14th January 2023 – German Luftfeldpost and Feldpost in World War 2: a display by Simon McArthur
This was our first meeting of 2023 and marked our return to the Burns Room at the Union Jack Club (UJC). Simon has only recently joined the Society and this is his first display to us, but for those who attend our War & Philately event at Banstead each August will have seen Simon’s stand and small display which he puts on each year. Simon’s display was largely centered on the use of Luftfeldpost labels used in WW2. They were introduced on 18 April 1942 as concession labels to regulate the use on soldiers mail and remained valid until the end of the war. The labels were blue in colour and featured a Junkers Ju 52 aircraft as that was the type of aircraft used to fly mail to and from troops. Soldiers received four stamps per month (they could also send stamps home so that families could write to them).
Mail to the forces was officially supposed to have a red cross across the front of the envelope. Simon explained that there were various shades (originally cornflower blue but there were various other shades from light blue to ultramarine), perforations (both roulette and normal) used and different gums - but he warned to be careful as there were also forgeries out there. 10 July 1942 saw a new concession label for parcels (shades of brown /light brown colour) - parcels up to a weight of 150 grams was free to soldiers, but they could only send parcels up to 100 grams back to their families. On 20 October 1944 a further concession label (light green) was introduced for sending Christmas parcels weighing less than 500 grams from home to the front. The display included a wide variety of covers to and from soldiers showing the various printings and shades of the Luftfeldpost labels. The display included examples of mail that could not be delivered due to the number no longer being available or indeed the addressee had been killed at time the air mail concession had to be withdrawn due to operational reasons. As for registered mail only units could send such mail, individuals could not send registered letters. As well as these labels Simon also showed a selection of mail with Feldpost addresses. He explained that a five digit number (at battalion level or smaller unit level) was allocated per unit in a given place; in some cases the unit feldpost number was re-allocated to another unit. These feldpost numbers were prefixed L for Luftwaffe and M to Marine (navy) but the display concentrated on army feldpost numbers. This was a fascinating display on a subject we have never seen in such quantity before, or certainly for a long time.
Following on from Simon’s display we had several other members showing similar items. First was Richard Berry who displayed a small selection of Feldpost and Luftfeldpost labels on covers, including some Red Cross cards, all from one individual in 1944 who was eventually captured and became a POW in Russia. The display included several POW items as well as unopened mail which was returned to sender and has remained unopened. Philip Kaye showed material relating to the Dodecanese, a group of 15 larger and 150 smaller Greek islands in the south eastern Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. This included mail from Force 281 from Christmas day 1944 onwards – the Force was formed on 8 September 1944 and occupied Syme on 25 December 1944. From here the Force undertook the occupation of several islands and conducted a number of raids. After the capitulation of the German garrison in May 1945 the Force moved to Rhodes. The items displayed included Insel post flights from Rhodes to the Dodecanese, including mail on the last flight in 1945. Mail from British and Indian forces was shown and in May 1945 the British military authorities opened up post offices in such places as Simi, Rhodes and Leros using old Italian cancels which were later replaced in the larger islands by British cancels. Lorraine Maguire was the third and last person to show – her display was of single sheets showing a variety of mail from individual New Zealand officers and soldiers held in German POW camps and they provided information of the individuals, their unit and date/place of capture as well as details of the POW camp where they were held.
An example of a Luftfeldpost label
An example of an envelope to a soldier with a red cross across the front indicating that it was sent from home to a soldier