14 October 2008 – A new exhibition ‘Last Post: Remembering the First World War’ celebrating the vital role the Post Office played during the First World War 1914-1918 delivering letters to and from the front line trenches opens on 6 November 2008 at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms and runs until 28th February 2008.
This new temporary exhibition, jointly organised by The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) and the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms (CM&CWR), will display artefacts, posters and images from both the Imperial War Museum’s and the BPMA’s collections.
Highlights include a rare opportunity to see the Victoria Cross awarded to Sergeant Alfred J. Knight, a member of the Post Office Rifles, whose brave and selfless acts included single-handedly taking on twelve German soldiers – killing three and leaving the rest to flee.
It will also feature the very first showing of a facsimile of Winston Churchill’s tender letter to his Wife Clementine to be opened in the event of his death, sent from the Western Front where Churchill fought from November 1915 – May 1916.
The tens of thousands of women who joined the Post Office during the war years to fill the job gaps left by over 75,000 men sent to fight are also celebrated. Visitors will learn how, for the first time in Britain, women were allowed to carry out duties such as delivering mail in urban areas and opening packets in the Returned Letter Office. These women became indispensable, sorting 12 million letters and one million parcels a week to be delivered to the front line trenches and around the world.
Tony Conder, Chief Executive at the BPMA commented: "The role of the Post Office in the First World War is an exciting story of bravery, spies and resilience against all odds told through this fascinating exhibition."
Phil Reed, Director of the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms says, “This revealing new exhibition shows how the Post Office coped with the huge increased volumes of mail and looks at the social impact of women joining the Post Office. Also, for the first time visitors will be able to view a private letter written by Winston Churchill to his wife to be opened only in the event of his death.”
Recordings of personal stories from wartime, including an account of a 13 year old telegraph girl, Eileen Johnston, will bring the era to life for Visitors. Eileen Johnston’s father, a docker, was killed in 1915 meaning Eileen had to leave school at the age of 13. She became a telegraph girl for the Post Office at Whitechapel. Visitors will learn how she was punished for dossing, as well as her experiences of delivering harrowing news to people that their son or husband had been killed – ‘really awful. So hard for a child to have to tell them that’ and what became of her family after her Mother’s death.
`Last Post: Remembering the First World War` demonstrates how letters were delivered to the front, how the Post Office dealt with dramatic increases in volumes of mail and the vital part that censorship played in the war effort.
The Exhibition opens on 6 November 2008 in time to mark the ninetieth anniversary of the armistice on 11 November 2008 which bought the First World War to an end.
Notes to editors:
About Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms
• Entry to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms is £12.00 adults, £9.50 Seniors and students, £7.50 Disabled and children under 15 are free.
• The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms are open daily to explore from 9.30am - 6.00pm, last admission at 5.00pm.
• The Museum is located at Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AQ, with Westminster being the nearest tube station.
• The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms is a branch of the Imperial War Museum.
• Last Post is a part of the ninetieth anniversary activities at the Imperial War Museum. The ninetieth anniversary of the Armistice is an important milestone in the Imperial War Museum’s own history as it was founded during the First World War as ‘a lasting memorial of common effort and common sacrifice’ to those who played their part in the conflict in which over 700,000 British servicemen lost their lives. To mark the ninetieth anniversary of the end of the First World War, a series of exhibitions and events to commemorate the experiences of those who lived, fought and died in the ‘war to end all wars’ will take place across each of the Museum’s five branches. For further information about events and activities taking place at Imperial War Museum branches visit www.iwm.org.uk/90
• HORRIBLE HISTORIES™: Frightful First World War is open now at Imperial War Museum North and is based on Frightful First World War, one of the most popular books in the Horrible Histories™ series by Terry Deary and Scholastic Children’s Books.
About The British Postal Museum & Archive
• The British postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) is the leading resource for all aspects of British postal history. It is a combined museum and archive, bringing together The Royal Mail Archive and a Museum Store. With collections ranging from staff records to stamps, poster design to photography and from transport to telegrams, it cares for the visual, written and physical records from over 400 years of innovation and service, illuminating the fascinating story of British communications. Records in The Royal Mail Archive are designated as being of outstanding national importance. For more information see www.postalheritage.org.uk
For further information or images, please contact:
Kathryn Hughes, PR Director, Mabox on 0203 249 1072/07801 823 839 email: Kathryn@mabox.co.uk
Melody Allen, Marketing Assistant, CM&CWR on 020 7766 0155, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenny Karlsson, PR & Communications Officer, BPMA on 020 7239 2574, email email@example.com
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