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Banstead - 10th June 2023

India, any periods - Members’ Displays

A sunny hot day may not have been ideal for an indoor meeting; however, our Immediate Past President, Richard Berry, welcomed those present to the Banstead Community Hall for a morning of members displays and a specific display by Lorraine Maguire in the afternoon. It was disappointing that attendance was extremely low - only nine members and two guests for the morning showings and two members and one guest had to leave at lunchtime due to other commitments. We had hoped that holding meetings at Banstead would entice members who do not wish to travel into London. Sadly it appears that covid is still having an effect in the post-pandemic era with members being reluctant to mix with others, either travelling to venues or in the venues themselves. Nevertheless, we had some good displays as seen below.

Frank Schofield was first to show and although not Indian related it was nevertheless an excellent display well written up. It was of the British Army in Italy during WW1, with the ‘L’ series datestamps (L1 to L13, except L10 with no impression of such a datestamp in the Post Office proof books). Having retired as a dealer he is catching up writing up his collection and this is one result of that - the display featured mainly picture postcards of Italy showing both the picture and correspondence side with the ‘L’ series FPO postmark. There were many which featured FPO L11 at Lake Garda which housed a Leave Centre, a strange location being on the border with Austria!

Next to show was Colin Tabeart with a selection of Indian airmails to the UK or USA via Hong Kong and/or Chungking just before Pearl Harbour - these were flown on the Pam American clipper services (i.e. flying boats); in particular Pan American FAM-14 Orient routes to Hong Kong and Singapore and FAM-19 South Pacific routes to New Zealand provided the fastest and safest way of getting mail to these destinations (FAM was the US Post Office Department designation for ‘Foreign Air Mail’). He also showed three covers to the USA via Auckland, New Zealand.

He was followed by Lorraine Maguire who showed a small selection of WW2 covers from India. Three were from Cox & Kings, who were Army agents and others from various Indian FPOs. This included one in 1941 addressed to the Auckland Philatelic Society - so there was a New Zealand connection here also!

For his display Richard Berry showed a selection of mail addressed to Alan James Wroughton MacLeod; an officer in the South Waziristan Scouts and who had a Rhodesian connection. MacLeod was born in Bedford on 12 February 1906, the earliest cover shown was to him in 1933 when he was in the Scouts in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). He showed a selection of WW2 covers from various Indian FPOs. MacLeod was awarded the DSO in 1941 and a bar in 1946. After the War he emigrated to Southern Rhodesia (this is the Rhodesia connection!) and became a farmer; he later became involved in politics and became a member of the Rhodesian parliament. He died in Rhodesia in 1976.

Last to show in the first half was Michael Dobbs who had a few Indian-related items to show: half a dozen WW2 Indian FPOs, a few RAFPOST South East Asia items 1944-46, a 1944 Krag machine SEA Base Post Office item and a British Fleet Mail 31 cover from 1946 and lastly four 15 January 1962 First Day Covers from the Indian Contingent of the UN Operation in the Congo (FPOs 660, 716, 771 & 777).

In the afternoon we had Lorraine Maguire and her postponed display on “Every Cover and Letter Tells A Story” on Forces mail that travelled between New Zealand and its WW2 Soldiers in North Africa and Europe. This should have been our alternative display for our May meeting but which in itself had to be abandoned due to rail strikes taking place on our meeting day! The talk and display showed the mail that travelled between families - it told the conditions of war, often glossed over so families do not get a true picture, but always trying to sound cheerful and hoping they will be home soon. Families wrote telling of local news and gossip at home, what family and friends were doing. How the farm was doing through the seasons, and that they were all managing. Over the past 60 plus years these letters do not appear too often. Many are still treasured by the families, gone to Army Museums or just been discarded / destroyed. Envelopes survive better than the letters, giving philatelists a chance to study and preserve them. Lorraine explained that she was more interested in the stories behind the sender of the cover. New Zealand troops began arriving in the Middle East during early 1940 as part of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). Their main base was Maadi Camp, just outside Cairo. The display was in alphabetic order of the surname of the sender and in most cases provided background details of that individual. However, the first person to be shown was an airman in the RNZAF, later awarded a DFC who had trained in Canada and later served in the RAF. The display included airletters and other covers sent to or from the individual concerned and in many cases there was a photo of the individual concerned. Airletters were opened out or photocopied to see and read the text. It told the story of individuals in Egypt, North Africa, Crete and Italy and included an individual from Fiji who was part of the Long Range Desert Group.


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