How to use the British Forces Post Office, claim compensation and use the Enduring families free mail service (EFFMS).
Follow our short guide to find out how to send mail with the British Forces Post Office (BFPO).
BFPO Mail Services
In 2020, BFPO advised customers that from 1 January 2021, both domestic and international mail import/export regulations would change. This affects all packages and parcels posted outside of the UK and these new laws are driven by stricter aviation security and ﬁscal requirements. The introduction of these new regulations and familiarisation of the new processes within both the UK and EU mail systems are yet to fully bed in and are, unfortunately, having an impact on BFPO’s ability to provide timely mail services to some UK Defence locations in the EU. This issue is being further complicated by COVID-19, which continues to impact world-wide commercial mail conveyance and is adding to service delays across the BFPO network.
BFPO customers in UK Defence locations in the EU are advised that, at this time, the above service complications are affecting BFPO’s ability to provide routine mail services and delays are to be expected. In some cases, items that are not compliant with new mail import/export procedures will be returned to UK addresses. BFPO customers are reminded that it is a customer responsibility to ensure items are compliant with new international mail import/export regulations, guidance can be found at the export goods from the UK: step by step guide. BFPO customers are also reminded that that BFPO may not accept any liability for loss or damage for mail items which do not comply with the new regulations.
Please be assured that BFPO is working extremely hard to seek resolutions at the highest level and BFPO is confident that any impact/delay will be short-term. BFPO will continue to despatch mail to EU locations at every available opportunity however, at this time, BFPO cannot guarantee how long this process will take.
Important International & EU Mail Import/Export Changes
Changes to UK and international law will affect how mail and parcels will be cleared in the future and these new laws, which are driven by aviation security and fiscal requirements, will be getting much stricter throughout 2021. These changes start to be introduced as the UK/EU transition period ends and from 1 January 2021, parcels posted to/from BFPO customers located in EU/UK will require either a Royal Mail Customs Notification 22 (CN22), Customs Notification 23 (CN23) or Parcelforce Customs Pack (CP72) and Electronic Customs Data (ECD). Please note, that it is the senders responsibility to ensure that the new regulations are followed and failure to comply could result in items being seized and subjected to additional VAT/clearance charges prior to release by local customs authorities. In extreme cases, it could also lead to your parcels being returned or destroyed.
Ordering Online Goods for BFPO Overseas Addresses (including the EU)
New customs declaration procedures (CN22/CN23/CP72/ECD) will need to be completed by the seller/sender for products destined for overseas BFPO locations. Ordering/sending customers should have the opportunity to either pay VAT/clearance charges (if applicable) up front or opt for these charges to be paid by the recipient under local country arrangements. Additionally, from March 2021, there will be a requirement to supply ICS2 EU customs pre-arrival data which will be linked to your parcel and new mail VAT processes are scheduled for introduction in July. Further BFPO announcements will follow.
Posting Items at a Post Office Counter
When sending items to overseas BFPO addresses, you will be required to complete customs declarations forms in more detail than before, and in particular ensuring that exact contents and value are shown. Your local Post Office Counter staff will be able to take you through this process.
Please note, that BFPO, who act solely as the shipping agent, have no responsibility or influence in customs matters and this responsibility rests with the sender or the selling/sending company.
Official Guidance on Mail Import/Export:
Age verification knives and blades
The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 (OWA) prohibits the online sale and delivery of blades to people under 18 years of age. Under the OWA, both the vendor and the courier company will, in certain circumstances, be criminally liable if bladed items are delivered into the hands of an individual who is under 18 years old.
Customers should note the following:
The Parcelforce Age Verification Service is not available to BFPO customers. Further details can be found on the Parcelforce website.
Royal Mail has updated its prohibited and restricted advice to customers and has added Age Verification items to the prohibited list for BFPO customers.
Due to these prohibitions bladed products can no longer be sent to or from a BFPO address.
International driving licences
For enquiries about International Driving Licences, visit the DVLA website.
Advice for customers buying goods by mail order and online
BFPO has become aware that some customers based overseas are purchasing valuable items without ensuring that adequate compensation (insurance cover) for the item has been purchased at the same time.
Please note that it is entirely the customer’s responsibility to ensure that an item has adequate compensation cover when purchasing items that will be sent through the postal and BFPO system.
If the company will not offer additional compensation cover for your item, we advise careful consideration before placing an order with them and that you give further consideration to purchasing instead from a company that does.
It is especially important to ensure that items are adequately insured when buying from small marketplace sellers (e.g. EBay, Gumtree, Spock ).
It’s worth remembering that couriers used to deliver goods will not know the value of your parcel and will not allow for additional compensation unless the individual or seller requests this. You should check with the supplier that they are using a service that offers the right level of compensation for your purchase.
As the individual placing your order, it is your responsibility to make sure your purchase is adequately covered should loss or damage occur.
Please note that BFPO cannot pay full compensation for damage or loss should your item not be covered for its full value. We strongly recommend using Royal Mail Special Delivery for expensive purchases, which offers several levels of compensation and comes with a full track and trace capability.
BFPO customer services
Whilst the vast majority of customers will receive an excellent service and customer experience occasionally things go wrong and mail becomes lost or damaged.
To minimise the risk customers are advised to ensure the following:
use the correct full address, include the unit and sub unit, BFPO receives many letters and parcels with only a name and BFPO number; it may be impossible to locate the correct recipient especially in larger garrisons without the unit details; ensure that third parties have the full address and use it especially when internet shopping with commercial companies
BFPO mail may endure a long journey to reach its destination especially in remote areas of the world and mail may pass through several organisations e.g. airport cargo handlers and foreign mail administrations; senders of mail should use good quality packaging sufficient to withstand rough handling
the main cause of damage to contents is when the tops of plastic containers open in transit covering contents in liquid or gel. The main cause of this is shower gels. BFPO has to deal with several of these daily. Customers are advised to send these with screw caps or if not feasible secure the cap with adhesive tape to prevent opening in transit
include the senders address preferably on the reverse in order that the mail can be returned if we are unable to deliver it.
If your mail has not arrived within 30 working days then initially:
at a BFPO Location contact the Forces Post Office staff who will advise what course of action to take and assist with compiling claim forms, ensuring that the necessary evidence is attached to the claims form
in the UK collect a claim form from your local Post Office and once complete ensure that the necessary evidence is attached to the claims form
normally the sender of the mail should initiate claims for lost mail and the recipient for damaged mail
for goods purchased from commercial companies (mail order/on-line shopping) the commercial company holds the contract with BFPO and has to initiate the claims procedure; customers must contact the company to initiate the process
ensure you have the correct amount of compensation for the value of the goods being sent, basic cover included in the postage cost is for Royal Mail a maximum of £20 per mail item and Parcelforce £100 per mail item; if your goods are valued in excess of these amounts purchase the extra compensation or you will not recover the full cost.
Letters and small parcels
There is no fee is payable in addition to postage. Compensation up to a maximum of £20 may be paid where it can be shown that a letter was damaged or lost while in the custody of either Royal Mail or the British Forces Postal Service. Customers should obtain a Certificate of Posting and retain evidence of the value of goods, which must be produced in the event of a claim for loss or damage.
Royal Mail Signed For (formerly Recorded delivery)
This service is available for all letter services (air and surface letters, small parcels and printed papers) to the UK, plus to and from BFPO numbered addresses. Prices start from £1.90. The maximum compensation that can be claimed is £50 for loss or damage, where there is evidence of the value of the contents.
Special delivery (not by surface mail)
This service provides a signature on delivery and compensation cover for valuables. There are six weight steps for the sending of ‘Special Delivery’ to BFPO. These are shown in the tables below. The maximum weight that can be sent is 20 kilogram, subject to the restrictions each BFPO number.
Customers may use their own envelope, but items containing money or jewellery must be sent using the Royal Mail special delivery prepaid envelopes if compensation cover for loss or damage is to apply. Special delivery does not provide timed delivery, telephone confirmation of delivery or compensation for delay or consequential loss. See table below for compensation available and the cost of the service, including postage.
Assess the cost of special delivery
The table below shows the cost for the service according to weight, including postage. Customers should affix the correct postage to the item.
|Weight (Max)||Cover to £500*|
Additional cover can be purchased up to £2,500 at the time of posting.
*Prices effective from 25 March 2019.
International signed for
This service is available for airmail and surface mail letters, small parcels and printed papers up to 2kg, and is available to all International destinations. Prices start from £6.41 and compensation of up to £50 is available if your ‘International Signed for’ item is lost or damaged. Further compensation is available for £2.50 and gives compensation up to £250 (depending on the country).
BFPO Worldwide parcels
Compensation for the loss of or damage to parcels up to £100 per parcel is included in the price charged for the BFPO Worldwide service. For the fees shown below, customers may increase this cover up to a maximum of £2,500 per parcel.
|Level||Additional Total Cover||Cost*|
Every subsequent £100 of cover will add £4.50 to the cost of the service.
Compensation is subject to conditions and certain exclusions. If you have any questions, please contact the Parcelforce Worldwide Enquiry Centre on 08448 00 44 66 or the BFPO Enquiries Team on 03457 69 79 78.
*Prices effective from 25 March 2019.
Parcels over 2kg and up to 30kg leaving the EU are delivered by Parcelforce. You must include a form PFU 509/CP72 with these, which can be obtained from your local Post Office. Business Commercial customers will be supplied with relevant documentation.
Online postage issues
Customers are reminded that the Royal Mail online postage service is not available from a BFPO location to the UK or international destinations. Online postage expires if the stamp has not entered into the UK postal system by 11:59pm the next working day after purchase and as such BFPO cannot support/offer this service.
Customers who purchase and use online postage may find the recipient is surcharged before the mail can be delivered. If the recipient refuses to pay the surcharge the mail may become difficult to trace if no senders details are available resulting in the loss of the item. In such cases BFPO cannot pay compensation.
Enduring families free mail service (EFFMS)
Enduring families free mail service (EFFMS)
The MOD Enduring Families Free Mail Service (EFFMS) has been authorised for Ops and HM ships in support. This service will operate until further notice.
Families and friends in the UK and at BFPOs can send packets up to 2 kg in weight, free of charge, to military and entitled civilian personnel only on the below operations and HM ships in support.
Packets are limited to 2 kg in weight.
Size limits: Minimum one surface at least 90 mm x 140 mm. Maximum length + depth + width = 900 mm width greatest single dimension not more than 600 mm.
Only relatives and friends within the UK or at BFPO addresses can send packets to named Service personnel and MOD deployed civilians only, in authorised operational areas.
The following items should not be sent (please also check ‘mail prohibitions’):
- aerosols: prohibited by the BFPO mail network, eg hairspray, deodorant
- perishable goods: foods like fruit and meat
- fragile Items: glass
- magazines containing images that might offend the cultural values of host nations, even if they are widely available in the UK, eg ‘top shelf’ magazines.
Alcohol: Booze and bullets do not mix! The consumption of alcohol on operations is strictly controlled and the sending of alcoholic drinks in parcels sent under the MoD funded Enduring Families Free Mail Service is forbidden. Welfare parcels sent to operational addresses are not to include alcohol of any strength. Following screening at BFPO any parcels thought to contain alcohol will have a sticker identifying them applied. Controlled delivery of such parcels will enable checks in Theatre leading to confiscation or where incidences represent blatant contravention of local standing orders it could render the recipient liable for disciplinary action.
Customers posting items under the The MOD enduring families free mail service must ensure that these items are physically handed over to a counter clerk at a UK Post Office or BFPO overseas.
NB: This service is one-way only from the UK/BFPOs to Operational BFPOs or HM ships in support.
Addressing your ‘MOD enduring families free mail service’ items
Service Number, Rank, Name
Please be advised that town or country must not be included in the address.
BFPOs included in the MOD enduring families free mail service
See our list of British Forces Post Offices (BFPOs) and ships who are entitled to the enduring families free mail service (EFFMS),
If you wish to send an item using the Royal Mail special delivery service, please note that the The MOD enduring families free mail service does not apply, and full postage rates will need to be affixed to the item.
Restricted and prohibited items
Read thefor a comprehensive list of items you can’t send, or that there are restrictions on sending.
Commercial mail is mailed items that are sent through the HQ BFPO mail system by a UK based commercial operator in response to an order placed by an authorised individual.
Ordering goods through the BFPO Commercial Mail system
The following individuals can use the system:
- British forces personnel
- entitled civilians
- dependants of the above.
These ‘end customers’ based at a BFPO address, can arrange to receive goods via a UK based Commercial Operator, which is categorised by BFPO (the Authority) as ‘Commercial Mail’ (also known as ‘Commercial Receipts’). Family and friends (living in the UK) of the above can also arrange for ‘Commercial Mail’ to be received by end customers. For example, end customers based at a BFPO address, or family and friends (living in the UK), will directly contact a mail order or catalogue company, possibly via the Internet, to place an order for goods for delivery to a BFPO address.
Check the commercial contracts list of companies already in direct contract with HQ BFPO under the ‘Commercial Mail’ process.
All potential users of the BFPO Commercial Mail system are strongly advised to read both the disclaimer and additional information.
The Authority does not endorse any company that appears on the BFPO Commercial Contracts List, in any way whatsoever, including any product(s) or service(s) they offer.
Individuals who make use of these companies do so entirely at their own risk.
Individuals are to be aware that there may be other companies, not appearing on the BFPO Commercial Contracts List, who may be able to offer the same, or similar product(s) or service(s).
Should you choose to order from a company not appearing on the BFPO Commercial Contracts List, they will be required to adhere to one of the following processes;
Once a company has received an order from an Authorised Individual, they can despatch articles of Commercial Mail to End Customers at worldwide BFPO locations, via the HQ BFPO Northolt Commercial Mail (CM) System, by following one of the four following options:
- Companies who foresee a potential ‘one off’, or infrequent use of the BFPO CM System can either;
a. Physically post the article at a Post Office and pay the appropriate (HM forces) postage rate (note: using either Royal Mail documentation (CN22/23) or ParcelForce Worldwide PFU 509 despatch pack). Payment for this method allows for both the shipment to HQ BFPO Northolt and the onward shipment to the BFPO End Customer, with no additional requirement for a direct CM Contract with BFPO, or any extra costs incurred.
b. Use the arrangement BFPO has with Parcelforce Worldwide*, named the ‘One Stop Shop’ Process. Under this process, Companies contract directly with ParcelForce Worldwide (see below for contact details), who, in turn, are in direct CM Contract with BFPO. Payment for this method also allows for both the shipment to HQ BFPO Northolt and the onward shipment to the BFPO End Customer, with no additional requirement for a direct CM Contract with BFPO, or any extra costs incurred.
Many Companies are already in direct contract with ParcelForce for collections of goods direct from their premises for addresses in the UK mainland only. This does not allow for the correct documentation or onward shipment (and extra cost) for despatch from HQ BFPO Northolt to the BFPO End Customer. We recommend that you speak to your Parcelforce representative for further information.
c. Use any CM Contract BFPO may have with other Courier Companies who have chosen to be in direct CM Contract with BFPO. Under this process, companies contract directly with the courier company on the list who, in turn, is in direct CM Contract with BFPO. Payment for this method is made direct to the courier company, who are themselves invoiced by BFPO. This allows for both the shipment to HQ BFPO Northolt and the onward shipment to the BFPO End Customer, with no additional requirement for a direct CM Contract with BFPO, or any extra costs incurred.
- Companies who foresee potential frequent use of the BFPO CM System enter into a CM Contract directly with BFPO Commercial (see below for contact details), for the onward shipment by BFPO to the BFPO End Customer, with prior use of either your company’s own transport or a carrier of your company’s choice for the inland journey to deliver articles to HQ BFPO Northolt.
All potential users of the HQ BFPO Commercial Mail System must read the rules on mail prohibitions and restrictions.
Adhere without exclusion to the weight and size restrictions that apply to ‘Commercial Mail’.
Note that articles outside of these maximum weight and size restrictions will be refused upon entry at the HQ BFPO Commercial Mail reception desk.
Note that Purchase Order numbers cannot be accommodated under the electronic Invoicing process that supports the automated BFPO Commercial Mail System and will therefore not appear on any invoice issued by the Defence Business Service, Liverpool
Note that HQ BFPO will not enter into any compensation arrangements with, or make any direct compensation payments to, any third party who use a company that is itself already in direct Commercial Mail Contract with BFPO to despatch their articles to HQ BFPO Northolt and beyond, to end BFPO addresses overseas. BFPO’s responsibility and authority remains within the Commercial Mail Contract with the Company in possession of a Commercial Mail Contract with HQ BFPO only. Any arrangement between the third party and the company in possession of a ‘Commercial Mail’ contract with BFPO, regarding the despatch of the third party’s articles to HQ BFPO Northolt and beyond, is entirely the concern of those two parties only. HQ BFPO bears no responsibility, authority or commitment in that relationship, as its contractual relationship is with the Company in possession of a ‘Commercial Mail’ Contract with HQ BFPO only
Note that BFPO offers a very limited service for items destined for 5000 series BFPO numbers, one that does not offer any delivery guarantees or compensation coverage. This is due to the fact that once items have reached HQ BFPO for processing, they are then passed to a separate, 3rd party for subsequent processing and distribution, who operate very strict controls on mail volume allocations and types of items allowed. This places the items totally outside of BFPO’s control, therefore no assurance as to final delivery timeframes can be given and BFPO does not accept liability for compensation in the event of any item(s) going missing. Should the 3rd party, for whatever reason, refuse to accept any item upon presentation by HQ BFPO, then the Sender shall be notified by BFPO and be responsible for its collection from BFPO, or, BFPO will return the item back to the sender, at the senders cost (the 3rd party, responsible for onward processing and distribution, may be contacted on 01908 852222 - Option 3).
For enquiries connected with an individual article or despatch, please contact:
West End Road
Telephone: 0208 589 3450
Fax: 0208 589 3291
For details regarding a direct Commercial Receipts Contract with BFPO and all other contractual enquiries only, please contact:
Commercial Manager 4
West End Road
Tel: 0208 589 3277
Fax: 0208 589 3454
For ‘one stop shop’ process enquires, please contact:
25 Caldecotte Lake Drive
Tel: 07801 094 421
If you need to contact us:
Telephone 03457 69 79 78 (calls are charged at local rate in the UK)
Alternative 020 8589 3450 Civil, 94676 3450 Military
Fax 020 8589 3309
Or write to
West End Road
Other ways to get support
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