7 July 2018

 Forces mail - Post-World War Two - Members’ Displays


Well, little did I known when I was booking our meeting dates that I would be up against Sweden v England in the 2018 FIFA Football World Cup (England won by the way!), Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, annual Pride in London Parade and the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show plus the very hot summer weather (most unusual for us)!  Despite all these alternative attractions we had 12 members who braved the hot humid weather and crowds to view a varied collection of military mails post World War Two - 1945 to the present day, a mere 73 years to condense into a three hour meeting!

First to display was Peter O’Keeffe who started off with a fine commentary that he only collected WWI/II material, but that he had found a number of items relating to the post-war period!  This included various BAOR locations, machine cancellations again of BAOR showing their locations within the postmark (Höhne, Sennelager, Paderborn, Osnabrück, Münster and Krefeld) (see Fig 1 for an example of the Sennelager postmark), Horizon labels, a few meter marks from BAOR and a machine cancellation from ANZUK FPO 5 of 6 DEC 1972 in Singapore.

Fig 1 Sennelager

Fig 1 

Peter Burrows was next and he opened his display by stating that when the Italians surrendered, POWs were allowed to sign a declaration to work for the Allies or not.  At the end of the war he assumed there was a similar declaration for German POWs as many camps were formed into working camps but that as yet he had not been able to find any official information on such camps.  He was building up a database of such camp and his display was all about such camp including their change of address from a POW camp to a working camp - he also included some Italian camps.  There were various items of postal stationery shown, including a few Christmas cards produced after the war.  He showed items from many different camps.  Peter said that he was also working on camps known as satellite camps, but did not know if all such camps were working camps.  Satellite camps were camps linked to a main camp and included hostels which housed POWs.  His display also included cachets from the camps themselves, such as Orderly Room cachets and the display also included mail addressed to the guards at some of these camps.  There were a range of cachets used, large or small, some inscribed “Working Camp” others “POW Camp”.

Peter High next came to the floor and it was no great surprise that he showed hospital ships!  It was surprising in the number of hospital ships used in the many post-war conflicts - he started with the Chinese civil war (1946-49) and the American h/s Shanghai, then there was the French Indo-China war (1946-54) and the French had a couple of vessels converted to h/s, one of which was the Chantilly. Then the Korean War (1950-52) and the Danes sent their h/s Jutlandia; Peter was fortunate in being able to acquire a number of genuine postal history items from the Jutlandia, also a few philatelic items addressed to the late Frederick Patka.  There was also items from the US h/s Consolation and Repose and the British h/s Maine.  Next we had the Vietnam War (1955-75) which amongst others included the USS Repose (AH-16) and USS Sanctuary (AH-17) and the Lebanese civil war (1975-90) with a French vessel converted to a h/s - BSS Rance (A-618) (BSS = Le Bâtiment de Soutien Santé).  Then we had the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands - all the material showed was philatelic but with a large number of postal markings.  The Uganda was being used on a school trip on 12 April 1982 before it was taken up as the main British h/s.  HMS Herald was used as a smaller ambulance ship and the movements of all such ships were reported to the Argentines to ensure the safety of such vessels.  The Argentines had two h/s but Peter had not seen any covers from such vessels, only photographs of the vessels themselves.  We had the Gulf War in 1990 and the Iraqi conflicts - the US had a number of h/s and Peter showed various covers from the American h/s Comfort and Mercy, the latter was also involved in the Tsunami Relief operations of 2004-05.  The RFA Argus acted as a British h/s during the Gulf War (1990-91).

Surprisingly Lorraine Maguire got up to display - surprisingly because we know Lorraine for her WW1 interest, particularly in postcards, not post-WW2!  She showed a selection of NATO-related commemorative covers and also a few Christmas cards from the Middle East.  She also had a small collection of covers which featured postmarks from military camps in New Zealand.  Lorraine also showed a selection of Christmas cards from the Falkland Islands conflict in 1982, including a card from 657 Squadron AAC and she also showed a Gulf War (1991) Christmas card from the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars.

Ending the first showing was Chris Stephany-Weddell who had recently purchased a collection of post-WW2 French naval items.  He had started to mount and write up the collection, but still required to undertake a great deal of research to full understand the material.  He put on display the material he had written up with covers from various vessels, including photographs of many of them, including ships purchased from the Royal Navy in the post-war years.  There were a couple of 1953 registered items with wax seals on the reverse from the maritime offices in Paris; items from the French naval bases in Morocco in 1960 and a number of covers from the 1960s/1970s showing naval postmarks and cachets.

The second half started off with Richard Flemming who, like me, has an interest in postal rates and his display illustrated various rates.  He showed a British Forces Postal Services A4 size leaflet for BAOR giving postal rates in 1975 - most interesting as these also gave the inter-Forces rates, both for within NW Europe and to other British Forces addresses.  He also showed a FPO 51 cover from Brunei (BFPO 605) to Hong Kong (BFPO 1) with the 1½p inter-command rate.  There was also a 1985 Post Office leaflet on HM Forces rates which mentioned the 12p rate and he showed an aerogramme with the 12p rate from Cyprus to UK (the rate had gone down from 13p to 12p w.e.f. 4 November 1985) and an A4 size poster on the 2nd class rates from the same date which stated that it applied to the following HM Forces services:


  • surface letters and postcards not over 60g.
  • surface printed papers, newspapers and periodicals not over 60g
  • Forces aerogrammes.

Lastly he showed a registered British Forces Postal Service North West Europe Commemorative cover postmarked with the rubber ‘Blackwell’ packet datestamp FPO 79 on 5 Nov 71 for the 4th Europäische ADBS-Tage held in Düsseldorf.  The registration label bears a special rubber cachet for the show (see Fig 2 below) rather than the usual cachet or hand written number of the steel datestamp used by a particular FPO.

Fig 2 ABDS Regn Lable

Fig 2

Then came Robin Davis FRPSL whose subject, not surprisingly, was Cyprus!  The EOKA campaign in 1950 - EOKA was a Greek Cypriot nationalist guerrilla organisation that fought a campaign for the end of British rule in Cyprus and for eventual union with Greece.  All incoming mail to the island was subject to censorship and Robin showed various examples as well as mail from detained persons held in camps in Cyprus.  Mails were censored in the individual camps and so different cachets can be found, some inscribed “censored” and others “passed by censor”.  Mail to detained persons in the Central Prison Nicosia had the postage stamps cut out to prevent messages being secretly passed under them.  Detained persons were allocated a DP number (DP = Detained Person).


Last to show was our Secretary, Michael Dobbs, whose main interests cover this period.  In no particular order he showed a wide variety of British FPOs used post-WW2 which included FPO 51 Brunei 1978-80, FPO 66 Thailand 1965, FPO 154 in USA in 1962 along with a newspaper clipping of the period showing a “Wanted by US Army” poster as part of an exercise by 22 SAS, FPO 188 British Honduras 1967 and Washington USA 1989, FPO 201 Uganda 1986 (see Fig 3 below), FPO 260 at RAF Goose Bay, Canada 1980-82, FPO 947 in Swaziland 1965 to help suppress unrest in the country, FPO 965 in New York, USA 1960 as part of a Military Tattoo together with a copy of the official programme, FPO 1055 in Lebanon 1983, FPO 1005 in Thailand 1972-78, FPO 773 in Afghanistan in 2002 as part of Op Fingal and a selection of British FPOs and covers from other nations such as Estonia, Canada, France, Germany and Spain and others involved in UN operations in the former Yugoslavia.  He also put on display a selection of special commemorative sheets prepared in 2003 by the French Military Post Office in the Balkans showing a photograph of the Post Office and the Bureau Postal Interarmees datestamps of those locations impressed on French stamps.


Fig 3 FPO 201

Fig 3

In addition he showed his ongoing extensive written research which covered the following topics: HM Forces Postal Rates and Services; MELF and BFPO addresses, UN/NATO involvement in the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, Maritime operations in the Mediterranean and Gulf (anti-piracy); UN involvement in Somalia and Rwanda.

© Forces Postal History Society 2018