Twenty three members attended (including from Canada, Switzerland, and Thailand) – a good number, considering the distraction offered by the Six Nations rugby matches. We had seven displays, which filled rather more than the usual two hours. Peter Gassman from Switzerland was first up, with seven sheets studying the censorship of civilian mails by the French Armee d’Orient in Salonica 1916-1918. With French military censorship cachets being applied to both British and French censor labels on civilian mail bearing Greek stamps, the items shown were both eye-catching and thought-provoking.
Next was Peter McCarthy from Canada, with a remarkably well-researched presentation on the Royal Canadian Navy, focussing on the smaller vessels. This included several items from the Lovelock correspondence, and incorporated a strong reference to the Ostend Harbour Fire of 14th February 1945 in which 26 Canadian, and 35 British seamen were killed (see http://cfv.org.uk/research/history/article/the-ostend-disaster-1945.) Peter also pointed us to another extremely useful website for research: http://www.forposterityssake.ca/RCN.htm.
Third was Jim Mackay with seven pages of propaganda literature, air dropped by the Germans – including one in Russian. In addition, he showed an example of air-dropped forged ration cards, dropped on Germany by the Allies. Jim finished off with two examples of the Oil Pollution Investigation cards (aka drift cards), dropped by the RAF on behalf of the National Institute of Oceanography based (at this time, 1954 and 1956) near Godalming in Surrey.
Peter High followed on with ten sheets illustrating the postal history of the Hospital Ship ‘Ebani’ of WW1. This included a copy of the telegram sent from the American Ambassador in London in October 1914 (the US was neutral at this time) asking the US Secretary of State to inform the German and Austro-Hungarian governments that the Elder Dempster Line vessel S.S. Ebani was being chartered by the South African Government for use as a hospital ship, hoisting the Red Cross flag on 15th November.
Next came Harold Krische with a largely photographic or postcard answer to his question "What do you do for 5 years in a POW camp". Illustrations of German PoWs in Japanese camps in WW1 answered the question quite comprehensively – several games, (including chess), sports, occupations and pastimes were depicted (including, if memory serves, sleeping (!)).
Peter Stockton showed a map of Indo China and eleven sheets of postal history of the French forces involved in countering (or not) the Communist-inspired insurgency, 1945-1954. These included three items from members of the Foreign Legion. The free postal franchise did not apply to letters sent to foreign destinations. Mail sent by mebers of the Foreign Legion would often be so addresses, and was sent to Paris, whee postage stamps wee applied to cover the foreign element. This was done without charge to the sender.
Finally, inspired by Peter High’s hospital ship, Mike Street produced a page of photos of the ‘Letitia’, a hospital ship operated by the Canadian Government 1944-45, featuring Mike’s father, who was serving on board at the time.