The Sorting Office - Sutton Coldfield

GV II Post Office sorting office, originally bult to serve U.S. troops stationed in Europe and Africa. 1942, Ministry of Works and Planning. MATERIALS: Red stretcher bond brick with a felt and corrugated iron roof. PLAN: Single storey with office wing which is connected, via a corridor with service rooms off it, to a large sorting hall. Along one side runs a platform with ramps at either end down into the sorting hall. DESCRIPTION: The entrance front to the office block is of 7 symmetrical bays with central double doors and 2-light metal framed casements to either side, those at far right and left being paired. The windows here and elsewhere have concrete lintels and tiled sills. The right and left reveals to this block have paired casements. Behind the office block can be seen the 3 gables of the sorting hall roof, that at left projecting further as it covers the service rooms and corridor which link the buildings. The Platform front of the building has a fuel store at right with 3 small casements and to left of it is the Registered Mail room with 4 bays of doubled 2-light casements. The rest of the front consists of the platform, which was formerly for railway trucks but has been adapted for road lorries, which has a brick plinth and is 35 bays in length, each bay being marked by an I-beam. The left hand gable end is abutted by later C20 additions and has service entries and doors. The rear of the building has 6 emergency exits and paired 2-light casements to each bay. Inside the office block 2 walls separating smaller rooms have been removed as has the walling to the registered mail vault. In the sorting hall the roof consists of 40 bays of metal trusses of shallow pitch. The walls to the former Directory section and separating the Parcels from the former Sorting sections are in situ. The former men's lavatory block, with an observation gallery to stop pilfering, which projects from the back has lost its stalls and been converted to a changing room, and a new projecting lavatory block has ben added. The platform which is very deep has been partially enclosed to its rear to create more space within the sorting hall. The original Parcels Sorting section is now the Post Office sorting office for Sutton Coldfield and has a suspended ceiling. The rest of the building is, at the time of re-survey [2004], used for sorting international post. HISTORY: Following the decision of the United States of America to enter actively into the Second World War it was quickly decided that a body of experienced mail handlers should be sent to Britain amongst the first troops. In June 1942 thirty-two enlisted men and three officers travelled to Liverpool and then to Sutton Coldfield. They were joined by a further 19 men. Their first base was an abandoned railway shed near Sutton Park Railway Station. In October 1942 the new building which is the subject of this application was opened. It consisted of an office block with service wing and there were 4 main sections to the large sorting hall: Parcels Sorting, Letter sorting, Registered Mail and the Directory Section. This latter contained a card index listing every man in the U.S. Forces stationed overseas and recording their movements and location so that mail could be forwarded. A railway platform ran along one side of the hall which was large enough to cope with 17 rail cars. Sidings could accommodate another 54 cars. The sorting office was initially called "Birmingham Z" and then "First Base Post Office". Throughout the course of the war the numbers of staff continued to grow and at Christmas and on the run-up to D-Day there were 800 enlisted men and c.300 local women working day and night in 12 hour shifts. A group of c.50 German Prisoners of War was also used, and their number grew to almost 500 at the end of the war. The women were mostly used in the directory section. At first the men lived in the unfinished Holland Road School nearby, but later they were billeted on local families. A canteen at the sorting office served lunch and mess halls around Sutton Coldfield served breakfast and supper. Following the D-Day landings the number of staff based at Sutton Coldfield fell as a sub-station had been established in Paris, however all mail was still directed through the First Base Post Office before being sent on to France. Towards the end of the war Sutton Coldfield also acted as the collection and storage depot for mail addressed to those killed or lost in action and stored the mail until families had been informed. After 1945 the building became the sorting office for British Forces Posted Overseas.

A well-planned, functional wartime building in a good state of preservation, which was the central sorting office for all mail coming to and going from all American troops based in Europe and Africa during the Second World War. The building, which is architecturally indifferent, is listed for its historic interest as a unique survival from the wartime presence of U.S. troops in the European theatre of operations. This building forms a group with the Former railway shed, now part of the Post Office Sorting Office, Upper Clifton Road, Sutton Coldfield [q.v.].

I received this text in an email, I believe it is from an English Heritage list.

Information supplied by David Wilcox