“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Britain's only Blue Post Box?

On a recent trip to Windsor I was surprised see my first blue Royal Mail post box, which is located near Windsor Castle where the High Street joins St Alban’s Street. Blue post boxes seem to be a very rare thing indeed and some sources suggest that this may be the last still to be found in the country. Blue post boxes began to be introduced into some British cities and other locations of note in 1930 and were used for postal airmail services to send and receive mail mainly to and from Europe. The blue post box at Windsor Castle, which is near the site of the old Windsor Post Office (1887 – 1966) commemorates the first United Kingdom airmail service. On the 9th September 1911, Gustav Hamel flew a Blériot monoplane (which looks a bit of a death-trap) from Hendon aerodrome in London and landed on the Long Walk behind Windsor Castle. This 19 mile flight took only 18 minutes and his cargo was a sack of mail celebrating the coronation of King George V. Following this first official airmail flight the use of airmail slowly increased and became firmly established in the 1920’s when improved post World War I aircraft and pilots became available to support the service.

The use of these bespoke blue post boxes was short lived however and by the end of 1938 they had fallen out of use. A number of reasons for their withdrawal are citied including: the rise of air travel; the build-up to the Second World War and the re-allocation of aircraft assets; and the cost associated with having bespoke post boxes solely for airmail. Whatever the true reason, come the end of 1938 it was acceptable for airmail to be posted in normal red post boxes and the only reference to the blue boxes remained in the blue airmail stickers that adorned the envelopes of airmail letters.

Gustav Hamel (25 June 1889 – 23 May 1914) who safely delivered the UK’s first airmail in 1911, sadly got “lost in the post” himself. Hamel disappeared on the 23rd May 1914 whilst returning from France in a Morane-Saulnier monoplane that he had just collected. Whilst his aircraft was never found a body was found on the 6th July 1914 by the crew of a fishing vessel in the English Channel near Boulogne. The crew did not retrieve the body, but their description of clothing on the corpse and the fact that one of the personnel effects of the deceased was a road map of southern England led some to conclude that the body was Hamel.

Windsor's commemorative blue airmail post box.

If unusual post boxes are of interest, then Windsor is home to another peculiar example. Located on the High Street next to the Guild Hall is a green hexagonal Penfold post box dating from around 1872. Between 1866 and 1879 green was the standard colour for all British post boxes, however from 1874 they were all re-painted to the now traditional post box red to enable them to be more easily seen.

Pictures: Berkshire (June 2016).

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  1. Manchester as one of each, a blue postbox on Liverpool Street near the Museum of Science and Industry and a Green one on Rochdale Road in Moston.

    1. Thanks for the info Kevin. It looks like the Blue Post Box in Manchester is a different shade of blue, but was used for the same purpose (Air Mail).


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