Thursday, 26 May 2016

Labuan Airmail covers and the KLM Amsterdam to Batavia service

Air mail covers are generally much desired items of postal history. Straits stamps on covers originating from Labuan are very much in demand. There are a few covers addressed to Lampeter in Wales and two examples are shown here.

This one has a faint date for December 1933. It has the correct rate of 45c air fee and 8c Imperial post making a total of 53c. This cover was carried by the KLM service from Alor Star to Amsterdam and then to England. It was initially sent by surface mail from Labuan to Singapore and then Alor Star with the stage between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur by train.

Towards the end of 1933, KLM introduced an all inclusive rate of 55c  for ordinary mail. The above cover for 29 MR 1934 was 1c underpaid but bears no T mark nor any attempt to reclaim this. It has a different air mail label being smaller than the earlier label.
The KLM service from Amsterdam to Batavia, including the main stops of Karachi, Alor star and Medan, was started in September 1929. Initially, the planes used were made by Fokker but was later switched to the faster US manufactured Douglas DC 2 and DC 3. Imperial Airways started experimental flights from London to Darwin in Australia 2 years later in April 1931. Prior to that, Imperial Airways commenced a mail carriage service from London to Karachi in August 1929. Even though Imperial Airways was cheaper with an initial air fee charge of 20c, the KLM route was still used because it was much faster.
The earliest air mail cover from North Borneo that I know of and which was sent in March 1931, is likely to be featured in an article in the Sarawak Journal in September/October this year. It was carried on the Imperial Karachi to London route.

 A KLM information folder

The route map in two parts as it is too wide to be seen clearly on screen. It was a journey that took 10 days from Amsterdam to Batavia.

There was only room for up to 4 passengers. The rest of the carriage was for mail and freight. The individual airfare from Amsterdam to Alor Star was US$576 on the fares table in this information folder. But this was fully inclusive of board and lodging during stops. Those chairs were a very long way from satisfying health and safety standards nowadays. I wonder what happened when the plane wobbled in any weather. There were also no air steward or stewardess and so one probably has to bring along food as well even though drinks and refreshments are provided. There is a lot of other interesting information in this leaflet. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A Sabah (North Borneo) Jesselton Airport P O cover and two recent train postcards

Collecting transport related items is one of my interest. There are a few of the Jesselton Airport P O cancelled stamps in my collection. But at last a cover comes along. But I have yet to find a suitable Train P O cover yet.

The Jesselton airport cancellation was the first of its type. It was used between March 1966 and April 1968. Subsequent cancellations at this post office have Kota Kinabalu instead of Jesselton with the change in name of the state capital of Sabah. You can see my other airport posts by clicking here. 

These two postcards are fairly recent and show the Vulcan Steam Train which was apparently built in 1954 by the Vulcan Foundry in England. It is one of very few trains that is powered by burning firewood. This is  used in the twice weekly tour service that travels between Tanjong Aru and Papar. This is obviously not the train that my friend and I took to go to Beaufort a few years as we made our way to Tenom.

Update 14/06/2016
This amazing recent postcard shows the very old diesel train that goes through the Padas Gorge to and from between Tenom and Helogilat with the stations of Pangi and Rayoh in between. A few years ago I was with a friend on this very train going from Tenom to Beaufort. It felt the same as the time I was on it in 1974!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

A few more North Borneo covers

This week I am showing a mixture of old and recent. In fact the two modern ones are probably much harder to obtain as they are seldom considered as collectible.

This philatelic cover has the full set of the 1894 pictorial issue. This were recess printed by Waterlow and Sons and came out in Feb 1894. It is a registered cover to Leipzig in Germany. It has the registered mark R2 (1895-1903). The postal cancellation is D2 (1886-1900) without the time code A and the year in 2 widely spaced digits. Time codes were omitted and the colour of the cancellation changed from indigo to black from June 1895.

This is another philatelic cover but has the uncommon Sandakan 19 bar K4 (1889-1894) cancellation. These pairs of of stamps were issued in Feb 1894. It also has the registered mark R2.

This 1994 cover from Kudat has the rather uncommon air mail cachet in red. It is the first time that I have noticed this. Normally, covers of this era would already have air mail printed on the front or carries an adhesive air mail label. Perhaps this is only used where these are absent and hence the uncommon finding. This is similar to the one in black used in Kota Kinabalu as shown by clicking here.  

Here we also have another recent cover from 1982 but this time it is a retour cover from Sandakan. Unfortunately, the box instruction is not very clear and it should read KEMBALIKAN KEPADA PENGIRIM or "Return To Sender". There is a handstamp with various options. The ticked option is ALAMAT TAK CUKUP or "Inadequate Address". Covers like these are quite uncommon and these markings have not been recorded properly. There is a similar cover to Kota Kinabalu in 1989 which you can see by clicking here. You can see all my retour covers in this blog by using the search function in the upper left end of this page. 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A very desirable Labuan/Straits cover

When I showed this at one of our Sarawak Specialists' Society meetings, there were a few admirers. So I supposed that it must be desirable as these senior members have seen a lot of very good and exceptional material in their time. So that is why members locally or overseas should tried to attend our meetings once in a while. You would not believe the things that has been shown many a time.

Okay, back to this cover. It was sent during the period when Labuan was administered prewar as part of the Straits Settlements after 1906. Straits adhesives are normally used and hence the interest from a much wider audience. This is a neat cover without much defects. It is what I would call "well constructed" because the features of interest are distributed evenly. The front of the cover is especially nice as most blank spaces have been used up by the various markings in additional to the address and the stamp.
The postmark is a good Post Office Labuan cds with time code A. The various time codes have been shown previously here with the time code E the most uncommon and difficult to find.  Time codes A and B are the most common. This is D8 on the Proud classification with usage between January 1910 and August 1913.
It was franked by mistake with 4c for imperial post instead of the 10c rate for USA. The underpaid mark is UP2 (1894-1934). It attracted a US 5c postage due on arrival and was duly paid as shown by the cancelled 5c postage due on the back. Generally the penalty for underpaying would attract a charge which would have been double that of the deficit. By convention, the charge was expressed in UPU gold centimes with a varying exchange rate. For example in GB up till 1940, one old penny was equal to ten centimes and then gradually less as the British currency lost its value.
There is a backstamp for Singapore. It took 4 days to get to Singapore and then another 33 days to arrive at New York. This is also an official envelope which originated from the Government House in Labuan.