I had the pleasure of attending an event to celebrate Bristol Museum & Art Gallery’s memorial benches yesterday.
It was the first chance for the Post Office Remembrance Fellowship to see the new benches, which they funded after the original memorial benches were repeatedly vandalised to the point that they had to be removed in 2020.
The elegant, curved benches are registered war memorials, commemorating the postal workers who lost their lives in the Second World War.
It was an honour to join the Acting Lord Mayor for Bristol, Councillor Steve Pearce, along with Debbie Terry and Simon Kelly from the Post Office Remembrance Fellowship, Huw James, Trustee for Bristol Museum Development Trust, Kevin Slocombe, Head of Mayor’s Office, and Kevin Beazer, Southwest Regional Secretary for the Communication Workers Union, to showcase the benches and what they represent in the lead up to Armistice Day on 11 November and Remembrance Sunday on 12 November.
Thanks to generous funding from the Post Office Remembrance Fellowship, we were able to replace the damaged benches in 2022. A special mention also goes to Frank Kennedy, Museum Assistant Team Leader, who led this project.
Two bronze commemorative plaques from Bristol Foundry have been set into the pavement in front of the benches that bear the inscription: “Presented to the Citizens of Bristol by the staff of the Bristol Post Office in memory of their colleagues who gave their lives in the Second World War”.
The curved benches are made of oak and provide a convenient place to rest for visitors to the museum and passers-by.
As a former postal worker and official of the Communication Workers Union, it was especially poignant to think about the brave service men and women who fought throughout the Second World War and worked to keep vital communications going.
The Postal Museum set out that following a call in 1940 from Sir Anthony Eden, the then Secretary of State for War, postal workers formed their own battalions to defend Post Office buildings of strategic value – both to the British military and an invading army.
On top of many being called up to active duty, workers also kept postal services operating at a time when post was the primary form of communication across the world. Once bombing of cities started, salvage squads rescued mail, cash and other materials from bombed out post offices, sorting offices and post boxes. The Post Office aimed to deliver any delayed mail recovered in this way within 48 hours.
The involvement of Post Office workers on the Home Front during the war is an example of British wartime civilians doing their bit with bravery and sacrifice.
In total, 12,850 General Post Office workers were killed in both world wars, including 53 from Bristol. These benches are in recognition for their valuable contribution to the war effort.
On behalf of Bristol City Council, I would like to thank the Post Office Remembrance Fellowship for their help in reinstating Bristol Museum & Art Gallery’s memorial benches and for joining us in commemoration of the postal workers that they honour.
The Post Office Remembrance Fellowship aim to be a living memorial to the General Post Office men and women who died in the First World War and the Second World War. They work with other charities, making grants to facilitate learning, remembrance, heritage and compassion. They also assist charities to help current and past employees in need.
The War Memorials Trust reference is WMO/249327
The Imperial War Museum War Memorial Register reference is 3157