William George Gates
Sapper, Royal Engineers (Postal Section)
William George Gates was a student at Alleyn’s until 1901 and lived with parents, William and Ellen, at 29 Camberwell Grove during this time. After leaving school, he worked as a Civil Servant until the outbreak of war encouraged him to enlist in the war effort, at the age of 29. After being found fit for service, William joined the Royal Engineers as part of the Postal Section. This special section of the Royal Engineers was responsible for providing mail services to the British Army during wartime and primarily dealt with parcels and letters that had been posted to troops overseas. In September 1916, William was sent for service overseas with the RE and was attached to one of the four Base Army Post Offices (BAPO) established in France during the war. At the BAPO, he worked untiringly to sort the letters and small gifts that thousands of soldiers would come to cherish during their time at the front. In May 1917, after two years of service with the RE, William was awarded the Good Conduct Stripe for his excellent behaviour and service in wartime. This badge of merit was a points-up chevron of NCO’s lace, worn on the lower sleeve of the uniform jacket that was awarded to Privates and Lance Corporals who had served for 2, 6, 12 or 18 years without being subject to discipline. William continued to serve with a good record throughout the rest of the war. After the end of the conflict, he returned home to England and was disembodied in July 1919.