Havering Museum is celebrating Valentine’s Day by remembering V-Mail. The post below was written by one of Havering Museum’s interns, Sara Falcone, who is researching into the Second World War in Havering to create an education programme.
In the Second World War, Victory Mail, also known as Airgraph, was a way by which soldiers communicated home. It was invented in the 1930s by Eastman Kodak Company in conjunction with Imperial Airways, now known as British Airways.
Letters were written on set stationary, which was a sheet of paper that had printed instructions on the back and a space for a return and mailing address. There was also a space on the front for the letter to be written, this could be folded into an envelope. It was not rationed and could be posted for three pence (3d).
The letters were all read and censored before they were photographed. The photographs were put on microfilm and sent to their destination. At their destination the negatives were then printed on photographic paper and delivered as letters through the normal postal service. This was done to reduce the weight and therefore more letters could be sent at any one time. Also, the photographing of the original made it impossible for communication in invisible ink, microdots or microprinting.
However, there were problems with V-Mail, letters had to be short and frequently women would leave lipstick marks on the letters which would jam the scanning machine, this was referred to as “Scarlet Scourge” by postal workers.
In April this year Havering Museum will be celebrating the theme of love in Shakespeare’s plays, hosting a photographic display by the Romford Summer Theatre. This display will explore how Shakespeare’s plays portrayed the theme of love, from romance and affection, to jealousy and alienation.