For VE day, Deputy Curator Georgina explores the history of postal workers who died in military service during WWII.

Memorial Books

The Memorial Books of the Post Office Fellowship of Remembrance document all General Post Office (GPO) employees who died either in the First or Second World War. The Postal Museum along with the BT Archives worked to digitise and transcribe the books making them available online. Now you can look for family members and add your knowledge of their history directly to their records.

Digitised pages from The Post Office Fellowship of Remembrance Memorial Books

Digitised page from The Post Office Fellowship of Remembrance Memorial Books

My research

To mark VE day I decided to research the lives of some of these postal workers. As far as I’m aware I don’t have a postal worker in my family so instead I searched by location. With a little detective work you can take the information in the memorial books and find out more about the lives of these individuals. It can be easy to learn more about your family.

The best place to start your search is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Here you can take the name in the book, with initials, and locate their record. The memorial books also give you the military unit which will allow you to make sure you have the right person if more than one has your name and initial. The war graves will give you further information about the individual, along with where they are buried and potential details of their family.

Now you can take this information into Ancestry and find out about their history, where they worked, their military service and much more.

Here are just a few examples of servicemen and women I was able to research.

Post Office Roles

The appointment records at The Postal Museum (also available on Ancestry) can show you some information on an individual’s career in the Post Office. Norman Frederick Burrows born in Weston-Super-Mare became a Postman in 1928 at the age of 18. In 1933 he would take on a different role as a Sorting Clerk & Telegraphist in Bristol. Sadly, Norman died on the 10 July 1942 at the age of 31 as a Wireless Operator in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves. He is now buried where he was born in Weston-Super-Mare, grave number 109.

Black and white image of a men working at a desk with shelves above him.

Black and white lantern slide of a male Sorting Clerk, early 20th Century (2012-0141/6)

Location of death

Ancestry holds Navy records which can tell you exactly which ships your individual sailed on. Percy Walter Minns joined the Post Office as a Postman in 1937, before this he had served in the Royal Navy and would re-join in 1939 to fight in the Second World War. However, on 17 September 1939 in the beginning weeks of the war, Percy died on the H.M.S. Courageous along with over 500 crew members when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Percy is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial and can be found on Panel 33, Column 2.


Many of these men never came home, there are war graves and commemorations around the world to mark the fallen. Granville Ewart Stokes was born in 1920 in Stourbridge, Staffordshire and became a Clerical Officer in the Coventry Telephone Area. At the mere age of 23 Granville died as a Lance Bombardier in the 160th Field Regt. Royal Artillery. He is commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial in the Taukkyan War Cemetery, Burma, over 5000 miles from where he was born.


It was not only male postal workers that lost their lives during the Second World War. Dorothy Lilian Palfrey joined the GPO as a Telegraphist at the London Telephone Service (later Region) in 1935 at the age of 16. She would later become an Aircraftwoman 2nd Class in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).  She is thought to have died on 27 June 1944 at Thurloe Court, Chelsea, though her body was not discovered until 2 days later. Dorothy is commemorated on Panel 3 at Golders Green Crematorium in London.

Black and white images of women working at telegraph machines.

Black and white photograph of female telegraphists, 1945 (POST 118/1587)

If you are interested in researching relatives or want to know more about how you can add to the Memorial Books go to to help shed light on these individuals who gave their lives for their country.

– Georgina Tomlinson, Deputy Curator (Philately)

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