Victoria Davis

'Colleagues in Khaki': The Victorian Post Office, its employees and their duty to a nation.

Dr. Adrian Steel (BPMA)

Vicky read her BA in History at the University of Chichester and her MA in Modern British and Gender History at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is undertaking her thesis through an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Institute of Historical Research and the British Postal Museum and Archive (BPMA). Her thesis focuses on the following:

Between 1850 and 1908, employees of the General Post Office had two distinct roles. Firstly, their duty to a seemingly ubiquitous institution that provided an ever increasing and modernised service to the nation and abroad.  Secondly, acting as skilled reserves, they were the first men to serve abroad alongside the regular Army providing postal and telegraphic duties.  Originating as special constables in response to the threat of the Fenian troubles, they went on to serve as the first Army Post Office Corps in Egypt, Sudan and South Africa. After the Haldane Reforms their responsibility dwindled, but the Great War soon called many back into service under the banner of the ‘Post Office Rifles’.

This research has a number of aims. Firstly to study the Post Office’s welfare system, the benefits and regulations for those serving abroad; secondly, to assess the reasons for placing civilians into the military environment and the implications of training, uniform and regimental life being put upon them; and thirdly, the shift of responsibility from civil disturbances to matters of international service. Overall, these aims also highlight whether state employers had expectations of their employees to serve abroad and why postal employees volunteered to join both the Post Office and the Rifle Corps. Moreover, it questions attitudes of the employees' patriotism and commitment to voluntarism before the enforcement of conscription in 1916.

Vicky is the current student representative for all IHR doctoral students, sitting on both the IHR and SAS staff student committees.

Research and publications


  • Book review of Clare Mulley,The Woman Who Saved the Children, A Biography of Eglantyne Jebb (Oxford: Oneworld, 2009), in ‘Women’s History Network’ Magazine (Summer 2010)
  • Book review of Mary Davis (editor),Class and Gender in British Labour History, Renewing the Debate (or starting it?), (Pontypool: Merlin Press, 2011),in ‘Women’s History Network’ Magazine (Autumn 2012)


  • ‘It’s what you can do that counts’ – The history and role of the Riding for the Disabled Association within local communities, Voluntary Action History Society workshop, University of Southampton, October 10th 2012.