 3-tonner.
The mail came from all the London Railway Stations day and night. We sorted it into airmail and surface and bagged it up to the various destinations. The airmail was flown from Heathrow daily and all the weights had to be phoned to the airport, before despatch, in ‘kilos’ (no faxes in those days). It was unheard of for a truck to be late and miss a flight, and at night during the London Smog it had to leave earlier with two people, with lamps, in front of each wheel walking to guide the driver round the traffic islands and parked or crashed cars.
How many can remember being on early shift and running for the coach, which left on the dot of 0500, with a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich, because the cooks had overslept again?
I was on SOIII shift and my name, then, was Maureen Merritt. Does anyone remember me?