9 November 2019

The Great War - Aftermath 1919 and Beyond

Peter High opened the meeting and gave a short introductory talk about military mails and conflicts during the inter-war period.  Essentially it was - what do we mean by “Aftermath 1919 and Beyond” - quite simply any military involvement anywhere in the world following the Armistice and before the outbreak of World War Two.  For example it can cover Occupation of the Rhineland 1918-30 (by British, American, French and Belgian forces), Chinese civil war from 1919, including British involvement in China from 1927, Russian Civil War until 1922, the Sino-Soviet conflict of 1929 was an armed conflict between the Soviet Union and China over the Chinese Eastern Railway, manoeuvres in the UK 1933-37, the Saar plebiscite (with troops from Britain, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands) 1935, Italy's invasion and occupation of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) 1935-36, Palestine 1936, Spanish Civil War 1936-39, plus many other smaller conflicts around the world - as these displays showed.

Peter Burrows was the first to display - he commented that he didn’t think he had anything suitable then discovered he had a plethora of material he could - and did -show!  He started off with a Christmas card from HMS Carlisle in the African Station and another from the Welsh Guards in 1938. It was difficult to know the dates of many unit Christmas cards as they were not always dated although some were dated by the sender.  He showed a number of such cards from the period 1920-36 including from the British Army on the Rhine 1923-27, the Somerset Light Infantry in India, Mesopotamia, Royal West African Frontier Force / King’s African Rifles card from 1936, The Robin Hood’s in Camp 1938 and ‘C’ Battery RHA.  Many of these were from the late George King collection. He had a 1938 Christmas menu for British Forces in Palestine and also showed a poster on postal concessions for British Forces Egypt issued early 1936. He had material which related to various plebiscites which had British Army involvement, including the Saar.  He also showed a selection of material relating to the British Army involvement in China including examples of APO/FPOs 1, 3 and 4 in 1927 from the Shanghai Defence Force and Indian FPO 189 all on YMCA headed notepaper, again from the late George King collection. Between the two world wars there were various exhibitions which involved the military including an Ex-Serviceman’s Exhibition in 1920; during the 1930s a number of large war graves were established and Peter showed material relating to all these types of events, including postcards of the American Memorial at Pointe de Grave and the Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.  

Lorraine Maguire displayed a selection of modern commemorative envelopes issued in New Zealand during 1977-79 which commemorated various WW1 and after events that involved New Zealand forces.  She also showed two pages of postcards of the Victory parade in London which featured New Zealand or Australian troops and two sheets which commemorated the New Zealand Hospital Ship Marama.  There was also a display of postcards relating to hospitals which treated New Zealand troops:- St Mary’s Hospital; No 2 New Zealand Hospital at Walton-on-Thames and No 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst with photos of NZ “kneelers” in St Nicholas Church.  Lastly she displayed printed scanned extracts from a souvenir book on the Triumphal March of the Dominion troops through London on 3 May 1919.

We welcomed back Tony Stanford FRPSL after an absence of several meetings and he had a small accumulation of material relating to what happened to the British Salonika Force after the end of WW1 - there were a number of pogroms, small wars and the force had to act as a peacekeeping force.  He started off with the last Salonika Force Christmas card of 1918, then there were items cancelled with APO Y which had been established on Constantinople and in 1919 the FPO was made available for civilian use. On 31 May 1919 the British Salonika Force with its Constantinople HQ was re-named the Army of the Black Sea.  He showed various cards from post offices around the Black Sea area, including BAPO Y, FPO 11 and various Indian FPOs, also an item of naval mail from HMS Marlborough. He had a cover from the Commander of HMS Iron Duke, censored with an octagonal censor stamp (Type CM7) 465 used in May/June 1919. He also showed a couple of covers from HM RFAs in Persia and a cover from Athens - he wanted to know what British troops were doing in Athens.

Peter O’Keeffe was next with various covers from the British Army during the Occupation of Germany showing a selection of APO and FPO postmarks, including D6 and T8; also a number of parcel post labels from S17, T41 and a bogus skeleton APO S6.  He also commented that you should always look inside the envelopes you acquire as you may find a letter with interesting contents - he showed a shabby envelope but with good contents! He also showed some of a ‘job lot’ of postcards he had purchased, sent home by a soldier based in Wiesbaden - he had sent a postcard home nearly every day, all postmarked FPO D30 and all were of views of Wiesbaden.

Geoff Hanney FRPSL showed a selection of US Marine Corps covers and explained that in 1927 until 1932 the US Marine Corps went into Nicaragua to help “steady the Government” of that country.  They had their own US Marine Corps postal cancellers of various designs and Geoff showed a variety of these. He also showed a cover from the US submarine USS Canopus of 16 April 1932 whilst visiting Hong Kong.  The US submarine had its own canceller. 

Next up was Michael Dobbs with a very small selection - APO S40 at Cologne in as part of BAOR in 1919 and two examples of FPO 10 in the Saar in 1935 with British troops sent there as part of an international force to ensure stability during the plebiscite.  Being such a small display he then went on to fill the frame with material from the FPHS archives - including “An Appreciation” to the late Colonel Guy Crouch which appears in Stamp Collecting in 1956 (he was a founder member and first President of the Society); some covers sent by John A Smith from RAF Post Colombo in 1946 (he was also a founder member and our first and only Chairman from 1952 to 1984, except for a brief period 1957-58).  Also shown was our booklet and a photograph of our stand at Spring Stampex 2002 to mark of 50th Anniversary followed by items from our 50th Anniversary weekend away to Gillingham, near to the Royal Engineers Museum - our first every weekend away.

Bringing up the rear was our President, Richard Berry FRPSL who showed what he considered to be the earliest On His Majesty’s Service (OHMS) window envelope with an Air Ministry cachet sent by Express Post.  He also had a number of photographs of an RAF Vickers Wellesley Mk I medium bomber (Serial No L2668) which crashed at Kawambwa in Rhodesia on 4 September 1938. 

For the next showing we started off with Peter High who showed - have a guess - hospital ships!  In late 1918/19 hospital ships were involved in transporting troops back to Blighty and shown were various postcards from such ships at the end of the war.  He showed a letter from a doctor aboard the hospital ship China in Scapa Flow who was writing about the flu epidemic at that time; he also showed a cover from the Guildford Castle with German POWs onboard and a French hospital ship in Taranto.  Italian hospital ships were also involved in the Greco-Turkish War 1919-22. A British hospital ship was also involved in the Russian Civil War 1918-21. With the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia Peter included a propaganda leaflet produced by the League of Nations giving credence to the Italian intervention to prevent slavery alongside Italian hospital ship items.  A British hospital ship was also involved in the invasion of Ethiopia and Peter showed covers and letter from HMHS Maine 1935-37. Also shown were items from the Spanish Civil War as Italy sent a hospital ship to that country including a postcard showing a submarine alongside a hospital ship; he also displayed a couple of hospital ship items from the Second Sino Japanese War of 1937.  

Nick Colley was next and as to be expected from Nick if it wasn’t RAF-related then it is navy-related and indeed it was the latter we saw - the question he asked was what would happen to the German High Seas fleet after the Armistice?  He showed two original copies of signals from the Commander-in-Chief Grand Fleet (Admiral Beatty GCB, GCVO, DSO) the first one stated “anti-submarine measures to remain in force” and the other one instructing the German fleet as to when and where to meet.  He also showed a postcard connected with bringing in the German High Seas fleet and another one showing ships going into or out of Scapa Flow. Mail emanating from German internees is hard to find but he managed to get hold of three such items and also an item addressed to an internee; there were also photographs of ships interned - a whole series taken and published by G W Burroughs.  On 21 June 1919 the Germans scuttled their fleet at Scapa Flow and the ships subsequently had to be salvaged. Nick also showed postcards of U-Boats that were given over to the British, French and Japanese navies as prize vessels. Lastly he showed some postcards from the Royal Navy squadron in the Baltic.

We now had a second showing from Geoff Hanney FRPSL with a small selection of covers connected with the US Marine Corps and Haiti - due to its political instability and heavily in debt to France, Germany and the United States, President Wilson sent US Marines into Haiti in July 1915 who stayed until 1934 and effectively ran the country.  The display of military mail included US Marine Corps Port Au Prince postmarks of various types used between 1919 and 1930.

Back for a second showing and bringing up the rear again was our President, Richard Berry FRPSL with a last minute display of eight sheets on the Palestinian Arab revolt against the British administration of the Palestine mandate during 1936.  Shown were various covers from FPOs established in Palestine - there was no free postage, so they used British stamps.


© Forces Postal History Society 2020