Lanarkshire Philatelic Society


"German East Africa"


Mr. Michael Farrant FRPSL


Lanarkshire Philatelic Society was pleased to welcome Mike Farrant FRPSL who had travelled up from Eastbourne to be present at the meeting on Friday evening. He gave a truly superb display on the subject of "German East Africa in World War 1".

He began by pointing out that the country was surrounded on all sides (including the Indian Ocean) by the Allies  – and this posed great problems for movement of the mail. In July 1914 the last German Mail ship, RPD Rhenania, left port and no further mail could be sent by sea.

Mike continued to give a wonderfully descriptive history of the overland routes the mail took to circumvent all the disruption they faced both inward and outward. Many difficulties were presented by hostile combatants. Many wonderful covers were displayed showing postmarks from the convoluted routes taken by the mail. A letter sent to Jerusalem never arrived there, having been stopped in Syria. It was then sent to Zanzibar - which was used by the Allies as a Depository for mail addressed to German East Africa. Much of this mail was not discovered until many years later. Had the letter to Jerusalem been sent via Lisbon, it would probably have arrived at its given destination. 

From the beginning of the War no newspapers were printed in German East Africa owing to the lack of newsprint. For some 22 months (1914-1915) there was an issue of a daily private postcard which gave War News. Some of these postcards were displayed.

Owing to the non arrival of stamps from Berlin, stamps were printed locally on any available gummed paper – examples of these were viewed – also, as official stamps were limited to a very few Post Offices, prepaid envelopes were printed for use elsewhere. 

In September 1914 the German Battle cruiser SMS Königsberg attacked, and sank, the British cruiser HMS Pegasus. It was salvaged and 300 of the 322 crew survived. Also salvaged were postal items, including stamps and cards from members of the crew, money orders, censored letters and Prisoner of War letters.

The display ended with a bloodstained cover with postmark "Lindi" 1917 –  this had been occupied by the British in September 1916 – but in 1917 there was heavy fighting in the area and the cover with its contents suffered on a soldier’s body.

In late 1917 the Germans abandoned German East Africa and left the area via Mozambique.

Alan Wishart led members in giving thanks to Mike for giving such a superb account and display on a truly complicated, but most interesting, subject.

Our next meeting in the Caledonian Bowling Club, Motherwell Road, Hamilton, is on Friday 18th December 2015, at 7:30pm when members will give displays on the theme of "Festive Follies". 

Anyone with an interest in stamps, postal history, postcards etc is very welcome to attend.