Post Offices of one sort or another have served the modern Indian Army for the last two hundred years. To begin with, they were postal agencies run by the Army with its own resources but linked with the national system at convenient points. From 1800 onwards there are many references in military records of army postmasters being appointed for specific campaigns. However, the Army Postal Service of today traces its history from 1856 when the first full-fledged self-contained post office was attached to the Field Force sent to Persia to fight the East India Company's last war. From then Army Post Offices (APOs) designated as Field Post Offices (FPOs) and Base Post Offices (Base POs) have accompanied all the Expeditionary Forces sent out of India and to all the theatres of the two World Wars not to mention the numerous operations on the Frontiers.

FPOs form an integral part of the Army and are set-up, worked, controlled and closed under the orders of the Army's own Postal Organisation, the Army Postal Service (APS). For Technical and postal purposes, APS functions as a branch of the P&T Department which provides volunteers to man, operate and supervise the APOs.

After Independence the Army Postal Service has been expanded to cater for the growth of the armed forces and to cope with new responsibilities such as the handling of all official mail previously dealt with by the Army Signals and the opening of Postal Savings Bank and Life Insurance branches in the APOs. In recognition of its new and permanent status, APS has been constituted into a separate corps with its own colours (white and red), emblem – (Raj Hans (swan) in flight) and motto ‘Amity and Concord’.

The basic unit of the Army Postal Service is a Field Post office. FPOs are attached to brigades and higher field formations and they are established, as necessary, on the lines of communication. A number of FPOs are grouped under a Divisional Unit or a Communication Zone Postal Unit. All the FPOs in a particular area are dependent on a Base P0 for receipt and despatch of mail, for replenishment of postage stamps and stores and for maintenance of accounts. Separate units have been designed to meet the postal needs of the headquarters of Corps and Armies. There are specialist Postal units for tracing the mail that cannot be delivered as addressed and for collecting and notifying information regarding the location of units.

Mail for delivery through FPOs is not addressed to a post town of destination but to a unit followed by a code name like '56 APO' which directs it to the right Base P0. At the Base P0 a complete record is kept of the units served by its FP0s and their day-to-day locations. All incoming mail is first separated into the main divisions of the Army and then sorted in to separate bundles for each unit. Direct mail bags are closed for each FP0 and they contain unit mail bundles already sorted for immediate distribution at the other end.

As befits their army role, FPOs are fully mobile and equipped to function in tents, trucks, bunkers and even in open air. They provide all the main postal facilities to the soldiers and they take pride in being the quickest and most dedicated mail handlers in the world. Base POs work round the clock and FPOs receive and deliver mail on all days of the week without any break for holidays.

Soldiers are great patrons of the money order service whose centenary we are celebrating this year. FPOs were among the first Indian post offices to offer this facility to their customers in 1882 when they were on field service in Egypt.

The hobby of stamp collecting has long association with the Indian Army, many of whose officers have been pioneers of Indian Philately. The first Commander-in-Chief of Independent India's Army, General K.M.Cariappa was a life long collector of stamps. The Army Postal Service is actively engaged in promoting philately among servicemen. It maintains separate philatelic bureau at its Central Base Post Offices. It is also using philately to project the heroic deeds of our servicemen and the colourful histories of their units by sponsoring stamps and issuing special covers.

Date of Issue: 25.1.1980