Recollections from an unknown newspaper
If you want to catch Sergeant J .Macdonald of the Royal Engineers Army Postal Service you have to get up early in the morning. At any time after 04:30 Sergeant Macdonald, along with 14 sappers of the REPS will be busy in the Army’s travelling post office, sorting out thousands of letters which are sent home every day by service men and women stationed in Germany (BAOR). There are three teams doing this job.
The Army’s sorters spend most of their time going back and forth between Herford and the Hook of Holland in ten special carriages. Seven of these coaches are choc-a-block with parcels already made up in the Army’s main Post office at Herford for delivery to key points in the U.K. The other three carriages house the sorters. Around the walls are pigeon holes-frames-bearing the names of every town and postal district at home. It is into these “frames” that Sergeant Macdonald and his sorters slip the letters as they sort the bundles. By the time the train reaches the Hook all is ready for 109 Port Postal Unit to take over. The mail is bagged up before being shipped home. From then there is nothing for the civilian post office to do, except deliver the bags to the proper towns and break them into walks-GPO talk for streets along which postmen deliver.
Sergeant Macdonald, a tall, slow speaking Scot from the Hebrides and a peacetime Post Office employee, will point out that it takes a good deal of concentration to be an efficient sorter and good eyesight is paramount, since most peoples handwriting is “pretty grim”. Sergeant Major W. Clarke, who sees that the nightly loading of some 500 bags of mail is done speedily and efficiently, agrees that it is strenuous enough work. Lieutenant P Faulkes, a post office official who has been in the Army since 1939, says that one of the chief difficulties facing the T.P.O (Travelling Post Office), in common with other postal services is shortage of trained staff. Although a number of key officers and men have been compulsorily deferred it has become necessary for the Army to train its own postmen, mainly at Nottingham.
Sapper A. Roberts, struggling with a letter that looked as though it had been addressed with a worn out toothbrush, summed it up on behalf of the 13 others sorters this way; “what do they think we are, mind readers? Why don’t they write so that we can read the bloomin’ addresses? To which Cpl B. Latham added a heartfelt, “too right chum”.
This extract was sent in (via Alan Davies) by Mrs Ann Morris, whose husband Jeff served as a Postie from 1945 until 1948 in both HPC Nottingham and Herford, Germany.
Notes from Mailshot – In 1947 the TPO terminal port was changed from Calais to Hook of Holland and the surface mail then followed the route of the leave train from England. The TPO continued to operate until 1949.