14 October 2017

14th October 2017 - To celebrate the inaugural meeting of the Society we had an afternoon with John Cowlin

The Society was formed in 1952 and as recorded in FPHS Newsletter No 1 the inaugural meeting took place on 18 October 1952 and so this was the closest date to our inauguration. Colonel G R Crouch was appointed President and John A Smith as Chairman - names that will be familiar to a great many as they appear on covers and also both wrote articles for the philatelic press. However, the first Society meeting did not take place until some three months later on 24 January 1953 at the Lawns Hotel, South Kensington. Now back to our afternoon with John Cowlin - what was he going to show ? We had previously seen John’s fantastic displays of both early postal history and what can only be described as a unique collection of picture postcards, but hadn’t any idea until he started his display …………

We were in for an afternoon of postal history from 1759 to 1815 - starting with the Seven Years War and a cover in early envelope format struck with Armee D'Allemagne cachet 1759, to Jacobite Sir Richard Warren, followed by a entire to Monsieur Monsieur Gerry, from Guy Louis Durfort Lorges, posted on 11th August 1760 and then an item from the French Revolution, a letter dated Paris 9th January 1793, from Jean Marie Roland de la Platiére. These were then followed by a number of items from the French Revolutionary War’s between 1789 and 1795, including two Armée Catholique et Royale banknotes printed in Chatillon near the river Sevre, on printing plate's engraved in England

John showed two counterfeit assignats (banknotes). An assignat was a type of a monetary instrument used during the time of the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars. Those shown were a 10 Livres issued on 24th October 1792 and a 25 Livres issued on 6th June 1793, probably forged by the British. They were intercepted in the Batavian Republic during the French occupation of 1795-1806. The Batavian Republic was the successor of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. It was proclaimed on 19th January 1795, and ended on 5th June 1806, with the accession of Louis I to the throne of Holland.

The 1798 Rebellion in Ireland was well covered with an entire to Mr George Dickson from Sligo to Portadown and three letters to David Balfour Esq., Edinburgh from a Colonel Balfour in Monaghan, Ireland. Naval mail was also represented with an entire letter to George Dunlop Esq. Ayr, Scotland from Walter Kennedy serving on HMS Hind in Leith Roads on17th December 1798. There was also an entire written on board HMS Tigre at Alexandria, Egypt, on 7th March 1799 from Sir John Douglas and a Campaign letter from Colonel Frederick Hill Flight, Royal Marines, from HMS Ville de Paris on 13th May 1799 to Charles Cox, Bartlett's Buildings in Holborn, London. We next travel to Italy with an entire letter from French occupying forces posted from Milan to Lyon France, on 20th August 1800 and to Russia in 1801 with a signed letter from Russian Emperor Tsar Alexander I (1801-1825), who became the first Russian King of Poland (1815-1825) to Lieutenant General Baron Beningsen.

John showed us an autographed wrapper signed by Nelson and Bronte 1801 and an original manuscript order signed with his left hand “Nelson & Bronte” onboard HMS Victory at sea on 16th October 1804. He also showed a POW Transport Service Parole document of 1803 issued by the Commissioners for conducting His Majesty's Transport Service and an Inverness Militia soldier’s letter of 14th January 1804 which was an application for the allowance made by law to families of soldiers serving in the Militia and Army of Reserve.

Now to the Napoleonic Wars of 1799-1815 - starting with a counterfeit Austrian banknote of 1806 - produced by the French and an entire from Napoleon's Great Army in Polish territory, from Warsaw to Marne, with a red cachet N° 6 GRANDE-ARMÉE, posted 11th January 1807. Then to the Siege of Danzig where François Joseph Lefebvre reported to the Emperor and asked for the decoration for all those who were particularly distinguished. Bringing us to the end of the first half we had an entire from Pietro Teulie on 1st January 1802 addressed to the Italian Minister of War Milan. Pietro Teulie was killed on 18th June 1807 during the siege of the Prussian fortress of Kolberg.

Continuing with the siege of Kolberg (March to June 1807) we started the second half showing 4 and 8 Groschen cardboard siege money. Then there was an entire sent from N°9 Grande Armèe Tilsit on 9th June 1807 to Thionville, France after they had won the Battle of Friedland and another item from 1807 - an official letter sent to Monsieur Moufieur Morrie, from Napoleon's Great Army in the Polish Territory, with N° 69 GRANDE-ARMÉE Army cachet in red and posted on 15th July 1807. This was followed by an entire of 3rd July 1807 from Antonovo in East Prussia, to Compiegne in France a few days before the Treaties of Tilsit sign by Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Still with the Grande-Armées we had an entire from Napoleon's Great Army in Polish Territory with a N° 3 GRANDE-ARMÉE cachet in red, posted on 10th May 1808 and an entire from N° 11, GRANDE ARMÉE, Pre Paid, which was Napoleon's Great Army in Polish Territory in 1808. There was also a Prison letter from three American sailors Henry Fishwick, Richard Keith & Richard Long to Mr Bourn, American Consul, Amsterdam and a Russian 25 rouble banknote counterfeited by Napoleon in 1810.

Shown was an entire from Lieutenant Henry Booth, 43rd Foot, camped two miles in front of Almada, Portugal postmarked Lisbon on 13th January 1810, to a Miss Booth near Sheffield in Yorkshire, England with postage charged 2/5d (Lisbon to Falmouth packet charge 1/5d, Falmouth to Sheffield 430 miles charge 1/-). We also had a campaign letter from Lisbon on 17th March 1810 to London via Plymouth Dock, with postage 2/4d to pay on receipt. There was also a letter from Ann Cock from St. Minver in Cornwall dated 23rd April 1810; her Son was killed in the Battle of Montevideo 1807. This was followed by an entire from Major-General Henry MacKinnon, posted 8th March 1811 at Alecanhede in Portugal and an entire from 1811 of a French Army letter from Bremervorde, near Hamburg in Germany with the cachet “BUREAU GENERAL ARM. D'ALLEMAGNE” in red. Also two French Armee disinfected letters from Valladolid and Grenada in Spain from 1811 and 1812 showing the slit made for disinfection.

The next few items are connected with the French invasion of Russia. We started off with an entire from a wounded French Grenadier writing to his father in Bruges, France with his hospital address in Vilna, Russia on 1st August 1812, a letter sent on 5th August 1812 from Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Marshal of the Empire during the French Invasion of Russia, Vitebsk and lastly an entire from the Grande Armèe in Moscow to Paris posted on 23rd September 1812. Another item was an entire to Benjamin Bachelor, a POW late of the American Ship Nancy (built 1789) which was in MacIntosh's wharf at Moy Windsor Ontario Canada) when the War of 1812 broke out between the United States and Great Britain. Staying in 1812 we saw a Warrant to ballot and enrol men for the local Militia within the Cinque Ports, signed by Prince Regent and Viscount Sidmouth.

Moving on to 1813 there was an entire from France to Guernsey, Channel Islands, from Captain Durell Saumarez RN aboard HMS Pyramus, off Bordeaux dated 18th March 1813. In the 1812-1814 War with America, she captured the American schooner Virginia Planter on 18th March 1813, laden with cotton on route to Nantes. Also on show was a French banknote from the Siege of Erfurt in 1813 and an entire Army free post letter from Edinburgh, Scotland to Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Hope of the 90th Regiment, 1st Division of the British Army in Spain. For 1814 we had an entire addressed to Allan McLean of the 79th Cameron Highlanders, 6th Division, part of the Duke Wellington’s Army in France. There was also an invoice dated 1st April 1816 concerning rations for horses in Russia.

The afternoon provided a fascinating insight into the postal history - particularly military related - of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is something that we don’t often see on this scale, maybe the odd item here and there, and must have taken some considerable time to accumulate and research. John is to be congratulated on building such a display and providing us with the opportunity to view it.

© Forces Postal History Society 2017