‘Mr. Bates Vs. The Post Office’ True Story Explained: What Had Happened In Real-Life?


The British limited series Mr. Bates vs. The Post Office is quite true to the actual events of the case, which encompassed more than two decades of the sub-postmasters’ lives. In fact, a lot of the dialogue was taken verbatim from the actual events because no amount of fiction could even come close to what the reality was. There are not any changes from the actual events, but the documentary has revealed a lot more details about the case from the plaintiffs’ perspectives. Let us take a look at them before we discuss them further.

Spoiler Alert

What happened in the sub-postmasters’ lives?

Let us start with Jo. The ordeal that she went through was accurately portrayed in the series, but what we are not told is just how much her community came together to help her. In Mr. Bates vs. The Post Office, there is a scene where Jo enters the court and receives a standing ovation, which is the community’s sign of support for her. That happened in real life, along with the fact that the village helped her raise the money to pay off the post office as an early Christmas gift. She was sentenced to twelve months under supervision, and overall, it was a very humbling experience for her.

Next is Jass, and her ordeal is similar to the representation on screen. But her family went through a lot more because the article about her ‘theft’ was printed in all the newspapers. Jass says that her family tried to buy all the newspapers in advance to stop the false news from spreading further, but they could only do so much. When the news first came out, they received a lot of threats; their car windows were broken, and people would come into the post office and spit on the floor in disgust. While Jass didn’t mention it in the documentary, we are sure that a lot of racial slurs and hate must also have been thrown at them. Jass mentions that when she was admitted to the hospital, she had to undergo electro-compulsive therapy, which caused her to lose all memory of her childhood. The carelessness of the post office quite nearly destroyed her life. She mentions how her family had such happy memories with the Post Office, which are all corrupted now.

When it comes to Noel, he elaborates that he was forced to plead guilty after being promised that he wouldn’t go to jail if he did so. This was the plea bargain that he took, but he was still sentenced to serve time in prison. Lastly, there is the name of the journalist, Karl Flinders, who worked for Computer Weekly and picked up the case of the sub-postmasters. As it was said in the series, Alan Bates contacted them a few years ago, and when the number of cases started growing, they finally went ahead with the article. We believe that a woman came to interview Alan Bates in the series. But it was a man in reality, and he says that they did not publish the article for a year after writing it because of the possible repercussions.

What are the similarities between the series and reality?

There are next to no changes in the story presented on screen. But on a lighter note, the actress playing Paula Vennells looks uncannily similar to the real-life person, so much so that it is funny. She is the villain, and we are allowed to take digs at her, including how bad her concealer was during the actual court proceedings. For someone who cared about appearances so much, she failed to wear the right shade of ‘cover up’.

Suzanne was seen drawing the scenery in the show. We are sure she did that quite often, but in the documentary, we got a glimpse of her drawing of her husband facing the computer and typing away. The couple also had a cat, and we don’t think we got any glimpses of him in the series.

James Arbuthnot, played by the ever-inspiring Alex Jennings, gave us a glimpse into how he got involved with the case, and it made us like the actor more than the character. On the other hand, Ron Warmington, who runs Second Sight, has not yet retired because of this case. He seconded how Kay Lennell came at him about his loyalties when they first met, and we must admit that the real Kay Lennell is far more imposing than what we could have guessed.

The most striking similarities were that even in real life, Noel told the press to hit his bosses ‘in their pockets,’ and when Paula and Angela were brought before a committee, the women said the exact same things that were shown in the series. Additionally, when Michael Rudkin went to the Fujitsu headquarters, his introduction to George Delph was exactly as shown in Mr. Bates vs. The Post Office.

In real life, Paula was awarded the CBE after she left her service. Alan Bates has also been awarded an OBE, but he has refused to take it as long as Paula has her CBE. Fujitsu has also apologized for its role in the entire thing. The victims have been ‘offered’ a total compensation of $130 million so far, and there is more to come. Mr. Bates vs. The Post Office is a very important show, and it has stayed true to its purpose and spirit.

The greatest similarity between the real and fictional life stories is the accurate representation of the obstinate cruelty of the Post Office and the dogged resilience of the people fighting against it. The show scares us and gives us hope in equal measure, but most of all, it teaches us to have faith in ourselves. When the people you trust the most become your enemies, as is often the case with people who don’t have enough privileges, then your faith in yourself is your only protection against the world. It is a sad state of affairs when you can only count on yourself while living as part of a community, but real strength only comes from within.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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