Thursday, 29 January 2015

Ship covers from North Borneo

I am showing you one of my favourite covers which is very rare in such a fine condition. It was until recently part of a gold medal winning collection. The date of the postmark was 2 APL 1934, the S S Hin Sang seems to operate a swift tight schedule between Sandakan and Hong Kong as it was noted in the BNB Herald to depart from Sandakan again on the 11th of that month. The journey one way was probably 3 to 4 days.
The 12c palm cockatoo adhesive was cancelled by a company fiscal handstamp and over it was typed S/S "Hin Sang". And on top of the fiscal cancellation is the Sandakan cds. And there is a backstamp from Hong Kong of 2.30 10 AP 34 which would have been the dispatch date from Hong Kong on its way to USA.
Harrisons & Crosfield was the shipping agent. They were an international business conglomerate and had the biggest company in North Borneo. Nowadays they are known as Elementis and is largely UK based with particular focus on specialty chemicals.

There is not a lot that I can find about this ship. There were at least four ships with a similar name. This cover was carried by Hin Sang 2. This was built in 1905 in West Hartlepool, Sunderland. She was initially named Parklands until she was bought by Jardine Matheson in 1913. She plied the route regularly between Hong Kong and Borneo carrying passengers and goods, principally timber from Sandakan. She was scrapped in 1939.
The Indo-China Steam Navigation Company was established in 1873 as a subsidiary of Jardine Matheson to serve the trade routes between China, Singapore and India mainly. The other well known ship which used the Hong Kong and Sandakan route was the Mausang serving pretty much the same purpose   

This cover was carried on the good ship Hai Meng from Tawau to Jesselton with a cancellation date of 29 OC 54. Ship consignee covers from North Borneo are uncommon unlike the various ship covers from Sarawak, many of which were contrived including this one in all probability.

The M S Hai Meng was built in Sweden in 1949 and was renamed Bright Star in 1971. She was sunk by limpet mine in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. This ship is not to be confused with a current craft with the same name used by a Thai shipping company.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Two "Sayang Sekali" postal cards

For readers who are not familiar with Malay, Sayang Sekali translates into What a pity.
Some of us would have items like these. Very nice covers or postcards or postal cards with stamps removed which drastically reduces their value and desirability. Nonetheless I still feel that the following 2 items are worth having.

There is a rather beautiful Lahat Datu D3 cancellation in violet and a Sandakan transit mark 2 days later. Surprisingly it took another 12 days including the 6-7 days getting there before it was dispatched from Singapore. Perhaps it was waiting for a ship bound for Hamburg where it was received at the post office on 6.1.04. The missing adhesive would probably be a 3c stamp of the British Protectorate issue to make up the concurrent 4c postcard rate to postal union countries. Anyone who has this particular stamp with the matching postmark, please please let me have it.

The name Oscar Kluge has been seen on several items of correspondence. He was probably working there possibly at one of the plantations. Someday, I hope this letter can be translated. I have a couple of items like this in German as well as a few in Dutch.

There are two Sayang Sekali reasons here. Again we have a 3c stamp removed for a card to Leipzip in Germany. The postmark is not clear but it is likely to be Sandakan 15 JA 1902. It was sent by the Government Telegraph Operator at Mempakol or Mempakul but posted when he was visiting Sandakan. The second reason is if it were sent from Mempakul, we would have a very valuable item if intact. The content of the letter was very interesting and I hope he was only ordering medical supplies. I do not know why crayon marks were made.
Mempakul was important as sub station for the telegraph line from Labuan en route to Sandakan. This telegraph was also extended to Kudat and Jesselton. Labuan was connected to Hong Kong and Singapore.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

A Kuala Belait Retour cover

I am gradually building up my Retour cover collection. This is one of my particular favourites as it tells an interesting story of its journey through the mail system. You can use the search bar in the top left hand corner of this page to look for other retour items on this blog. And at the top of the right side is a google translate facility for changing the text into a language of choice. But I can not vouch for the accuracy of translation.

It was sent by the Chinese Labour Union in Kuala Belait to their counterpart in New York but unfortunately with the wrong address. It was posted on 4MR47 and dispatched on 6MR47. It has a rudimentary K Belait registration label and marked in manuscript Air Mail Registered. It was also handstamped Air To London Only in violet probably at Singapore. It bears adhesives to a total value of 70c for a combination of surface and air mail rates which included transmission by air mail to London only.
There is a Singapore transit registration postmark for 5 pm 17 MR 1947. It arrived at New York on April 5 1947. Delivery was attempted and failed despite trying a possible address. It was struck with a Retour cachet on APR 7 1947 with a linear date on the front and a cds at the back, both in violet. It was also written in pencil on the front with not at add given 0144. It stayed on at the New York P O until it was returned as seen on the oval cancellation for 7 May 1947. It arrived back to Belait via Singapore with a transit cancellation for 2 pm 15 JU 1947.
Update This Air To London Only handstamp is recorded by Proud as Sandakan AM8 with one date recorded of 25.3.47 and so that gives rise to more questions.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Two nice North Borneo covers

I am showing some more postal history. Somewhere along the way in my pursuit of philatelic gems I have managed to acquire these items. However, my main interest is collecting used North Borneo stamps preferably with a good postmark. Single adhesives are easier to store and are comparatively cheaper to buy. But postal covers have the unassailable advantage of telling a more complete story.

Despite its aged appearance, I think this cover is quite nice. It was a registered post from Sandakan to Dresden in Germany. I call it my Dresden china cover as the printed KPM cachet on the back flap probably represented Konigliche Porzellan Manufaktur, the china and dinnerware manufacturer in Dresden. Moreover, it appeared that the cover was sent by one Francesca Borgers who was based in Shanghai, China. Was she on a boat to Sandakan when she wrote this letter?
This cover has 30c in stamps which was more than the 12c+12c for a registered letter at the prevailing postal rates from November 1921. It was posted on 1 MAR 1925 transited at Singapore on 9 MR 1925 and arriving at Dresden on 5.4.25
The Sandakan registration label has the letter H. A study of the different letters used on these labels may be quite intesresting. You can see the Jesselton registration label X by clicking here. 

This is one of 3 Her Majesty Ship covers from North Borneo that I know of. But there should be others. A similar cover was sold in the most recent Sarawak Society auction for very good money. I bought this a few years ago at the same auction.
The 4c adhesive at the prevailing imperial rate was endorsed by Received by HM Ship/ No charges to be raised cachet with a Londond arrival date of DEC 2 16. By the margin and written in pencil is HMS "Cadmus". The Cadmus was a Cadmus-class sloop based entirely in the Far East. A sloop-of- war in the British Navy was an unrated combat vessel that was carrying 18 guns or less used in convoy defense with anti aircraft and anti submarine capabilities. The term sloop may also implied that this was a sail bearing sea craft.

HMS Cadmus was launched originally in Sheerness 1903 and sold in Hong Kong in 1921. It had a displacement of 1070 tons. It was armed with six 4 inch guns, four 3 pounders and three Maxim guns. It was initially part of the Australian Station but from 1906 was reassigned to the China Station. Following the entry of Japan into WW1 in 1914 on the side of Britain against the Germans,  HMS Cadmus together with fellow sloop HMS Clio were sent initially to Hong Kong and eventually was based mainly at Sandakan by September 1914 to watch over the adjacent areas especially the Basilan Straits. The Clio stayed for less than a year while the Cadmus stayed until April 1918.
The above cover was addressed back to Sheerness which could be a coincidence and at the back of the cover is a list of names of possible sailors on board ship.

The presence of HMS Cadmus in North Borneo waters is confirmed by this entry in the ship log of the sloop HMAS Una in the vicinity on 17 Jan 1916. It says Capt paid official call to HMS Cadmus. Recd 5 bags of mail from HMS Cadmus. It was likely while the Cadmus was policing the sea in the area and at the same time helping in the transport of mail. The Una set sail for Singapore the very next day.
From looking at the ship log of HMS Clio, Sandakan Bay was certainly busy with visits from HMS vessels. For the last quarter of 1914, the ships sighted were HMS Cadmus, Chemer, Clio, Coln, Kennet, Wahand, Walrond and Wellard.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A desirable AIR MAIL North Borneo cover

These AIR MAIL covers are not uncommon but they are popular and well sought after. As a result they achieved good prices at auction. However most of them are plainly philatelic and addressed mainly to members of the North Borneo postal services. There is a high possibility that the cover below may have been commercial, albeit opportunistically so long no similar duplicates are in existence. Was this an urgent mail used to carry some form of remittance? 

It was addressed in both English and Chinese script to Nai Yoo in Tawao and was dispatched from Sandakan on 9 JUN 1930. The Per Air-Ship inscription was not strictly accurate as these were seaplanes.
Towards the middle of 1930, the Admiralty requested a survey of the South China Sea. Two seaplanes, Supermarine Southampton Flyingboats, were used under the command of Captain G E Livrock. They left Seletar air base in Singapore and visited Sarawak, Brunei and Labuan consecutively before reaching Jesselton in North Borneo. Captain Livrock had been requested by official letter from the postmaster to carry mail to the various towns that they would be visiting. These would constitute the first airmail letters carried in North Borneo.

This cover has the right rate of 28c comprising of the 3c surface mail rate for the first ounce and the 25c additional per half ounce for this mode of delivery. It was posted in Sandakan on the 9 JUN 1930 and arrived in Tawao on the 10 JUN 1930 with the instruction Please send to shop.
All the covers carried were endorsed with a large air mail cachet in black as seen above. There is one example in violet sent from Tawao. This was carried out using a hand stamp which was made of wood as stated by Captain Livrock. I believe that this one hand stamp accompanied them on each of their flights and was used for the various towns that they visited while they were in North Borneo. In Proud's book there were supposed to be slightly different cachets from each of the towns. I have examined many covers on scan or at first hand and I could detect no significant differences. Logically, I can see no reason why they would go to the trouble and expense of making and using a different hand stamp for each of the places visited. These included Jesselton, Kudat, Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau.
Somehow this wooden hand stamp survived the war. Perhaps it was left undisturbed in the Jesselton Post Office which was the only significant building there that remained intact after allied bombing and arson with fire by the fleeing japanese troops. The same hand stamp was used again to mark the first flight by Malayan Airways from Jesselton on 7.6.1949. You can see it on my previous post by clicking here. 

An example of the Southampton Flyingboat built by Supermarine at Woolston, Southampton. These are comparatively large and sturdy aircraft well suited for sea surveys and reconnaissance. They can also carried 2 extra passengers in addition to the pilot and navigation officer. A few of the expatriates in North Borneo were fortunate enough to have been taken for a spin in these planes.

References: A flight round Borneo  G E Livrock  Sarawak Journal vol 30 p 65-69, 109-113, 173-177, vol 31 p 15-19, 77-81, 147-151.