The Post Office Rifles from Portsmouth

I’ve been doing a little bit of work on my WW1 Portsmouth War Dead database, as a bit of light relief from working on promoting my WW1 Book. I’ve been using Tim Backhouse’s eternally useful memorials in Portsmouth website to flesh out some details on the names on my list. Tim has listed pretty much every name on every kind of memorial in Portsmouth. I have been using his listing of the WW1 Cenotaph to create the bulk of my database – without his listing I would have had to do twice as much work.

Aside from the main memorials, Tim has also listed names from the plethora of other memorials around in Portsmouth. Of chief interest to me are three kinds – Company and Organisation Memorials; School Memorials; and Parish Memorials. In terms of Organisations and Companies we have names for the Portsmouth Gas Company, the Electric Company, the Passenger Transport Depot, the Police, and even Handleys, a local Department store. Schools are chiefly the local Grammar and public schools – Portsmouth Grammar School, St Johns College, Southern Grammar School for Boys and Northern Grammar School. The Parish listings are also useful too, helping me to confirm where in the city somebody came from, and sweeping up a few names that are not on the Cenotaph. Funily enough, many of the names from RC parishes have a distinctively Irish ring to them. St Johns Cathedral even has some latin sounding names – from Malta, perhaps?

Just to give an example of from one company joined up, lets take a look at the Portsmouth District of the Post Office. Four men from the Portsmouth Posties joined the 8th Battalions of the London Regiment – or, the Post Office Rifles. The London Regiment was a Territorial-only Regiment, and the Post Office Rifles are a fine example of a profession-based unit.

Rifleman A. Toleman was killed on 18 May 1915. He is buried at Bethune in France. Rifleman Victor Papworth was just 19 when he was killed on 21 May 1916, and is remembered on the Arras Memorial in France. Rifleman Thomas Brady was killed the next day, aged 20. He is buried in Barlin Cemetery. Lance Corporal Leonard Cox was killed on 20 September 1917, and is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial. Another Portsmouth man was killed serving with the Post Office Rifles, but does not seem to haved been a postie – Rifleman G Croad, who was killed on 7 June 1917 and is buried in Voormezeele. He joined the Army in September 1916, and seems to have gone to the front in January 1917, suggesting that he joined the Post Office Rifles as a replacement. As the wore drew on and the manpower situation became more acute, earlier recruiting loyalties and conventions were quietly ignored and men were sent to wherever they were needed.

The Post Office Rifles are a unique example – for Portsmouth, at any rate – of how men could join the armed forces based on their professional loyalties.

 

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14 Comments

Filed under portsmouth heroes, western front, World War One

14 responses to “The Post Office Rifles from Portsmouth

  1. Thanks for the great historical education! After all, I thought “going postal” referred to our American letter-carriers getting angry after termination and going back to shoot the joint up, not creating a military unit of former postmen! (Okay, bad joke time is now over. :D )
    Seriously, weren’t there a number of “professional” regiments, drawn up from common occupations? I thought I remembered reading about a couple from the city of London alone.

    • James Daly

      The London Regiment in particular served as an umbrella Regiment for all kinds of professional Battalions. There were the Civil Service Rifles, the Artists Rifles and of course the Post Office Rifles. Some of the City of London Battalions were manned by financial workers from the City of London. Other Battalions recruited primarily from a certain district or profession, but for whatever reason did not carry their identity in their name.

      The Middlesex Regiment (London north of the Thames) also had the Public Schools, Footballers and Public Works Pioneers Battalions. The Kings Own Yorkshire LI had a Miners Battalion, and the KRRC had a Church Lads Brigade Bn, a British Empire League Bn, and even an Arts and Crafts Battalion.

  2. x

    An Arts and Crafts Battalion? Wow.

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  5. Clive Seager

    My paternal grandfather served in the 8th City of London Post Office Rifles and my father served in the 7th City of London Post Office Rifles (Shiny7th).

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