Military Forwarding Services, Old Comrades Association

The Military Forwarding Services had its beginnings in September 1914, with Captain Eric Simpson as the first Military Forwarding Officer. Its aim was forwarding from the base to the front (often via rail) 'private parcels destined for troops which exceeded the maximum weight allowed by the Army Postal service, all "comforts" for general distribution amongst the troops and the free issue of newspapers sent out to the troops'. However, although the department at first had to deal with few items of traffic the department grew so that by 1917 they had to deal with traffic from many organisations, such as the Young Men's Christian Association (Pratt 1921: p.625).

The first Military Forwarding Depot was opened at Nantes on 22nd September 1914 though a short time later there was a transfer to Le Havre. Pratt reports that before the end of 1914 there were depots in Boulogne and Rouen and later other depots were opened at Abbeville, Etaples, Calais, Marseilles, Dunkirk, Audruicq, Les Attaques, Dieppe, Trouville, St. Valery and elsewhere. In 1917 a depot in Paris was created (Pratt 1921: p.625).

The growth of work meant that in June 1915 four Repacking Depots were established at railway regulating stations, and in July 1915 the control of the department was passed to the Director of Railway Transport, with the military forwarding staff placed under the Railway Transport Officers' control and an Assistant Military Forwarding Officer appointed to each Army Railway Traffic Office. Towards the end of 1916 the control was passed to the Director of Transportation (Pratt 1921: p.625). These units were attached to Royal Engineers.

Units went out with the Egyptian expeditionary force in 1915 and in the latter part of 1917 to Italy. The 'Unofficial History of the Military Forwarding Services, 1914 to 1919 prepared for private circulation by the committee of the Military Forwarding Services of the Old Comrades Association, 1927', gives eye witness accounts, details of expeditions, and details of the differences of the running of the Military Forwarding Organisation in different places, such as Salonika compared to France. Photographs within the collection show individuals within the organisation, often on expeditions.

The Military Forwarding Services, The Old Comrades Association began in September 1919, formed with a purely social object in mind, so friendship between those who were in the organisation was not lost. According to the newspaper report recording the final meeting, 200 attended the first meeting and annual reunions followed thereafter. A pilgrimage to France took place in 1939, where the members paid a tribute to those who passed away in the First World War. They also recorded 'an Unofficial History of the Military Forwarding Services', included in the collection. The final meeting of the association was in June, 1973, and the association and the final correspondence of the association finished c 1975. The Presidents throughout this time were C.L Macdona, Leslie Lampitt and Harry Roberts. The secretaries were F.S Darby, Arthur Smith, A.C. Dowling, Clarence White and S.H Davies as recorded by the final President Frank Gilbert, in a letter thanking the committee for their commitment, dated May 3rd 1975. Newspaper obituaries mark the death of Lampitt and correspondence from Frank Gilbert marks the death of C. L Macdona.