8 June 2019

 All-Day meeting: Joint Meeting with the East African Study Circle - Members’ Displays

Our President, Richard Berry FRPSL, opened the meeting by welcoming members of the East Africa Study Circle (EASC) to our all-day joint meeting.  This was reciprocated by Jonathan Smalley, Chairman of the EASC.  In total we had around 31 members and guests from both societies present for what was to be a most interesting and enjoyable day.

Fig 3 Audience

I’m sure you will recognise many in the attentive audience who appear to be enjoying the displays.

Richard Berry FRPSL opened with the first display with material relating to the SMS Königsberg which was the lead ship of her class of light cruisers and named after Königsberg the capital of East Prussia; the ship was laid down in January 1905, launched in December of that year and completed by June 1906.  The selection of material included photographs and postcards of the Königsberg identifying its history and also included mail postmarked Deutsche Ost Afrika (German East Africa) and with the ships’ datestamp Marine Schiffspost 19 (MSP 19).  He also showed items of canteen money which had initially been labelled as “emergency coins”.  In April 1914, the ship was sent to German East Africa and following the outbreak of WW1 Königsberg initially attempted to raid British and French commercial traffic in the region, but only destroyed one merchant ship in her short career.  However, on 20 September 1914, she surprised and sank the British cruiser HMS Pegasus in what became the Battle of Zanzibar.  Following which the British sent two monitors, HMS Mersey and HMS Severn, to destroy the German cruiser.  On 11 July 1915, the two monitors got close enough to severely damage Königsberg, forcing her crew to scuttle the ship. The surviving crew salvaged all ten of her main guns and joined Lieutenant Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck's guerrilla campaign in East Africa.  Included in the display was a parcel card from the Königsberg, POW mail and a postcard sent by the Captain of the Königsberg when in Dar-es-Salaam.  Also shown were items of mail from the monitors Mersey and Severn as well as mail from the Pegasus before she was sunk. He also showed a map drawn by a sailor showing the positions of the vessels involved.

Nick Colley was next with five sheets on mail connected with the blockade of the Königsberg, including mail showing the censor mark from the monitor Mersey.  He also showed a cover with a naval censor mark not listed by Gould PASSED CENSOR / NAVAL TRANSPORT / E.A.F.  The sender was a wireless operator on the Hired Transport Hong Moh.  There was also correspondence between his uncle Bill (Bill Colley FRPSL) and ‘Tiny’ Williams of 26 Squadron RFC.

Peter Burrows showed a number of illustrated cards designed for the YMCA by the artist Ernie Stokoe in 1916; there were also YMCA Christmas cards used in East Africa 1917-18 with ON ACTIVE SERVICE IN EAST AFRICA printed on the reverse; they were postmarked Indian Base Office B at Dar es Salaam.

Geoff Hanney FRPSL showed not a single postal history item, but ephemera in the form of five large notices - under the title “Under Martial Law”; they included and related to the prohibition of the supply of intoxicating liquor to Indian soldiers, the Mombasa Committee of Supplies listing fixed prices; on the use of the Marconi Wireless Station and a copy on the “African Standard” for 19 May 1919 with the Special Peace Terms Supplement.

Eric Coulton started the displays for the East Africa Study Circle in stating that William (Bill) Colley FRPSL had sent his apologies but had provided a display on items connected mostly with Zanzibar - there were four sheets connected with the Carrier Corps (such mail is considered to be quite rare) including a letter from Bishop Weston of Zanzibar who objected to the treatment of Africans in the Carrier Corps and picture postcards with various handstamps from Carrier Depot Hospital; also naval mail including mail from the monitors Mersey and Severn; RNAS/RFC mail including a letter to the UK in January 1917 from Townsend-Smith with 26 Squadron RFC; and  various miscellaneous items including a native cover from the Nyasaland Base PO (March 1915) to a member of the East Africa Rifles in Zanzibar.

For his second showing Eric Coulton gave an overview of British involvement in German East Africa; although there was a treaty agreement not to extend the war to the colonies this last on 24 hours!  There was a combined British and Belgian effort to push out the Germans and in the end the German effectively fought a guerrilla war.  He showed a selection of Indian FPOs and Base PO markings - Indian Expeditionary Forces B and C had combined to form IEF B; there were also items from IEF E as well as picture postcards from the hospital ships Dongola and Gascon.  He also showed a couple of picture postcards of Belgian colonial troops, part of a series of some 50 propaganda postcards, as well as a selection of mail from the civil police including Tabora (see Figure 1), Kigoma and Kigali.  His last frame included German internee mail, including internee to internee mail, mail to Germany some with FPO cancels others with just censor marks, whilst others were sent via the Swiss Peace Bureau.  He also showed some incoming mail and mail with Martial Law labels used on internee mail.

Fig 1 Tabora

Figure 1 - A registered postcard from Tabora to UK just before the handover from the Belgians to the British; the 5c Congo imprint + 10c x 2 bilingual overprints pay the 25c registration fee.  Postage was free (SM = Service Militaire = OAS); it also went through the Belgian civilian Tabora office as ell as the Belgian FPO (= FPCVPK).  The message refers to the handover.

Michael Farrant only collects German East Africa (GEA) and he showed a selection of German military mail, a selection of internment mail from various internment camps in GEA, which in most cases used civil postal markings.  He also showed a parcel card and a selection of Königsberg material and as we have already heard at the beginning the Königsberg sank the British cruiser Pegasus.  He showed a photo of Max Looff, Captain of the Königsberg.  After the Königsberg was scuttled the crew were employed on land in a military role.  Michael also showed a selection of mail and other items using Feldpost Nos 1, 2 and 3.

No holding him, Eric Coulton was back at the display boards again, this time showing items associated with the Nyasaland-Rhodesia Field Force.  This included a selection of stamps overprinted NF (this should have been NFF but the telegraph operator transmitting the message omitted one ‘F’!) by the Nyasaland Government Printer.  He also showed a couple of telegraph forms - one a Radio Telegraph form with ARMY TELEGRAPHS LU 29.  VII17. datestamp (LU = Likuyu) and the other on a Military Telegraphs N.F.F. form with ARMY SIGNALS SNG- 13.XI.17 datestamp (SNG = Songea)

At this point we stopped for lunch and a good few of us went over the road to the Auberge.  There were people who remained in the room so the last round of displays remained up over the lunch period.  

The afternoon’s displays commenced with members of the EASC, first being John Wilks who showed some really early mail - a cover with a letter from General Gordon in 1879 written in northern Uganda to an agent Khartoum; then a report from Sir Gerald Portal of the British East Africa Company (known as the Portal Expedition 1893) which recommended the retention of Uganda; there was also a photograph of the expedition.  Also on display was an 1889 ship letter from HMS Gtiffon on anti-slavery patrols; he also showed a series of covers from northern Uganda in 1898/99 from Dr Carre who was a doctor on the Uganda Railway until he resigned his appointment and accompanied the 27th Baluch Regiment (27th Bombay Light Infantry) at the time of the Sudanese mutiny - the Sudanese troops used by the Colonial Government in Uganda mutinied in 1897/98.

Next up was Eric Coulton for his first showing of the afternoon - this was two sheets on the 1964 mutiny by the Tanganyika Rifles at Dar es Salaam; this was contained by the Royal Marines Commandos, initially from No 45 Commando and after a few days replaced by No 41 Commando; in late July 1964 the Nigerian Army took over.  As well as a cover from No 41 RM Commando (cancelled with FPO 123 of 3 FE 64) there were also a couple of covers with Nigerian Army cachets.

Nick Guy, a member of both societies, as well as being Editor of B.E.A, the Bulletin of the EASC, was next with two frames on WW2 - in this he focussed on the period before East Africa became a theatre of war.  He showed items from the Northern Rhodesia Regiment which moved into Tanganyika showing Northern Rhodesian military censorship and also a variety of covers showing early EA APS postmarks as well as different EAAPO numbers.  Another display concerned POW mail from Italian territories in East Africa and included the use of Italian stationery and POW covers from French officers in Tanganyika (connected with the invasion of Madagascar).

Eric Coulton was back again, this time showing items related to German internees and Polish evacuees.  The Germans were encouraged to move back to Tanganyika and around 3,000 had returned by the start of WW2.  They were picked up fairly quietly and were interned; whilst German POWs were sent mainly to Ahmednagar in India, or to Egypt, internees (women, children and elderly or frail men) were held in the occupied territory (see Figure 2).  A number of women were moved out to Rhodesia and there were also a number of camps established in South Africa.  Internal covers were shown between internees or from the British administration to internees, and a variety of external covers (both outgoing and incoming) were shown.  These were often sent via the Peace Bureau in Bern, Switzerland.  Finally a number of covers censored using 'OPENED UNDER MARTIAL LAW' labels were displayed.  In the spring of 1940 thousands of Polish civilians were forcibly removed by the Soviets and placed in labour camps and collective farms, but when Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941 these Poles suddenly became “allies”.  Men deemed fit enough were formed into a Polish army by Britain and sent to the Middle East, but the men refused to leave the USSR without their families.  As a result some 9,000 Poles ended up in refugee camps in Tanganyika.  Six refugee camps were established in the country, two of which had their own postal agency.  Here they remained until some six years after the end of the war; this display included mail from these Polish evacuees.

Fig 2 Internee Incoming

An incoming 1916 card from Germany to Zimmermann who was the pre-war director of the German Biological Research Institute which was utilised as an internment camp; once in East Africa it was conveyed by the Indian FPO No.337 which at that date was based at Korogwe on the Northern Railway.

Next was Michael Farrant up for a second showing, this time of German Naval mail from East Africa with a selection of covers with Marine Schiffpost (MSP) cancellations, including MSP 19 from the Königsberg.  In 1905 there was the Maji Maji uprising (1905-07), with the tribes restless and fed up of Germany rules.  The display included covers, photographs and picture postcards of relevant ships - German naval vessels were sent to East Africa to provide men and arms to combat the insurgents and naval units were even brought in from China.  Mail was subject to delays - there were no aircraft, no roads and they had to rely on runners.

Then it was the turn of the FPHS to show - Peter Burrows was first with POW postcards from East Africa from Italian POWs, then internee mail from Dar es Salaam and Entebee and also a press photograph of the POW camp at Asmara.

Philip Kaye gave a display of FPOs in Eritrea following the Allied invasion of 1941.  Many Allied forces were involved in the invasion (British,, Indian, South African, Free French and Sudanese) although the display was mainly of Indian FPOs.  It did include the only example so far recorded of any EAAPO which operated in Eritrea - EAAPO 57 dated 23.9.41; it arrived at the port of Massawa on 15 September and Asmara two days later.  It was previously recorded after leaving Kenya as having operated again only on reaching Ethiopia on 30 September 1941.

Nick Colley showed the RAF in Madagascar in 1942; this included a cover with non-standard RAF censor postmarked EAAPO 66 (Mombasa) - he is looking for other examples.  He showed a cover addressed to the Base Censor in the UK from Mauritius and various other covers or RAF or naval origin.  There was also a cover to Sub Lt Goldup (the author of Naval Mails 1939-1945 published in 1950) with lots of backstamps!  He also showed a Christmas menu from one of the Air Ministry Experimental Stations (AMES) (i.e. radar units).

Michael Dobbs, Secretary of the FPHS, was next with a post-WW2 display of British forces mail from Kenya from 1945 until the 1970s; mail was largely sent through the civil post at concessionary rates of postage provided there was a unit cachet or datestamp impressed on the cover.  The display showed a wide variety of such markings from various locations as well as a few FPO marking (FPOs 256, 1040 & 1041 from Nairobi, BFPO 10) as well as FPO 1056 from Mombasa BFPO 70 in 1967.  He also showed the FORCES POST OFFICE 112 packet and parcel datestamps used by the British Military Advisory & Training Team in Uganda (BFPO 600) in 1986.  He also put out for inspection two files on British involvement in East Africa during the post World War Two period showing unit locations, various Orders of Battle and a listing of unit establishment tables prefixed ‘EA’ from 1954.  The other file contained the use of EAST AFRICA FORCE and EAST AFRICA COMMAND as Forces addresses during WW2 and a listing of PO Box numbers used by the British forces in the post-war period and lastly the use of MELF 71, BFPO 10 and BFPO 70 forces addresses.

Eric Coulton again displayed on behalf of an EASC member who could not be present - Bill Clark - and put up a display of scanned sheets connected with the Mau Mau emergency.  The Mau Mau was a subversive organisation whose stated aim was to rid Kenya of Europeans.  It was made up mainly of the Kikuyu tribe but not all Kikuyu were members of the Mau Mau and many were forced to take part.  Political opposition to the colonial power began around 1950 when military force was used to break a general strike in Nairobi.  Violent acts of aggression began in February 1952 and the British government declared a State of Emergency on 20 October 1952.  There were initially only two battalions of the King’s African Rifles in Kenya and so the Lancashire Fusiliers were immediately flown down from Egypt and in April 1953 39th Infantry Brigade (with The Royal East Kent Regiment and The Devonshire Regiment) arrived; these were replaced by other regiments the following year.  The British were supported by the Kenya Regiment, formed from an existing Territorial Army unit and attracting many European volunteers.  British FPOs were established, although concessionary postage rates through the civil post office still existed.

© Forces Postal History Society 2020