Post Office: Uniforms and Discipline

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Details of POST 61
Reference: POST 61
Title: Post Office: Uniforms and Discipline

This series comprises reports, papers, statistics and photographs, mainly relating to the design, manufacture and distribution of uniform, but also to discipline within The Post Office.

Please see The Postal Museum's online catalogue for descriptions of individual records within this series.

Note: Catalogue entries below series level were removed from Discovery, The National Archives' online catalogue, in November 2016 because fuller descriptions were available in The Postal Museum's online catalogue.
Date: 1765-1995

The records are arranged in chronological order within subseries.

Held by: The Postal Museum, not available at The National Archives
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 111 files and volumes
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure
Administrative / biographical background:

The first Post Office employees to be issued with uniform were the Mail Coach Guards who, from 1784, wore a scarlet coat with blue lapels and a black top hat with a gold band. As of 1793 the London General Post Letter Carriers were furnished with a scarlet coat with blue lapels, blue waistcoat and beaver hat with a gold band. By 1834 this uniform was worn by letter carriers in Edinburgh and Dublin as well as London.

1837 saw the introduction of uniform for the London District 'Twopenny Postmen'. These men wore the same blue waistcoat and beaver hat but were given a blue coat with a red collar. This arrangement lasted eighteen years until the amalgamation of the General and Twopenny Postmen when a new uniform was issued to all London Letter Carriers. The new dress included a scarlet frock coat, glazed hat and grey trousers. It was the first time that trousers had been issued as part of the uniform.

The Post Office took over responsibility for the country's Telegraph Service in 1870 and with it inherited a responsibility to provide Boy Messengers with a uniform as a supplement to their wages. (This had been carried out for some time by the private telegraph companies). By providing suitable work clothes for the Boy Messengers The Post Office may have been spurred to extend the entitlements to uniform because by 1872 the whole delivery force was receiving official Post Office dress. Decisions made relating to uniform had always been rather disorganised with reports being produced here and there addressing very limited subject areas. In an attempt to rectify this haphazard approach 1908 saw the creation of the Committee on Uniform Clothing, and by 1910 the committee had produced a comprehensive report standardising postal uniforms nation-wide by creating six 'classes' of attire which corresponded directly with the grading of each duty.

During the First World War the number of Postwomen employed by The Post Office rocketed as more and more male workers were drafted into the armed forces. Previously female letter carriers had only been afforded a limited clothing entitlement, but as of 1916 were provided with a blue serge coat and skirt, a waterproof skirt and cape, and a blue straw hat.

Most of the main aspects of uniform manufacture and distribution remained unchanged from this point until 1948 when a review of Post Office Engineering grades was ordered by the Postmaster General. Following the successful creation of scales of entitlement for the new engineering grades the Postmaster General decided to order a comprehensive review of all grades not covered by the 1948 agreement. For this task a new committee entitled 'The Joint Working Party on Uniform and Protective Clothing' was created and after four years of research and deliberation produced the 1954 report examining the arrangements for supply and issue of uniform and protective clothing.

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