ARCHIVED - RCAF Postal Corps a morale-booster for Second World War aircrew, groundcrew

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News Article / December 16, 2015

In this day of internet communication, and fast food outlets and doughnut shops in theatres of operation, mail delivery, while important, is no longer the sole link to life back home for most military personnel. But at Christmas time, military personnel and their families still rely on the mail for exchanging gifts and cards, and on Forward Operating Bases and other technologically challenged postings, the mail is often the only line of communication year-round.

In 1943 in the British Isles, it was essential to the war effort.

By Ruthanne Urquhart

In 1942, the Royal Canadian Air Force was in full swing in Europe. Based in England, RCAF aircraft, aircrew and groundcrew waged a daily battle for the skies over Occupied Europe and the British Isles. Hitler had relinquished his dream of invading England but the Luftwaffe still pounded that green and pleasant land.

From the vibrant industrial midlands north to Scotland, factories rolled out replacement parts, and aircraft and ships, at an astonishing rate. Every other week, there was a drive across the British Isles; citizens surrendered their copper pots and iron fences, their woolens and silks to the war effort.

The infrastructure of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland was war-torn and, given the number of Allied troops and support personnel stationed in the British Isles – a fluctuating three quarters of a million or so at any given time – the infrastructure of those forces was also taking a beating. One of the services deemed most essential, not necessarily directly to the war effort but to the people waging the war, was postal service.

Mail was a problem. Though the Army Postal Corps did its best to keep up with the volume of mail and packages, Canadian military members were widely scattered. RCAF personnel especially were serving on Royal Air Force Stations all over England, Wales and southern Scotland, and pilots, aircrew and groundcrew were moved around as needed. Their personnel records followed them, sometimes behind by days or weeks.

In late summer 1942, recognizing that regular mail and packages from home boosted morale like nothing else, the RCAF stood up its own postal corps to ensure that letters and parcels reached the personnel to whom they were addressed as quickly as possible. A postal officer was established on each squadron, and a separate Base Post Office was opened in the Midlands area of England – and a vast improvement in secure delivery was seen within only a few months.

The final step of the set-up process was enlisting the assistance of the recipients themselves. Much of the backlog of mail at depots arose from personnel failing to send the post office a change-of-address card. However, this situation improved dramatically after Christmas 1942, when 4.2 per cent of RCAF personnel stationed throughout the British Isles had not received mail and packages because they had not submitted change-of-address cards.

By mid-1943, the RCAF Postal Corps was winning the mail war. And RCAF aircrew, groundcrew and support personnel, whose spirits were lifted by frequent hand-written, home-scented letters, and packages of jams and jellies, tinned meats, and coffee and tea, were helping to win the air war.

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