A hundred years of airmail for British troops overseas

One hundred years ago today (1st March), the very first scheduled mail-delivery flight to British personnel deployed overseas took to the skies. The service’s inaugural journey from Folkestone to Cologne was the first of 922 such flights, with the last taking place on 31 August 1919. It marked the start of a century of progress in postal and courier service provision to the Armed Forces; work which the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) continues to do this day.

BFPO is responsible for delivering Forces mail to over 650 locations across the globe by land, sea and air. For the last ten years its headquarters have been based at RAF Northolt, where a special painting commemorating the landmark airmail despatch takes pride of place in the Officer’s Mess. The First Air Mail, by renowned military artist Terence Cuneo, captures the unloading of the cargo in Cologne from a De Havilland DH9 aircraft, as it is checked by a Royal Engineers Postal Section corporal.

Major Ed Dunlop, a member of BFPO’s Technical Services Team with over three decades of postal and courier service, explains the significance of the centenary: “It’s a chance to reflect on the advances that have been made in mail provision. For example, our mail processing is now far more automated and efficient, and we can scan and track mail across the continents. But at the same time, we should also appreciate the importance and purpose of what we do has remained the same as all those decades ago; to serve the personnel overseas and help make sure their morale remains high.”

BFPO is marking the special anniversary with a short clip on their social media channels featuring an interview with Maj Dunlop and footage of the original Cuneo painting. You can watch the clip on their Facebook and Twitter channels @HQBFPO.

Find out more about BFPO services online.

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