by Amy Adam, Assistant Curator, Royal Engineers Museum
Today Last Post: Remembering the First World War opens at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham Kent. This temporary exhibition has been curated by The British Postal Museum & Archive and the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms and features objects from the Royal Engineers Museum Postal and Courier Archive.
Letters sent by Royal Engineers during the war
The exhibition tells the stories of postal workers at war and on the Home Front. But this is not just an exhibition about stamps! Learn about the Post Office Rifles, the Post Office’s own battalion or hear about the tens of thousands of women who joined the Post office workforce temporarily. The role played by the Royal Engineers Postal and Courier Section is brought to life through the objects on display and you can even have a go at writing your very own trench post card.
Write a postcard from the trenches
A key object of the exhibition is a biscuit that was posted from the trenches back to Great Yarmouth. This hardtack biscuit was delivered in tact despite the fact it was sent with no wrapping, it just had the address and stamped fixed straight onto the item of food!
Hardtack biscuit posted from the trenches.
Also on display are some of the original postal distribution maps used on the Western Front. These beautifully drawn maps show the routes that the mails took to get to those on the Front Line and are displayed alongside photographs of the men who distributed the post.
An original postal distribution map used on the Western Front
Last Post opens today, Wednesday 8 June 2011 and runs through ‘til Thursday September 1 2011.
The Royal Engineers Museum is open every day except Mondays. For further information on the Royal Engineers Museum please visit www.re-museum.co.uk, or our Facebook page ‘Royal Engineers Museum’. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01634 822312.
The poster for Night Mail designed by Pat Keely
Sir Stephen Tallents, the innovative public relations man responsible for creating the GPO Film Unit, establishing poster design as an important part of the Post Office’s marketing activities and introducing the Valentines telegram (among other things), was the subject of a talk given at the BPMA on 29th October 2009 by Dr Scott Anthony, Director of the MA in Modern British History at Manchester University and author of the BFI Classics book on Night Mail. This talk is now available on our podcast.
Tallents had a varied career before he joined the General Post Office (GPO). He served in the Irish Guards during World War I, but was badly injured in Festubert. Thereafter he returned to London and worked for a number of government departments until he became Secretary to the Empire Marketing Board (EMB) in 1926. The EMB’s purpose was to promote trade between British Empire nations and Tallents made full use of the modern media, setting up a film unit (led by John Grierson) and employing artists such as Edward McKnight Kauffer to design posters.
A still from the GPO Film Unit film Rainbow Dance
When the EMB was abolished in 1933, Tallents took up public relations work for the GPO, bringing the film unit and Grierson with him, and establishing a way of working which drew on the expertise of leading figures from the arts and communications industries in a consultative capacity. Kenneth Clark, then Director of the National Gallery but later most famous for the BBC TV series Civilisation, was one of many involved.
Dr Anthony’s talk examines Tallent’s career, showing how his many experiences and jobs led him to virtually invent public relations in the UK, and establish a long-lasting corporate identity and marketing strategy for the GPO.
Tallent’s work in the area of poster design will be one of the subjects covered in our next podcast, in which Dr Paul Rennie, Head of Context in Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, London, will explore the history and development of poster art and communication at the GPO.
Posted in Philatelic, Podcast, Postal History
Tagged BFI Classics, Dr Scott Anthony, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Empire Marketing Board, General Post Office, GPO, GPO film unit, GPO posters, Irish Guards, John Grierson, Kenneth Clark, Manchester University, Night Mail, Podcast, poster, poster design, Rainbow Dance, Sir Stephen Tallents, Valentine's Day Telegram, World War 1, World War I, WW1, WWI