A postal cadet’s progress

HGV driver Andrew Holmes celebrates 40 years with Royal Mail

NDC’s Andrew Holmes has had a long and varied career with Royal Mail.

He started with the company on June 8 1981 – at the age of 16 – as a postal cadet.

‘At 17, every postal cadet learned to drive. I learned to drive in a van and I passed my test in a van. Royal Mail trained us as drivers as part of the scheme. At 18 I went straight into driving,’ he tells Zoe Walker.

As a former postal cadet, Andrew’s thrilled to hear that we have announced that the scheme is making a return - from September 2021 onwards.

Joining back in 1981 has done Andrew proud – and four decades on he’s still going strong with Royal Mail.

‘After ten years, in 1991, I was promoted to manager,’ says Andrew. ‘Then around 2013, when Leicester Mail Centre closed, I opted to become an HGV driver again. And I thoroughly enjoy my job!’

Andrew explains that he believes the cadet scheme’s biggest value lies in the thorough grounding - in all aspects of the business - that it imparts to bright young people. That thorough knowledge of how things work on the ground, he says, is something that ultimately helps cadets to become empathetic, insightful and effective managers.

Learning to drive, and being out on the road with Royal Mail as a driver, has also opened up opportunities over the years - to see and experience new places and situations that were perhaps not open to others.

In 1991, Andrew was part of a small fleet of Royal Mail vans who took supplies over the Romanian orphanages following the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

‘There was a fleet of six of us,’ recalls Andrew. ‘Six lorries from the Midlands area and we all went to a children’s home in Constanţa. We all travelled together and at the border we all went our separate ways.

‘It was a children’s home right on the Black Sea. Not that we saw the sea! It was constant driving for nine days. We also visited a children’s hospital while we were there. This was July 1991, after Ceaușescu had been overthrown. At the time we were asked if we could do a trip and Royal Mail asked for volunteers.

‘Out there, the further east you got, the worse the roads got. When you got to the Transylvanian Alps, you would go round the bend and there was a horse and cart pulling a telegraph pole in front of you! I never worked out what that was all about.

‘We had medical supplies and clothes with us – the lorries were filled up to the gunnels. There were even things like dentists’ chairs on some of the lorries!’

At the time of the trip, Andrew was in his mid-twenties.

‘It was a real eye opener,’ he says. We slept in the cabs on the way there and the only time we got in a bed was when we got to the orphanage. Then we slept on dormitory beds and we were up and back on the road in the morning. We were on a ‘non-stop mission’ so to speak!’

1991 was a big year in Andrew’s Royal Mail career and shortly after the trip, he met the Prince of Wales. Twice.

‘Prince Charles was coming to Royal Mail Leicester and I met him on that day,’ he says. ‘Then I had to go down to London to collect an award so I met him a second time. It was at the Victoria and Albert Museum and we were approached by someone afterwards and taken downstairs for a private audience with him.’

The world has changed and moved on during Andrew’s time at Royal Mail – but how has the company changed in that time?

‘We are more mechanized now,’ he says. ‘A lot of HGV drivers are now 45 plus. We need to address that and attract people in their 30s who will be with Royal Mail for the next 30 or 40 years.’

Andrew says he has loved being a driver and having the opportunities that starting off as a postal cadet at 16 have given him.

And he’s been married to Tina, a small fleet collection driver at Leciester MPU, for two years now. And their anniversary falls on… 8 June.

To celebrate, Tina arranged a joint anniversary-long service party at Leicester.

‘He used to be the weekend manager here at Leicester when I first met him some 20ish years ago,’ says Tina.

‘We got together in 2015 and married 2 years ago (on 8 June) which is actually the date of his 40-years’ service too.’

To mark the double celebration, Tina arranged a joint anniversary / long service party at Leicester with a cake and food (pictured).

‘The sneaky devil,’ Andrew says. ‘She made me believe I was picking up an anniversary present from work. And I walked in and there everyone was.’

Click here to see a list of all our June long servers.

22 Jun 2021