8 September 2018

 All Day Meeting: President’s Cup 9 sheet Competition (members decide the winner) and Members’ displays

Unfortunately this day proved to be not well attended for one reason or another - we had 11 members present and there were four apologies for various reasons.  Engineering works and strikes, both on the railways did not help matters !  Due to dwindling attendances we may well reduce such meetings to afternoon meetings only.  Help us stop that by coming along and showing material from your collections.  We are a warm and friendly bunch and you will always find someone who is able to answer your queries or put you on the right track for doing so.  

During the morning we decided to have member’s displays and first to show was Peter High with, you can guess, a few odds and ends relating to hospital ships.  It included a cover addressed to Herbert Edgar Weston, well known at the time for writing to almost every warship, etc asking for covers to be returned.  For postage he used cut-out printed stamps, some se-tenant and Peter showed a cover from HMHS Braemar Castle together with a write-up of Weston.  He was a stamp dealer in Stockwell, SW London, then Twickenham, who also used the pseudonym Victor Marsh.  Peter also showed a couple of picture postcards depicting life aboard HMHS Asturias, an on active service cover from a soldier onboard the hospital ship Carisbrooke Castle which had been surcharged, a number of free forces postcards from Italian hospital ships in WW2 (including the California, Arno, Sicilia, Sorrento, Virgilio and San Giusto).  Lastly he showed three items addressed to a nursing sister onboard different hospital ships showing various censor cachets used.

Michael Dobbs was next to show with two small displays, the first dealing with meter franking machines in use at military establishments within the UK from the 1980s until early 2000s.  This included machine used at HQ Scotland (Army), School of Signals, RHQ REME, RARDE at Fort Halsted, RAF Coningsby, 1st Bn Royal Scots and various Territorial Army Associations around the country.  The other display related to Forces concessionary mail from Kenya after the end of WW2; the air mail rate was initially 15c, but by 1951 had increased to 20c and by 1959 had increased to 25c.  More research was required at The National Archives to determine date of changes and requirements.  The display showed a variety of covers, mainly to the UK with unit datestamps applied to denote entitlement to the concessionary rate.

Third to show was Peter O’Keeffe with a selection of Air Mail Letter Cards of WW2.  He started off with those from Egypt with the Official Paid medallion, subsequently this was removed and service personnel had to pay 3d postage.  There were also different coloured AMLC as well as some opened by the Base Censor.  He showed a number with honour certificates on the back and several Christmas issues with seasonal illustrations printed on the inside.

Another Peter, this time Peter Burrows, was our fourth display of the morning on the subject of instructions for letters and parcels sent to POWs in Germany during WW2.  He said that one day he decided to go through his material on German camps but it was only when he opened one that he found differences in the printing.  The Germans were short of food, but luckily the Red Cross were organised to send British POWs food parcels.  Firstly he showed a number of pages setting out the instructions to be followed in sending parcels to POWs.  These started off as sheets of instructions in Polish pasted onto plain paper; others in French and Serbian were also shown.  He showed variations on the French versions, which related to occupied (Vichy) or un-occupied parts of France.  There were also letter sheets - POW parcel requests: blue labels were for food, drink or medicine whilst red labels were for clothing or underwear.  Most shown were blue parcel labels

Lastly we had our President, Richard Berry FRPSL, who showed a booklet relating to recent commemorations to a soldier awarded the Victoria Cross - Sergeant Arthur George Knight.  This was at Haywards Heath and involved a laying down ceremony of a stone on Sunday 2 September 2018 at the War Memorial at Muster Green to commemorate the VC awarded to Sergeant Knight.  It was in August 2013 that the then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced a campaign to honour Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War by laying commemorative paving stones close to where they were born in towns across the UK and the Republic of Ireland over the following 4 years. The first stones were laid on 23 August 2014.  Sgt Knight had emigrated from England to Canada in 1911 and enlisted in the Canadian Army on 19 December 1914 at Regina, Saskatchewan as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  Knight was one of seven Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions on one single day, on 2 September 1918.  Sadly Sgt Knight died of his wounds the following day, 3 September 1918, and is buried at Dominion Cemetery in Hendcourt-les-Caghicourt, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Richard also showed some recent acquisitions (acquired the day before the meeting!) relating to British civilians interned in Belgium, writing in French to addressees in France; he also showed a picture postcard of Dongelberg Chateau where they were held.

The President’s Cup Competition attracted five entries which was two more than last year and equalled the number in 2016.  It’s a long way from nine in 2010 and has been going downhill slowly since then.  What do we need to do to get you to submit an entry ?  It is only 9 sheets and judging is by the members present - no complex presentation or judging rules - just what the member’s present feel deserves first, second and third place.

Presidents  Cup Winner

2018 Sep Richard Cup winner

Our President, Richard Berry, receiving the Cup from Peter High, our London Meetings Organiser [click to zoom]

After lunch we held the President’s Cup Competition and as explained at the beginning there were five entries - and it was very fitting that our President, Richard Berry FRPSL, should win his own Cup !  His entry was the “Second Italo-Ethiopian War - Military Post Offices”, this was a colonial war from 3 October 1935 until 1939, despite the Italian claim to have defeated Ethiopia by 5 May 1936, the date of the capture of Addis Ababa.  The entry consisted of Posta Militare with a range of Military Post Offices numbered between 1 and 210 shown.  The numbering was not consecutive, i.e. there was not 210 different cancels used.  The corps, divisions and regiments, etc together with locations was shown, where known.

Second was Chris Stephany-Weddell with his entry “Italian and German POWs and Internee’s in Egypt or Egypt Mandated Camps”.  The entry showed a number of mail items posted to or from Italian and German Prisoners of War or civilian internees interned in Egypt or other camps which were mandated and run by the British Forces in Egypt.  The camps were numbered in the 300 series.  It also showed that Italian and German internees were housed in the same camp at the same time.

Third was Peter High with “The Italian Hospital Ship Gradisca”.  This told the story of one Italian hospital ship and it was also a reflection of Italian politics.  Italian desires in Africa resulted in troops being sent to invade and occupy Ethiopia.  Italian assistance to General Franco was illustrated by the hospital ship supporting troops sent to Spain.  Subservience to Adolf Hitler meant invasion of Albania and entry into the Second World War.  The Italian hospital ship Gradisca supported troops in all these theatres.

It is interesting that, quite by chance, the top three all had an Italian connection !  The other two entries were:  Michael Dobbs with “Danish Peacekeeping Forces - Meter Franking Machines”.  This entry showed meter franking machines used by various Danish contingents supporting United Nations peacekeeping forces around the world.  The use of such franking machines started with the Danish contingent supporting the United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in Autumn 1990.  Official mail from the Danish contingents had to be paid for and so a postage rate appears in the frank die.  Private mail from serving military personnel was free and so the meter frank would show a 00000 rate. There followed a listing of known uses of such machines, in serial number order.

Finally we had Philip Kaye with his entry “RAF 145 Maintenance Unit Casablanca”.  The discovery in December last year of the Pyecroft correspondence (on picture postcards of Casablanca sent home by an RAF policeman in 1943 and 1944) provided a new earliest date of mail from the RAF in Morocco (with censor R14/300 mailed through US APO 524 on May 21 1942 as no British FPO had then arrived in Morocco).  On 2 July 1943 other cards with the same R14/300 censor received the postmark of British FPO 703, which had arrived at Ras-al-Ma near Fez on 6 June 1943.  These cards also received a previously unrecorded adaptation of the R19 censor mark of the Base Censor at Algiers in which the date line was adapted to show instead the number of the Base Censor - 2.  The last card of the 14 displayed showed a previously unrecorded R14/120 censor mark on a card postmarked on 23 AP 44 at FPO 703 which had been located at Sale near Rabat since 13 September 1943.

© Forces Postal History Society 2018