Bravery, The Blitz, and Suffragettes

28 June 2017

Our Assistant Curator Georgina tells us the stories of brave women and men in Britain’s history and how they changed our lives forever.

The history of the post spans hundreds of years and documents many of the largest historical events to affect Britain. Here are just some of the stories we are able to tell.

Bravery

Sergeant Alfred Knight was an Engineer in The Post Office Rifles during the First World War, where he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery at the Battle of Wurst Farm Ridge in 1917. He is the only Post Office Rifle to have received such a high decoration and his Victoria Cross along with his other medals will be on display in our new museum.

image of Alfred Knight's Victoria Cross

Alfred Knight’s Victoria Cross

Over 12,000 men predominantly Post Office workers joined the Post Office Rifles. Due to the First World War and an increase in volunteers, a Second Post Office Rifle Battalion was formed in 1914 – both regiments saw action on the front line. Along with Alfred Knight’s Victoria Cross, the Post Office Rifles received 145 awards for gallantry.

Post Office Rifles War Memorial

The Blitz

The Blitz was a period of warfare between 1940 and 1941 when Adolf Hitler strived to break British morale by not only bombing industrial sites but large cities such as London. It became so dangerous for people that children were evacuated to the country for protection.

three stamps from the David Gentleman Battle of Britain series

David Gentleman’s issued stamps for the 1965 Battle of Britain Series

The Battle of Britain took place on the 15th of September 1940 when the Germans launched two of their largest bomb raids. Here in our philatelic collection, we have the original artwork produced by David Gentleman for the stamp issue of 1965. Gentleman focused on the dynamism of the aerial combat between the British Airman and the Luftwaffe.

six trial images of the Battle of Britain series.

David Gentleman’s Trial Designs for the Battle of Britain Series, 1965

Suffragettes

In our collection, we are lucky enough to have many items that relate to the suffragette movement. In the philatelic department we have stamp designs from both 1968, 1999 and an image of Millicent Garrett Fawcett from the Women of Distinction issue of 2008.

two stamps depicting suffragettes

Millicent Garrett Fawcett, 1st NVI, Women of Distinction, 2008 & Emmeline Pankhurst, 9d, British Anniversaries, 1968

In the archive, we have the story of Miss Soloman and Miss McLellan, who posted themselves to the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith on the 23rd of February 1909. At the time the Post Office allowed individuals to be posted by express messenger. They were however not allowed admittance to no. 10 Downing Street and instead the poor telegraph messenger boy A.S. Palmer was in trouble for not acquiring the signature for the delivery.

photograph of Miss Soloman and Miss McLellan

Miss Soloman and Miss McLellan at No.10 Downing Street

Though a strange story it was down to individuals like Miss Soloman and Miss McLellan that women are now able to vote and have the right to affect the country they live in. And the bravery of ordinary men like Alfred Knight whose heroism helped win the First World War. These and many more interesting stories about our history can be found on the website and of course in our new museum from 28 July!

– Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)