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1957: Post Office issues Christmas warning

The General Post Office has started its annual campaign urging members of the public to post their Christmas cards early to ensure they arrive on time.

At a news conference today the Postmaster General, Ernest Marples, produced some useful advice on present packing and card sending and advised people to "Post early."

He told journalists of his own difficulties wrapping parcels with string that broke in his hands. He said that wrapping fell apart on 13,000 parcels at Mount Pleasant sorting office in London last year and asked people to pack carefully with strong string.

He also asked people to ensure their handwriting was clear and legible and to print the names of towns in block capitals.

He recollected a day he accompanied a Liverpool postman on his rounds as he puzzled over a letter which had writing "as intensely undecipherable as my own".

Four times more post

Mr Marples also explained this year was a particular problem as Christmas falls on a Wednesday.

This means most people will expect letters posted on the Monday before to arrive on time. But he urged us to "Post early" and send cards "prior to the preceding weekend" before Christmas Day.

This will alleviate the massive workload on the Post Office which is bracing itself for a fourfold increase on the usual amount of articles it handles - about 800 million cards, letters and parcels over the Christmas period.

It will be spending 4m on extra staff and lorries to deal with the festive rush of letters.

Tomorrow is the last day for posting cards to Europe and 12 December is the last date for sending letters to Europe, except to certain parts of Norway.

In Context
The General Post Office stopped delivering letters on Christmas Day in 1960 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and in 1965 in Scotland.

The GPO ceased to be a government department on 1 October 1969 and was nationalised as a public corporation, a process pushed forward by the then Postmaster General Anthony Wedgwood Benn.

It was also split into two divisions - postal and telecommunications.

British Telecom was created in 1980 and severed its links with the Post Office in 1981.

The Post Office is now divided into Royal Mail, Parcelforce and Post Office Counters plc.

Over Christmas 2002, Royal Mail delivered 2.1 billion cards, letters and parcels to 27 million addresses.

An estimated 20,000 extra staff were recruited to help the regular workforce of 143,000 postmen and postwomen.


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