Published on July 3rd, 2014 | by Guest Post

Extraordinary Lives of Post Office Employees in World War 1: Matthew Bendelow

World War 1 claimed the lives, injured and maimed an enormous number of military personnel, many of whom were employees of the Post Office before and after the Great War.

To commemorate 100 years since the outbreak of the first modern war and the lives of the personnel who fought in the name of King and country the Post Office Shop blog have been researching the lives of some of its employees during World War 1.

There are a number of standout achievements of daring activity and bravery during the war with some Post Office employees being more well known and researched by historians than others, lest not forget the combined effort of these brave souls who encountered such hostile environments on the frontline of the Great War, many of whom never made it back to our home shores. However the story of Private Matthew Bendelow during the war and his commitment to his life after the war is one of the more extraordinary stories.

Private Matthew Bendelow served in the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and fought at the battle of Gallipoli and the Somme.

Matthew Bendelow

© Royal Mail Group Ltd with kind permission of The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA)

In 1915 Private Bendelow and the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment landed at Suvla Bay which was then part of the Ottoman Empire and is now part of European Turkey, to fight in the Battle of Gallipoli against the German backed Ottoman army.

During the battle of Gallipoli somewhere towards the end of August 1915 Private Matthew Bendelow was severely injured in his left arm and it is recorded that muscles from his arm were removed by medical staff during the battle. Gallipoli was a bloody battle that saw a vast amount of human life lost and managing to hold the Allies back from their objectives.

For his contribution to this battle Matthew and approximately 2,336,000 of his fellow soldiers were awarded a four point bronze star which was issued by the British forces in 1920.

Bendelow went on to fight in the ‘Bloody Battle of the Somme’ in 1916, which saw the armies of the British and French Empires battle against the German Empire on both sides of the river Somme in northern France. The battle of the Somme is known by historians as one of the bloodiest battles in history and killed and wounded over a million men who fought in the battle.

One of the casualties of this battle was Private Matthew Bendelow who lost his left leg and fell dangerously ill as a consequence of the severe damage to his body.

Private Matthew Bendelow or Postmaster Matthew Bendelow as he was known in his new role back on home shores after the Great War had ended, could have been forgiven for making his life as comfortable as possible when taking into account the disability that the war had left him with. This however, was not the case. Postmaster and Postman of the village of Bowes in the Pennine Hills, Matthew Bendelow took on one of the most arduous post routes in the country which stretched over 9 miles of fields, moorland and country lanes and performed these daily duties on crutches.

Private, Postmaster and Postman Matthew Bendelow had an active life and worked in the postal service for 40 years serving the village of Bowes near Barnard Castle.
The memory of this soldier and postal worker will be remembered as one of the more extraordinary lives to survive World War 1.

I would like to thank and Edward Nicholl for providing the sources of information for this article.

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