Post Office Student Apprentices




In the years following the 1939-45 World War, telecommunications services for the UK were provided under the control of the Engineering Department of the General Post Office (GPO - usually known internationally as the British Post Office, BPO).  With but a few exceptions, the GPO exercised a monopoly control of telecommunications for the UK.

The GPO was constitued as a government department, led by an appointed minister - the "Postmaster General" (PMG).  GPO employees were thus civil servants and many of the non-technical senior management were administrators who could transfer between the GPO and other government departments.  Senior management requiring specialist technical skills would, in the immediate post-war years, often be drawn from the armed services, with others working their way "up the ranks" from engineering technicians such as wiremen and electricians.

The 1950s saw a huge expansion in both the size of the UK telecommunications network and its complexity, driven by technologies such as automatic telephone switching (as distinct from calls set up by operators), microwave radio and coaxial cable long-distance transmission systems - and the arrival of the transisitor.  As 1960 approached, with the technical and research departments growing quickly, however, the source of telecommunications specialists from the armed-forces was rapidly drying up.  The GPO therefore needed a new fast-track approach to bring suitable graduates from the universities straight into the technical and research area at management level.


P.O. Student
Apprentice Scheme

Thus was born the Post Office Student Apprentice scheme.  A special board of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) selected students leaving (mostly) secondary grammer or secondary technical schools with good sixth-form qualifications in mathematics, physics and other relevant subjects - typically General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) "Advanced" and/or "Scholarship" levels.

The Student Apprentice scheme was what was then known as a "Thick Sandwich" training course, comprising:

  • One year of practial training and experience within the Post Office Engineering Department (POED).
  • The three-year university undergraduate course, usually in Engineering or Physics, leading to a Batchelor of Science (BSc) degree.  (Cambridge was an exception in awarding a Batchlor of Arts (BA) degree to technical graduates).
  • Following graduation, further training and experience pending appointment by the CSC to a permanent, usually second-level, management post.  By mutual agreement, some Student Apprentices remained at university to study for a masters degree or doctorate, thus postponing formal appointement into the POED.

A flaw in the scheme was the lack of certainty that graduating Students would accept appointment to the Post Office since, once the indenture was complete after 5 years, they were free to seek alternative jobs elsewhere.  Early student apprentices, recruited from 1960, were thus released into the world of employment from 1965, when many other industries, at home and overseas, were keenly seeking premium technical expertise.  The late 1960s saw political forces in the UK resulting in the notorious "brain drain", as the combination of pay freeze and ever higher taxation encouraged the best people to take jobs in the USA and elsewhere.  These forces were felt alike by Student Apprentices, so the PO did not benefit from the scheme to the intended extent.


1960 Intake

In 1960, twenty promising school leavers were recruited, of whom 11 are known to have joined the Post Office.  Included in the list were Dave deMesquita, John Beattie, John Berry, Nick Crumpsty and Nigel Reynolds who joined the Telephone Electronic (TpE) Exchange Division and Mike Crabtree and Mike Miller who entered the Post Office Research Department (ResD).


1961 Intake

In 1961, again there were twenty recruits, but only 8 joined the Post Office.  The 1961 intake included Brian Nuttall, Chris Barrett, Chris Seymour, Clive Probert (in 2010 - living in Arizona), Graham Oliver, Ian Duff (in 2012 living in North Berwick), Nigel Lacey, Paul Hercus, Pete Dobson and Roy White.


1962 Intake

There were 15 recruits in 1962, with once again about half actually taking up posts in the Post Office.  With the writer being one of the 1962 intake, rather more information has survived and is reproduced below.

There was a "30-Year Reunion" for members of the 1962 intake, one evening in June 1992, with more than half of the original 15 attending.  If YOU have any new information, please get in touch (see Home Page).


 NameA.k.a.Home Town (1962)Universityex-BTLast known ...
R.B. Arnall"Dickie" Roker, SunderlandCambridge (Queens) no?
D.A. Bell"Dinger" Hatch End, MiddxWales (Bangor) no?
R.H. Benton"Bob" Shenfield, BrentwoodLondon (Queen Mary) yesMartlesham Heath, Ipswich
J.M. Bostock-Smith"Bostick" Budlake, ExeterLondon yesBadingham, Suffolk
M. Cleaver"Maurice" Westham, WeymouthSouthampton noMalmesbury, Wiltshire
J.V. Goodman"Benny" Ruislip, MiddxLondon (Imperial) yesFrensham, Farnham
D.D. Gordon"Dave" Balleymoney N.I.Belfast (Queens) no?
J.M. Griffiths"Griff" Ruislip, MiddxManchester (Tech) yesFelixstowe, Suffolk
R.J. Hale"John" Whitley BayLondon noFareham, Hants
C.J. Isham"Ish" Harrow, MiddxSouthampton noImperial College, London
G.J. Morgan"Geoffrey"
Rhymney. MonmouthBirmingham noWinchester, Hants
R.W. Powell"Roger" Oswestry, SalopLondon (Imperial) (BBC)Weston Turville, Wendover
C.E. Rowlands"Chris" Leeds 16Birmingham yesIpswich, Suffolk
J.C. Stockbridge"Jerry" Raynes Park SW20London (Imperial) yesSouthall, Middx
J.R. Thomas"John" Whitchurch, CardiffWales (Bangor) yesSunnyvale, California USA


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