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GaryPearcy

Postmen in the Great War

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GaryPearcy

Did the Royal Mail deliver notification of deaths to families during the battle of the Somme, or was this a task undertaken by the Army?

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centurion

I believe that it was the GPO (letters [Royal Mail] to OR's families and telegrams to officers' relatives) but it's a mistake to assume it was just deaths - notification of wounded, missing and PoW also went the same way and in the same style envelope.

One of my Irish great aunts was reputed to have clairvoyant skills and be able to predict who in her village would get a letter the day before it arrived (but not its contents). Looking at it logically (insomuch as such things can be looked at logically) this would not imply a message from "the other side" as her prediction was made long after the event whilst the letter had already been despatched. My grandmother said it didn't make her popular and she had to desist by popular request (if she were alive today I'd ask her for help with the lottery).

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GaryPearcy

Can I just check then: OR's refers to "other ranks" i.e. those below officer. These men recieved a letter delivered by the Royal Mail.

I believe that it was the GPO (letters [Royal Mail] to OR's families and telegrams to officers' relatives) but it's a mistake to assume it was just deaths - notification of wounded, missing and PoW also went the same way and in the same style envelope.

One of my Irish great aunts was reputed to have clairvoyant skills and be able to predict who in her village would get a letter the day before it arrived (but not its contents). Looking at it logically (insomuch as such things can be looked at logically) this would not imply a message from "the other side" as her prediction was made long after the event whilst the letter had already been despatched. My grandmother said it didn't make her popular and she had to desist by popular request (if she were alive today I'd ask her for help with the lottery).

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centurion

Can I just check then: OR's refers to "other ranks" i.e. those below officer. These men recieved a letter delivered by the Royal Mail.

Below commissioned officer - correct (except that it was their designated next of kin that received the letter).

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centurion

One thing that does give pause for thought - as late as 1918 not every house in Britain got post delivered. Some rural areas still didn't have postal rounds and even where they did a dwelling had to be within a certain distance of a defined route to get a delivery. I wonder how such households were notified.

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clive_hughes

Like Centurion, I had for a long time been convinced that it was only Officers whose families got casualty telegrams (for fatalities, two in fact - one from the Army Council and one from Their Majesties). The Other Ranks got a pre-printed form of letter with the personal details and nature of event inked/typed in as applicable.

However, after much trawling through ordinary Soldiers service records in the last few years I can say that just occasionally the files include carbon copies of what are clearly telegrams to the next of kin. They are laid out roughly thus: "Deeply regret to inform you that your son 12345 Private X, Blankshire Regiment, died of wounds at 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, 13 October". The one I saw yesterday had been preceded by a similar telegram stating "Son dangerously wounded...permission to visit cannot be given".

So there may have been instances where the families of ordinary Rank & File also got the dreaded brick-red envelope from a telegram boy.

Clive

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centurion

Like Centurion, I had for a long time been convinced that it was only Officers whose families got casualty telegrams (for fatalities, two in fact - one from the Army Council and one from Their Majesties). The Other Ranks got a pre-printed form of letter with the personal details and nature of event inked/typed in as applicable.

However, after much trawling through ordinary Soldiers service records in the last few years I can say that just occasionally the files include carbon copies of what are clearly telegrams to the next of kin. They are laid out roughly thus: "Deeply regret to inform you that your son 12345 Private X, Blankshire Regiment, died of wounds at 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, 13 October". The one I saw yesterday had been preceded by a similar telegram stating "Son dangerously wounded...permission to visit cannot be given".

So there may have been instances where the families of ordinary Rank & File also got the dreaded brick-red envelope from a telegram boy.

Clive

Are these all wounded and/or DOW? I am wondering if in these cases the family had already received some information that their relative had been wounded (say a card from a field ambulance) but didn't know the seriousness and had been attempting to find out.

Whilst typing this - just had a thought - how can you tell from a carbon copy that the message was in fact telegraphed?

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mandy hall

If you look at the service record for my great uncle (see signature) on ancestry, this contains examples of both the telegrams that Clive has described.

Mandy

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clive_hughes

Hi Centurion,

Alas the Ancestry subscription has (temporarily) expired so I can't post an image; but the file items were on a small form with a postmark type date/time stamp in a box in one corner, rather like a telegram.

For quick examples I can only refer you to the online Service Papers of a John Williams, adding Cemaes to the keyword box. You should get a set of about 22 images to a man of that name who served as no.203522 in the RWF 1916-18, resident Cemaes Fawr Farm, Llanbadrig. He was badly wounded on 8 Oct 1918. The set includes internal message forms/telegrams to the Regt. Record Office dated 10 Oct. re. his wounding and saying that the next of kin had been informed the previous day. Then another version addressed to his family saying "Son dangerously wounded" etc. which might be the notification referred to; and then a last one to family saying Son DOW 13 Oct.

It strongly resembled the layout and style of actual WW1 telegrams I've seen in the past, with words looking as though they'd been written through carbon paper. Can't comment on the original colour, which would have been sort of buff in a proper telegram, but in a file copy might be white?

I think you are absolutely right in that these and the others I can recall were to do with badly-wounded Other Ranks, not straightforward killed in action. I'd have to trawl through a large pile of transcripts in order to produce any more - as I said earlier, they're uncommon. I am specialising in men who died, so can't say if there are many files containing such message forms relating to less dangerously wounded Other Ranks.

Anyway, have a look at the examples quoted above and see what you think.

Clive

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GaryPearcy

I live on a residential street in Kenilworth, Wariwckshire. A local historian has recently published a book about Kenilworth in the Great War and included a listing of the addresses of all the men in the town who feel, including their address. There are several houses on my street where a loved one was lost during the first few weeks of the Somme. I'm trying to imagine how that news would have been conveyed, hence my original post. Should I be picturing a solitary postman, delivering the terrible news on his own? Taking an identical envelope to each of the unfortunate neighbours?

Hi Centurion,

Alas the Ancestry subscription has (temporarily) expired so I can't post an image; but the file items were on a small form with a postmark type date/time stamp in a box in one corner, rather like a telegram.

For quick examples I can only refer you to the online Service Papers of a John Williams, adding Cemaes to the keyword box. You should get a set of about 22 images to a man of that name who served as no.203522 in the RWF 1916-18, resident Cemaes Fawr Farm, Llanbadrig. He was badly wounded on 8 Oct 1918. The set includes internal message forms/telegrams to the Regt. Record Office dated 10 Oct. re. his wounding and saying that the next of kin had been informed the previous day. Then another version addressed to his family saying "Son dangerously wounded" etc. which might be the notification referred to; and then a last one to family saying Son DOW 13 Oct.

It strongly resembled the layout and style of actual WW1 telegrams I've seen in the past, with words looking as though they'd been written through carbon paper. Can't comment on the original colour, which would have been sort of buff in a proper telegram, but in a file copy might be white?

I think you are absolutely right in that these and the others I can recall were to do with badly-wounded Other Ranks, not straightforward killed in action. I'd have to trawl through a large pile of transcripts in order to produce any more - as I said earlier, they're uncommon. I am specialising in men who died, so can't say if there are many files containing such message forms relating to less dangerously wounded Other Ranks.

Anyway, have a look at the examples quoted above and see what you think.

Clive

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centurion

I live on a residential street in Kenilworth, Wariwckshire. A local historian has recently published a book about Kenilworth in the Great War and included a listing of the addresses of all the men in the town who feel, including their address. There are several houses on my street where a loved one was lost during the first few weeks of the Somme. I'm trying to imagine how that news would have been conveyed, hence my original post. Should I be picturing a solitary postman, delivering the terrible news on his own? Taking an identical envelope to each of the unfortunate neighbours?

In a word - yes

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lionboxer

My uncle had been a Telegram Boy before he enlisted and no doubt would have delivered bad news. Ironically it must have another Telegram Boy that delivered the news to his mother that he had been seriously wounded. His father was informed while he was serving in France and got leave to visit his son at Etaples. After the war he was able to rejoin the GPO though only on light duties.

I too have come across telegrams in service records saying your son is dangerously ill but not allowed visitors.

Lionboxer

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dycer

From a 1915 Obituary,of an OR.

"Prior to receiving word of his Son's death(from wounds).Mr S.received a letter, from his eldest Son,stating that he was the first to pick up his brother when he fell".

I am currently "following" the "Young Soldiers" Series on T.V.

Especially when "they" are been prepared for "Afghan" and the Padre tells them that their Family will be told, of their death,before their name is revealed to the Media.

George

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