Whether in times of crisis or celebration, 'offices on wheels' were always nearby, serving their communities. Archivist Helen explores the history of Mobile Post Offices.

You may be familiar with mobile libraries offering library services in places where they would not otherwise be easily accessible but have you heard of mobile post offices?

The pop up post offices have had various uses over the years and have seen use in times of celebration such as agricultural shows, and times of crisis such as war time.


During the 1930s the Post Office decided that there was a need for the provision of telegraph, telephone and postal facilities at special events, such as race meetings and shows. It was felt that an ‘office on wheels’ would best meet this need.

The need for manoeuvrability, safety, space and economy dictated an articulated vehicle. The towing unit was a Morris Commercial Leader 3 ton tractor unit. This was given the registration index ‘GPO 1’ (these letters were allocated to the Post Office for use on ‘special’ vehicles).

Much attention was paid to the fittings of the trailer. There were three windows for transactions at the postal and telegraph counters on the nearside of the vehicle. The ‘office on wheels’ was fitted with two telephone cabinets, a generator, teleprinter, counter, stamp machines, letter chute and mail bags.

Colour image of a leaflet showing a man in the foreground in a hat and long jacket smoking a pipe. Behind him is red Mobile Post Office with a GPO logo and a customer at the window. Across the top of the leaflet is the text ‘The Mobile Post Office’ the word mobile is in red italics and the other words are in black standard text

Leaflet published in 1937 advertising Mobile Post Office services

GPO 1 made its first appearance at the Marden and District Commercial Fruit Show, Kent between 6-8 October 1936. It was an immediate success and the introduction of a second Mobile Post Office was approved. A third Mobile Post Office was purchased after the Second World War.

Painting with water and a small boat in the foreground. On the shore is a red Mobile Post Office with customers queuing to use it. Tents and a temporary viewing platform are visible in the background.

Caption Painting of the Mobile Post Office at Henley Regatta by Adrian Keith Graham Hill, c1937 (POST 109/203)

All three Mobile Post Offices were issued with their own datestamps. The datestamps were MPO or MPO1; MPO2; and MPO3. These could appear alongside special datestamps for the event they were appearing at.

A buff envelope with a horizontal and vertical line dividing it into quarters. The top left corner has a label with the letter R and a datestamp cancellation. The top right corner has 4 King Edward VIII stamps, from L to R these are green 1/2d, red 1d, brown 1 1/2d, and a blue 2 ½d below. The bottom left corner has a circular datestamp ‘Mobile Post Office 7 Apr 37 B’. The bottom right corner has the address W Myatt Esq, 69 Park Road, Sutton Coldfield. The left hand side of the envelope also bears text reading ‘Daily Mail £2000 Golf Tournament April 7-10th 1937

A first day cover used at Little Aston golf course showing the ‘Mobile Post Office’ datestamp and full set of King Edward VIII stamps, 1937

The introduction of permanent telephone kiosks at racecourses and other locations coincided with a declining need for their presence and the three offices only appeared occasionally by 1985.


During the Second World War the first two motorised Mobile Post Offices were transferred to war service. The war also bought about the need for a new type of mobile post office. Communications were more important than ever, but post office buildings were often damaged in air raids. This resulted in the introduction of mobile, tented post offices which could be quickly deployed where required.

black and white photograph of a tent with a sign ‘Post Office’ and temporary post office counters inside. There is a temporary ‘posting box’ and blackboard advertising the availability of telephone services. There are men queuing to use the Post Office and postal staff in uniform nearby.

Customers using a tented mobile post office, 1941 (POST 118/1344)


Although the demand for Mobile Post Offices at sporting events and agricultural shows declined from the 1980s, a new form of demand emerged in the 1990s. In 1996 a smaller van was introduced and provided post office services to towns and villages where the local post office had closed. These mobile post offices most closely resemble the mobile libraries mentioned at the outset. Both provided vital services to local communities. In June 2019 there were 60 mobile post office services in the United Kingdom.

– Helen Dafter, Archivist

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