hide You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of University of Alberta using Archive-It. This page was captured on 16:16:00 Dec 08, 2010, and is part of the HCF Alberta Online Encyclopedia collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page.
Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
The Heritage Community Foundation Albertasource.ca The Provincial Museum of Alberta The Alberta Lottery Fund

Airgraph Service

In 1941, the British Postal Service introduced the Airgraph Service for messages between servicemen and civilians. Messages were written in a particular paper format that was given an identification number and photographed onto microfilm. Airgraph forms were available from local post offices upon request. The paper format could not be folded or creased in such a way that the writing became ineligible and, the message could be no longer than 230 words. All messages were sent to a central Postal Service in Toronto. Upon their arrival, messages were hand-stamped in a chronological order, sorted and then photographed through a metal slit.

As each form was inserted into the slit, a light switch would automatically illuminate for a fraction of a second, long enough for the form to be photographed by a camera. The resulting film contained 1,700 airgraph photographs photographs and weighed only 5½ ounces (154g.). These messages, if sent by ordinary letter post would have weighed 50lbs (22.5kg.). The film of airgraphs was taken by plane to its destination where the process was reversed and the film projected onto a strip of moving sensitized paper resulting in a series of positive prints approximately one quarter the size of the original. The strip was then cut and each airgraph print inserted into an envelope by hand or machine, ready for delivery to the addressee which would then be coiled with metal. The film was projected onto a strip of paper resulting in a series of positive prints approximately one quarter the size of the original. The strip was then cut and each airgraph print inserted into an envelope by hand or machine, ready for delivery to the addressee.

Airgraph letters were popular for both the Canadian government and average citizens since airgraph letters saved space and weight. For example, a mailbag could hold only 2,400 ordinary letters whereas the same bag could hold 408,000 airgraph letters. Thus, it was cheaper for the consumer as well as the government to send mail. Moreover, the popularity of airgraph letters can be demonstrated by the number of airgraph messages that were sent. In July 1941 for example, over 88,000 overseas-bound airgraph messages were received in a single week. Over the span of 5 years, more than 76,000 airgraph letters were flown from Toronto to the UK on a weekly basis.

Airgraph gallery

[Top] [Back]
Albertasource.ca | Contact Us | Partnerships
            For more on Alberta during World War II, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
Copyright © Heritage Community Foundation All Rights Reserved