Letters reveal joy of Northampton post office staff after VE Day

Northampton post office's tea time club that met to discuss news from its staff on the front
Northampton post office's tea time club that met to discuss news from its staff on the front
  • St Giles Street post office colleagues wanted to keep in touch will fighting in Europe
  • Manager encouraged them to write home and compiled letters in his own time at his house in Cyril Street
  • The ‘Victory’ edition of ‘Northampton News’ was distributed 75 years ago

Joyful letters home from Northampton post office workers following the defeat of the Nazis have been collected by an amateur historian.

The letters were compiled by a post office worker into a monthly ‘Northampton News’ volume and distributed to wartime employees in an attempt to keep everyone in touch during a period where many colleagues were spread across the globe.

The 'Victory' edition of Northampton News

The 'Victory' edition of Northampton News

Amatueur historian Dave Thacker, whose family connections to the post office brought him upon the letters, said: “They had learned the lessons of World war One, where people came back from Europe and were complete strangers to their former friends s and workmates.

“The organisations wanted to make it easier for soldiers to slot back into their former lives.

“What it gives you, though, is quite an insight into attitudes at the time and just how far people who had worked side-by-side were spread.

“It became almost a welfare movement, with monthly meetings called ‘teatime chats’ organised to talk about the news from the front.”

They had learned the lessons of World war One, where people came back from Europe and were complete strangers.

Dave Thacker, amateur historian

Several post office staff were able to send back to Northampton some of the first accounts of a conquered Germany.

Lance Corporal Cliff Dyer, in Germany in May 1945, wrote that he had seen “much evidence of the wonderful accuracy of visits made by the RAF. The destruction in some of the towns has to be seen to be believed.”

Corporal Bert Wyatt described being part of the race by the Allies to reach a capitulating Berlin, saying that “the roadside is littered with refugees, evacuees and every race in the West.”

So well-received was the editions of the newsletter that another running theme was the lambasting of those colleagues who let themselves get out of the habit of sending back tales.

Sergeant Bill Snape was typical of the ‘Victory’ edition contributors, saying: “I myself hate writing letters and think I am right in saying that I have as busy a time as anyone, yet i feel that I am honour-bound to send whatever news I can to those who, in spite of long hours and the strain of carrying on while we are away , sacrifice their leisure hours so that we can keep in touch with each other.”

The newsletters were edited by post office manager Needham Smith and his wife Gwen in their own time and from their own home at 30 Cyril Street, Northampton.

The particular newsletter was one of the final ones sent out to subscribers, who numbered about 500 people.

Catching up on the news were servicemen’s post office workmates in St Giles Street, their families and other friends.

This edition, from May 1945, was a special ‘Victory’ edition.

As of this week - which marks the 70th anniversary of VE day on Friday - Mr Thacker has traced more than 100 descendants of the letter writers, with mixed reactions.

He said: “Some of them didn’t really want to know about their relatives, which is a shame.

“However, I’ve had some wonderful reactions. One lady said her dad, who had died, didn’t talk much about what he did in the war. But she said the letters He wrote alllowed him to talk to her about his wife in his own words.”