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Remembered Today:

Diary of a Dispatch Rider

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Continuing the diary of John Sangway, dispatch rider. XVII Corps Signal Company are at Duisans, near Arras.


Playing tennis & had luck to look up in sky at moment of bursting of big shrapnel shell a mile & a half away. Red crack (colour of dull red hot iron) with black smoke belching irregularly from it quickly spreading into a cloud. Just like the pictures on highly imaginative magazine covers &c.


If that sounds like a lazy day, it's worth correcting that impression: XVII Corps dispatch riders delivered just shy of 1,100 packets that day and the workload in August would peak two days later at 1,305 packets. Messages were going here, there and everywhere as the offensive pushed the Germans back and they would remain busy until the end of the war. They even had to start sending some packets by the Army Postal Service to ease the burden on the riders, using the below process which came into effect at midnight 14th/15th August:


D.R.L.S. [Dispatch Rider Letter Service] packets will be made up in the Signal Office in a mail bag and sealed. A service message to the Signalmaster concerned will be enclosed showing a register of all the packets or series of packets in the bag. A receipt will be given by the Postal authorities for this bag.


At the time of despatch the Signalmaster will send an advice by telegram of the departure of this bag to the Signalmaster concerned, who will collect it [from] the post office on arrival. He will give the Postal authorities a receipt in duplicate for this bag. One copy of this will be kept by the Post Office and one copy returned to the Signalmaster originating the bag. The receipt of this bag will be acknowledged by telegram by the Signalmaster concerned as is done in the case of D.R.L.S.


This will in no way reduce the number of D.R. [Dispatch Rider] runs but will merely augment the D.R.L.S.


It should be clearly understood that this had only reference to packets that ordinarily need registering, and that advantage must not be taken of it to dispose of packets not requiring registering, which will be disposed of to the Army Post Office direct in the normal course.


Source: XVII Corps Signals Company War Diary WO 95 947-5



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