Last updated 19th July 2014.
We will be attending the new event at Gaydon – the Classic Van & Pick Up event – with a vehicle display on Sunday 10th August 2014. We will have a vehicle display made up of a Minivan Utility, two Morris J 100cf. mailvans, five Morris Minors (red, green and yellow), a Bedford HA Utility, an Morris Ital, an Austin Maestro and a selection of BSA Bantams telegram motor cycles. Royal Mail has promised a DAF CF motive unit from Daventry, hopefully one of the latest Euro 6 units. Gaydon also has the replica Reliant Supervan III 50cf. mailvan and a Morris Minor Utility in its own collection. Other societies such as Transit Van Club, the Morris J Register and the Morris-Commercial Club are also supporting the event with vehicle and other displays. A new book from Créchy, Telegraphs to Telecom, by Bill Aldridge with the Club’s assistance will be launched at Gaydon on 10th August. More details of the event and how to get there at http://www.heritage-motor-centre.co.uk/event/classic-van-and-pickup-show-new-for-2014/
2014 is the centenary of the first use by the General Post Office (GPO) of its own motorised vehicles for mail transport with May 1914 the likely month for introduction. Traditionally the GPO had used contractors for its transport of mail, whether by rail or road. In 1891, the War Office had propounded a scheme where the GPO would acquire the vehicles and horses owned by the various contractors in London and other cities and should maintain its own mail services. The idea was to provide a reserve of good horses for government service in the event of an emergency, and to employ reservists of the Army Service Corps to conduct mail services in time of peace. The scheme did not progress beyond the discussion stage but was revived in 1902, again without result. The policy of using contractors extended to rural mail deliveries to which delivery to individual addresses was extended between 1892 and 1897 with rural postmen initially providing their own bicycles or horses for delivery work. In 1896 it was realised that there were economies to be made if the GPO provided the bicycles and departmental machines replaced their riders’ machines over the next few years. The bulk of mail transport was entrusted to the railway companies but there was a need for road transport to convey mails between Head Post Offices and stations, and between Head Post Offices and sub-offices, as well as collections from Post Offices and letter boxes. Generally this transport was horse-drawn in the 19th Century, ranging from simple horses and carts through to horse-drawn parcel coaches. Contractors who supplied these services to the GPO started using motorised transport in 1897 when some local services in London and the London to Redhill parcels coach were so converted. 170 contracts (out of a total of about 1,400) were converted to motor vehicles by their operators during the years leading up to the First World War. Other departments of the GPO, the Stores Department and the telephone service, had been using motorised transport on their own account since 1906. The postal service is known to have considered obtaining its own vehicles on a number of occasions, the last occasion being in 1909. At this time it was estimated that the cost, excluding reserves, would be at least 8½d per mile for a 10cwt. van while a number of contracts had been entered into where the cost was about 6d per mile, making ownership financially unattractive.
By February 1914, the GPO had decided to start a small experiment and it wrote to the Treasury who replied on 15th April 1914 in the following terms:
In report to your Report of 18th February last (207789/13), I am directed by the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury to authorise you to purchase 20 Motor Cycles and Side Cars at a cost not exceeding £1400 with a view to their use on certain Rural Posts.
Their Lordships also sanction your proposals,
(i) that Postmen engaged in Motor Cycles duties should receive an allowance of 6d for each weekday and 9d for each Sunday for cleaning the machines and undertaking minor repairs; and
(ii)that the cost, estimated at about £2, of a course of instruction in the use of the machines, which will required in some cases, should be borne by your department.
For the present the arrangements (including the amount of the allowances) should be regarded as experimental – a further Report being made to this Department as to the financial result in due course.
We know that four Rovers, ten New Hudsons and six Douglas combinations were ordered following the Treasury’s letter and these were followed by a further single Rover the following year, possibly an accident replacement. All these motor cycles were rated at 3½ h.p. and had specially built wicker or metal side carriers of approximately 18cubic feet (cf.) capacity, while the last Rover was 14cf. In addition to the above, the GPO placed in service in 1915 four tricars (nominally 6 h.p.) that were supplied by Warwick and Autocarrier (two each). A simple way of describing them would be motorised box tricycles. They were allocated initially to Clitheroe, Alnwick, Chipping Norton and Chesterfield, going into service in July/August 1915. After initial allocation, it was found that several machines were unsuitable for the services to which they were allocated. Machines of different makes were exchanged between posts, some services were themselves closed down and their machines were transferred elsewhere. Although reference has been found to twenty combinations being in stock on 31st March 1919, when Major Wheeler launched the Motor Transport Scheme for the engineering department, it would appear that only ten were in working order. In fact, at least half had been withdrawn by the date and were being cannibalised for spares with one relegated to internal duty at the Birmingham stores depôt. After the Second World War, the GPO turned over to heavier twin-cylinder machines of about 6-8 h.p. fitted with larger side-carriers of 24-32cf. These were known as Heavy Weight Combinations and their makes included Triumph, BSA, Royal Enfield and Matchless.