9 June 2018

 Military & Naval mail in the 19th Century  Military - Members’ Displays

Prior to the start of the meeting our President, Richard Berry FRPSL, gave a philatelic address in memory of the late Alistair Kennedy (1936-2018).

 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mails prior to the First World War - what appears to be a ‘niche’ collecting area, nevertheless it did draw a few items out of the depth of our collections in some instances.  

Michael Dobbs was first to show, having put up his material prior to the start of the meeting so that those who arrived early and stayed in the room whilst the rest of us went across the road to the Auberge to enjoy our usual “steak frittes” and a glass (or two) of red wine could look at something other than blank display boards!  His few items were a black bordered cover addressed to a Captain Buckle RN on HMS Invincible in Malta and postmarked Spilsby on 19 January 1885; a Sudan Military Telegraphs form with ARMY TELEGRAPHS H / L (for Halfa) sent on 25 May 1898 and a few postcards showing the South African War Arch at the Royal Engineers Barracks which housed the Royal School of Military Engineering at Chatham built in memory of RE personnel who lost their lives in the Boer War 1899-1902.

Next we had a display provided electronically by Robert Dunns of the Christchurch (NZ) Philatelic Society.  I selected 14 sheets to print along with a page of text - Robert found it extremely nice to be able to provide material to a group of like-minded collectors and hoped that those present enjoyed it.  There was a range of material all well written up, detailing the postage paid and postal markings as well as interesting extracts from the contents of the mail.  Included was an entire of 1804 from HMS Agamemnon, off Cadiz to Campbeltown “We have taken three Spanish vessels in company with two other men of war - on our arrival here we detained a Spanish frigate and three or four merchantmen and sent them back to Cadiz not knowing of a war with Spain until about 4 days afterwards.  We got information by a frigate that the Spaniards had declared war on the very day we let go so many valuable prizes.”; 1806 entire from HMS Saturn, off Cadiz to Norwich stained as letters were disinfected using vinegar and saltpetre due to the prevalence of disease; 1809 entire from Edinburgh to Dumfries, via London, to a Serjeant Irvin regarding a deserter by the name of Robert Campbell; 1811 entire from Major General McKinnon at Guarda writing to his wife in Sidmouth, Devon “Tomorrow we march for Portugal and the Spanish frontier …” also stained due to disinfection; regulations laid down that only six wives were allowed to travel on service with each company, and they had to endure being classed as baggage; a 1795 Act of Parliament allowed non-commissioned officers, seamen and privates to send and receive letters under ¼ oz for 1d, an example of the 1d concession postage rate from HMS Horatio written in 1812; an 1815 entire written in Courbuoye and addressed to Exeter; Prisoner of War mail - two examples in 1812 and 1813 from London to Dumfries and Jedburgh respectively as such mail was dealt with by the Transport Office in London; in France British officers as POWs were billeted in private houses and were responsible for paying for their own keep and shown was a letter to London in 1814 from a French woman requesting reimbursement for the costs of her British prisoner tenants.

1809 Deserter

1809 entire from Edinburgh to Dumfries via London (340 miles) postage paid 1/1d for a single sheet; postmarked PAID / AT / EDINR / SE / 11 / 1809


This was followed by Peter Burrows who also placed his material up prior to the meeting, and in his own words said it was a hotchpotch display - he collects postal stationery of the 19th century and showed a varied mixture of such items including a printed cover from the Army Pay Office in 1820; a letter sheet from the Light Horse Volunteers of London and Westminster dealing with an inspection in 1798; a letter from a Military Prison in Gibraltar in 1896 - a prisoner writing to his father; a Bill from the War Office to the Guernsey Militia in 1843; various Admiralty and Army forms, including Army Form B210 (Application to enlist in the Regular Army or Militia), Army Form B.160 (Guard Report of 1898) and Navy (Vote No 16) Civil Pensions (Salaried Officers) form.  Peter was born in Ealing which was in the old country of Middlesex and so collects material from the Middlesex Regiment and so showed a Victoria postcard of an Easter Review and a number of leaflets and other material.  Detailed information on early rifle volunteers is not easy to find, but it appears that a rifle corps was formed in the parish of St George Hanover Square in 1860. After a number of name changes it became the 6th Middlesex (St George's) Volunteer Rifle Corps. In 1892 it merged with the Victoria Rifles to become the Victoria and St George’s Volunteers and later the 1st Middlesex (Victoria and St. George's) Volunteer Rifle Corps.  He also had a Purchase Agreement to buy a farm signed by Captain Grahame James Turner in 1871 (a captain 1855 to May 1869).

Geoff Hanney was third to display a he also showed a real mixture of material - a cover addressed to a captain in the 15th Regiment at Curragh Camp in 1875; a letter of 1817 to Thurso from Inverness from a soldier in the 92nd Regiment; a few early letters from Kent locations (all army mail) in the 1800s; an entire dated 7 March 1853 from a Royal Marine aboard a ship at Chatham1814; mail from a soldier who served in the Peninsular War; a letter to a Captain at the Royal Marine Barracks, Gravesend in 1883; letter on 7th Bombay Infantry crested notepaper with cover written on 24 February 1895 from Camp Arang, 22 miles from Raipur, in which he talks about a march and troops covered in red dust as well as hunting birds for meals; East India Company military mail, with three from Irish families trying to get a pension after their husbands had died; and a selection of military mail to Scotland.

We had naval mail next from Nick Colley or as he put it “a few bits of naval mail” with three entires: one from HMS Bombay of 1809 a battleship in the Mediterranean sailing from England to Majorca and which landed some 5,000 French prisoners there; an entire from James Cheapre aboard HMS Warspite, part of the Mediterranean Fleet, and written in December 1811 off Toulon; and an entire dated 13 March 1811 from Captain Hoste, aboard HMS Amphion off Lissa in the Adriatic, writing home to his father.

Last to show was Robin Davis FRPSL who had a small number of items to display - starting with a February 1897 registered cover from the Gold Coast to Malta and redirected to HMS Rodney at Malta, but the vessel had sailed to Crete; it was involved in an international rescue mission of Turkish civilians and soldier about to be massacred.  He also showed an 1899 cover from HMS Salamander in Cyprus from an engineer writing home to his wife; an 1880 cover from the UK addressed to a captain in the 4th King’s Own Royal Regiment in South Africa during the Zulu War; covers connected with the Young family in Cyprus 1886-95; a cover to a Captain Connaugh in the Connaught Rangers in Troodos, Cyprus in 1893, which included a couple of photographs of the Connaught Rangers in Troodos in that year.

© Forces Postal History Society 2018