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.

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