Prior to the operation formations had assumed a closed address “APO ENGLAND” and the Home Postal Centre NOTTINGHAM was carrying out the functions of Concentration Office for the force.
In addition the Postal branch of CANADIAN Section GHQ l Echelon 21 Army Group had joined the Postal Directorate of HQ 21 Army Group.
In view of the fact that the distance to UK was so short and casualties were being evacuated direct to UK from the outset, it was decided not to establish a Postal Tracing Section for units other than CANADIAN.
Instructions were there fore sent out to units to return to the Army Post Office for return to senders all correspondence addressed to individuals who were deceased or missing, or whose address was not known or who had been evacuated to hospital and in respect of whom no redirection card had been received within fourteen days. The usual safeguards to prevent premature return of such correspondence in the case of deceased or missing personnel were applied.
The first postal personnel to land in the theatre were those of 6 Airborne Division who landed by parachute and glider well before H-hour. The postal personnel of 1 and 4 Special Service Brigades followed about an hour after the sea assault began, just prior to the arrival of the beach group detachments personnel.
The next to arrive were the personnel of 50 Division, 1 and 30 Corps postal units, who established their “D” (divisional) and “HT” (corps) offices and future “S” (static) offices. Second Army Postal Unit followed and established an “S” office which also acted as a cross post centre for the formations ashore.
DADAPS (Deputy Assistant Director Army Postal Services) 1 and 30 Corps were in sole charge of the postal services in their own sectors until D+5 when Second Army took over.
Locations Control (21 Army Group) was established on the Continent on D+6. HQ L of C with a staff increment from 21 Army Group took over the Base and L of C Area on 13 July and HQ 21 Army Group Advance Section took over from them on 29 July.
Arrangements had been made for the delivery of mail to assault units on D+1. In fact deliveries did not commence until D+2 due to shipping difficulties, but the placing of mail was found to have been generally satisfactory.
In the case of follow-up formations cut-offs of unit mail in the UK had worked well and all formations found their mail awaiting them on arrival in the theatre.
The first despatch from the theatre was made by Beach Group APO S688 on 8 June.
On 20 June all despatches to UK were taken over by 8 Base Army Post office at CREPON, which had the CANADIAN Base Post Office adjoining it.
On 6 July a two way airlift of first class letter mail only, was established between the theatre and UK, leaving parcel mail to be convoyed as before by surface routes. The first day’s lift to the theatre consisted of 8,100 lbs. of BRITISH mail and 1,600 lbs. of CANADIAN mail, while the first despatch by air from the theatre amounted to 7,000 lbs. of mail.
This resulted in an immediate improvement in the service to the troops, but the service to the UK continued to be unsatisfactory, and many complaints were voiced both by the troops and in the Press. It had been thought that shipping delays were responsible but when the introduction of the airlift failed to improve the homeward service, further investigations were carried out and the cause of the trouble was discovered to be dislocation of the civil postal services in LONDON as a result of damage from flying bombs.
The maximum amount possible of correspondence was immediately diverted to provincial distribution centres and an instant improvement was noted.
The establishment of firm and efficient surface links had proved to be more difficult than expected. Loading in the UK was delayed by the failure of lighters to find the correct coasters, while on the theatre side it was held up by the inability of the authorities on shore to locate the ships containing mail until thirty-six to forty-eight hours after they had anchored. An officer was given the full time job of patrolling the anchorages in an amphibious jeep to locate the mail ships, and thus hasten unloading which was normally carried out with DUKWS. This resulted in an improvement in the service.
During this first phase the force changed its address three times. At the outset it was “APO ENGLAND”; on 22 June this was altered to “British Western European Forces (BWEF)”; and finally on 14 July as a result of a high level political decision, the address was again changed to “British Liberation Army (BLA)”, which title was retained throughout the campaign.