Search

Newham bookshop launches book about Post Office Rifles in Great War

15:17 25 July 2014

Sergeant Alfred Knight (with pipe) with his comrades

Sergeant Alfred Knight (with pipe) with his comrades

Archant

Exactly 100 years after Britain declared war on Germany and Europe’s deadliest conflict began, a book documenting how postmen fought in their own regiment will be launched.

Men of Letter front coverMen of Letter front cover

When the Great War broke out on August 4, 1914, the Post Office was the world’s largest employer and thousands of men who had made their living sorting and delivering mail bravely volunteered to fight for king and country against Germany.

Duncan Barrett’s Men of Letters tells the personal stories of the Post Office Rifles, a 12,000 strong unit of the British Army.

“I was interested in the idea of people who knew each other before the war fighting together,” Duncan said.

“Through the Post Office we get to focus on the nostalgia factor, you can imagine your local post worker going out to war. I felt like with this topic, I’d found something readers could latch onto.”

Duncan BarrettDuncan Barrett

The book launches on the historically significant date, August 4, at Newham Bookshop and offers a glimpse into the ordinary lives of the men who joined the rifles.

One story Duncan tells is of a former postal sorter, Corporal Chilmaid, from Canning Town, Newham.

He belonged to the Post Office Rifles and decided to play a prank on his Sergeant, George Ward - a man despised by many for being tyrannical.

Duncan said: “Because they all hated Ward so much they saw an opportunity for revenge, Chilmaid decided to take advantage of Ward’s drinking habit and one night when Ward was worse for wear, he instructed a group to pelt him with sodden clumps of earth picked from a grassy bank next to a cesspool.”

Sergeant Alfred Knight who won the Post Office Rifle's only Victoria CrossSergeant Alfred Knight who won the Post Office Rifle's only Victoria Cross

He explains the prank evidently had a lasting effect on Ward as from then on he treated his men with more respect.

Duncan’s interest in the Post Office Rifles developed after learning his great great uncle fought in the same battle as them but for another London regiment.

“I found out that The Post Office Rifles fought at Highwood on the same day as my uncle. And it was that battle that day where my uncle was killed,” he said.

“The first big battle [The Post Office Rifles] fought was in May 1915 in Festubert. Not long after they fought in the Battle of Loos in 1915 and then Highwood, which was a later stage of the battle of Somme.”

Field service postcard sent by Duncan Barrett's great-great-uncleField service postcard sent by Duncan Barrett's great-great-uncle

The history enthusiast gathered most of the information for the book from memoirs made by men, letters and diary entries obtained from the Imperial War Museum and the British Postal Museum and Archives.

He launched his first book, The Sugar Girls, at Newham Bookshop and has since developed a large Newham fan-base.

The Sugar Girl’s went on to be the independent bookstore on Barking Road’s biggest ever seller.

Duncan said: “I wanted to launch Men of Letters there too because after The Sugar Girls the local area have been so supportive and the store really helped.”

Men of Letters will be launched on Monday August 4, 2014 from 6:00pm. Free Event. RSVP: info@newhambooks.co.uk

It is published by AA and costs £8.99.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Newham Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Newham Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Newham Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

08:24
CCTV image of man police want to question after Stratford hotel incident, March 2014

Police have released this CCTV image today of a man wanted for questioning after a sex attack on a woman in a hotel in east London.

Connor Dolam, left, and Alex Eastwood, from Chobham Academy,  join the National Obesity Awareness Week at the Copper Box

Researchers at Cambridge University announced last week that 337,000 deaths a year are caused by “carrying too much weight”.

Yesterday, 19:02
Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, speaks at the British Values Conference at a Beckton school

One of Britain’s most prominent Muslim leader’s has warned that society risks “singing to the tune of terrorists” if it allows paranoia and suspicion to take hold.

United Kingdom
Yesterday, 12:39
CCTV footage of the siege is used in the film

As Islamist terrorism is back in the headlines, a new film looking at an earlier attack is being screened at the Whitechapel Gallery.

India

Most read news

The gunman’s background and motives are still being investigated by the Dutch authorities.

This isn’t just another Boris-ism, he’s talking about an official MI5 report in “colourful language”.

The world of Disney is getting a little crowded with all these independent females.

Some tourists got very lucky in the south-west United States.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Newham Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24
Our trusted business finder