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Saturday 24 September 2022

The Zoom meeting of 24th September opened with the second part of Adrian Pearson’s presentation of the postal history of the Crimean War. Adrian started with a brief recap of what he presented in the first part at last month’s Zoom meeting, reminding us of the rates for different routes, carriers, and whether the sender was an officer or from the ranks. He showed examples of the different rates, markings (for unpaid mail) and postmarks. They featured some nice examples of the QV line engraved and embossed stamps. He also presented examples of the so-called OXO postmark (star between ciphers) and the crown between ciphers postmark. There were several examples of the circular POST OFFICE date BRITISH ARMY postmarks with the different code letters: A from Constantinople, B from Balaclava, reversed C from Scutari hospital and no code letter, used from all locations. He went on to show examples of forwarded mail – some with some interesting manuscript postage rate ‘adjustments’ and two items of registered mail were shown.


Adrian then moved on to other theatres of the conflict which tend very much to be overlooked, showing items from personnel serving in the Baltic and the Pacific – the latter an envelope from HMS Monarch. He regretted not being able to show any examples from the North Russian theatre. Items of mail from here from forces opposing Russia in this conflict are, not surprisingly, very hard to find. He moved on to show examples of mail from our allies: France, Italy (‘Sardinia’) and the Turks, and then a few items from the Russians, two examples from the Crimean theatre, and one from the Baltic. Adrian did not neglect the Austrians, who seemed to be sort of neutral, but occupied two areas of Russia, Moldavia and Wallachia, which abutted the Austrian empire’s eastern border. Two examples of mail from them were included. Adrian close his presentation with an item of mail from the 1st Viscount Hardinge addressed to Prince Albert at Osborne on the Isle of Wight 1 July 1854, the forces connection being that the sender was the Commander in Chief of the British army at this time.


Next up was Nick Colley, with a small selection of RN mail from the East African theatre in WW1. Examples of censored mail from the ageing cruiser HMS Challenger, and the AMC HMS Laconia, both involved in the blockade of the German cruiser SMS Konigsberg in the Rufiji delta in 1915, were shown. In addition, two items bearing Zanzibar stamps were shown, and are worthy of note. One bore the square censor mark PASSED R.N.A.S. CENSOR SQUADRON No.8. The other was a civilian letter posted from Brighton to a Miss Blackburne, who, it appears, was interned in German East Africa. It bears two Zanzibar stamps overstruck with Gould’s 2A24 naval censor. It was forwarded to her, bearing the printed label ‘INTERNED D.O.A’. The conclusion is that the item was forwarded under Royal Naval authority. Another unusual item was from the expedition mounted by the navy to Lake Tanganyika to destroy the German naval presence on the lake.


Mick Carter was next to show, with some nice examples of mail from the MEF in 1942 -1943. Of particular note was an item (admittedly almost certainly philatelic) postmarked Mogadishu addressed to an individual at the Somalia Gendarmerie Headquarters in Mogadishu. It was air mail stationary (!), franked with five different KG VI MEF overprints. He next showed an illustrated Christmas airgraph to Francis Field, of a design I’d not seen before. The return address was 8th Army, MEF, dated 3rd November, 1942, right in the middle of the Second Battle of El Alamein. This was followed by an air mail item from Egypt postmarked with an EPP mark, to Barentu, a small town about 160-odd kms (as the crow flies) west of Asmara in Eritrea. It bore several backstamps, including a bilingual (English and Italian) censor mark, the inevitable FPO 90 of Asmara, and a Barentu arrival, 11 days after leaving Cairo. Also displayed was an intriguing registered cover posted through FPO 149 in Palestine to the UK in September 1943. It was franked with a mixture of MEF and EAF overprints to the rate of 2/4½d. There was some speculation about the routing for this rate (2/1d net of registration, ignoring the excess halfpenny). Mick finished with a very colourful registered item postmarked FPO 601 in December 1943 franked with eight MEF overprints to 1/5d. It also carried four different postage dues totalling 6½d, also postmarked FPO 601 on the same day. A very attractive, albeit rather philatelic, cover.


This was followed by Jim Etherington with a selection of mail from (and to) Canadian forces in the UK and Northern France in 1940. Jim showed several items to and from personnel stationed at various camps in southern England. Those from the servicemen carried, of course, the unit cachets, which adds considerably to the interest. Of particular interest were examples of mail sent during the (very) short-lived free postage interval from 23rd to the 25th January 1940. Jim also showed two examples of censored mail (bearing Daynes type A100 censor marks), one from Aldershot on 13th June 1940, and one from France on 8th June (!), postmarked with FPO 95, allocated to FPO C-1, serving HQ 1st Infantry Brigade. This FPO handstamp was destroyed shortly afterwards, prior to evacuation of the troops from Brest.

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