Papers of the Military Forwarding Service Old Comrades Association

Scope and Content

Approximately 30 documents in the form of letters, newspaper cuttings, menu cards, minute books, secretary's reports, cash and subscription books, balance sheets and bank statements, photographs and lists of names and addresses regarding the Military Forwarding Service Old Comrades Association, including the start and end, and the members previous experience in the Military Forwarding Services.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Military Forwarding Services had its first 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. Edwin Pratt's British Railways and the Great War 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 after. 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.

The archives give the first correspondence organising the set up of the association by C.L Macdona, and Frank Gilbert, and details of the first meeting. Lists and addresses of the members involved are included, as are menu cards for reunions, secretary reports and letters detailing reunions, and photographs show members of the association often in reunion dinners, which indicates the social nature of the association. Details of how the outbreak of the Second World War affected the Association are seen through the postponement of the 21st reunion because of the outbreak, and the letter of the pilgrimage to France in 1939. A Newspaper article and photograph records the final meeting, marking the end of the association.


The archives have been arranged into 5 series, reflecting either the activities to which the records relate or the nature of the record. The archives have been ordered into Association papers, Reunion papers, Photographs, Financial matters and Minute books.

Conditions Governing Access

Access is given in accordance with the NRM access policy. Material from this archive is available to researchers through the Search Engine reading room.

Opening times:

Search Engine is open to the public Wednesday to Saturday 10.00-5.30. You don't need an appointment to use the library collection but you will need to book at least a week ahead if you wish to look at archival material.

To make a booking, email: We recommend you contact us at least one week before your visit.

Contact details:

Address: Search Engine, National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York, YO26 4XJ. Email:

Check full details on the website at:

Acquisition Information

Acquired from S.F.M Davies, the son of former secretary S. H. Davies, 1988.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed list of the contents has been made and provides an appendix to this introduction.

Alternative Form Available


Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Paper documents, photographs, books and cards, some tied with archival tape.

Archivist's Note

This catalogue and inventory were prepared by Rebekah Taylor, Volunteer, National Railway Museum, February 2009.

Description created by Jane Ronson (Archives Hub team) using the Archives Hub EAD Editor, May 2015.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied of items in the archive, provided that the copying process used does not damage the item or is not detrimental to its preservation. Copies will be supplied in accordance with the NRM’s terms and conditions for the supply and reproduction of copies, and the provisions of any relevant copyright legislation.

Appraisal Information

No appraisal of this material has been undertaken.


No accruals are expected.

Related Material

Related units of description elsewhere:

The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Telephone 020 8876 3444. Website:

MT 23/319 Territorial Battalions, Gibraltar, forwarding parcels by transports, 1914.

MT 23/638 Erection of small parcels rooms in all vessels loading at Avonmouth for East Africa. Request from War Office, 1916.

MT 23/654 Transfer of military forwarding establishment from Devonport to Avonmouth. Estimated weekly tonnage; fitting of parcel rooms, 1916.

Location of Originals

Not applicable.


Pratt, Edwin A. (1921) British Railways and The Great War Volume II . London: Selwyn and Blount Ltd.