It was one of the largest conflicts in history and World War 1 claimed the lives of a vast number of military personnel and civilians. 16 million people perished with a further 20 million wounded.
To commemorate the centenary year of World War 1 the Post Office Shop blog team have been researching the General Post Office’s participation in the Great War and the lives of the Post Office employees that were involved.
The Post Office’s contribution to military operations during the war was on a scale that had never been seen before, with 75,000 Post Office employees serving in some of the most hostile environments during World War 1 and 8,500 of these employees lost their lives fighting for their country.
The Post Office actively encouraged their staff to join in the war effort. Of the 75,000 men who left their jobs with the Post Office on our home shores 12,000 of these brave men joined the Post Office Rifles Regiment which had been in existence since 1868. (Pictured: The Post Office Rifles marching in London, 5 July 1919. Click to enlarge).
During the Great War the Rifles fought at many of the major battles including Ypres, the Somme and Passchendaele which were fought with the intention of strategically restricting the supply of munitions to the army of the German Empire.
Many stories of the individual soldiers who fought these battles will have been sadly lost in the carnage of these hostile battlefields. However, one of these soldier’s stories made it home and is still remembered today due to the kind deed of a German soldier. During a battle near the town of Longueval, 300 Post Office Rifles were killed. The wife of one of these men by the name of Captain Home Peel, was sent a letter by the German Soldier E.F Gayler informing her of his death so his fate was not left unknown on the frontline.
One member of the Rifles, Alfred Knight was awarded the Victoria Cross for a series of brave maneuvers. One of these maneuvers included the daring act of capturing an enemy machine gun position by taking on 12 German soldiers, killing three of them and causing the rest to flee the melee.
These brave soldiers who contributed to winning the Great War and their stories are being commemorated by the Post Office with a series of blog posts on the Post Office Shop blog and a range of commemorative products.