A number of us arrive on the Friday evening and this year the O.F.S. Study Circle held a Sixtieth Anniversay meal. The rest of us had to make do eating our own dinners elsewhere and propping up the bar! On Saturday over 40 members and 3 dealers attended to wtach the displays. These would be considered for the award of the Tony Chilton Memorial Trophy.
Bob Allison showed OFS Postal History and began with missionary covers and an 1847 letter from a Cornet in the 9th Dragoon Guards stationed at the Fort in Bloemfontein. Early Orange River Sovereignty (1848-54) mail included a letter describing the battle of Boomplaatz, a soldier’s letter and an 1849 incoming missionary letter.
The pre-stamp Republican period, 1854-1868 began with examples of all five BETAALD hand-stamps, two unique, which were introduced shortly after the first Cape stamps. Other covers illustrated other methods of indicating the payment of postage.
Combination mail using Cape Triangulars and later issues were represented, both before the OFS issued stamps. Following 31st December 1880, the end of the combination period, the display concentrated on the rates of postage and their reductions, both internal and outside destinations. A significant comparison of population in 1880 between the OFS and England, each of similar land area, saw a population of only 130,000 in the Free State compared to 24 million in England, hence the difficulty of finding covers from this period.
The display concluded with 15 sheets of pre 1900 OFS railway material and the final frame was dedicated to a miscellany of postcards, both inward and outward.
Tony Howgrave-Graham showed his collection of coil stamps, in response to a request to see how these items could best be collected, mounted and displayed. The coil stamps have been neglected and no Union collection is complete without the coils. The display showed examples of all the Union coil issues including a good selection of the unhyphenated 2d. This issue is a short lived one for which there were no dispensing machines! Mostly used by businesses they were soon replaced by meter stamps. Particular emphasis throughout the display was put upon the variety of ways the two extra rows of images were etched onto the cylinders to create 22 rows of 6, rather than the sheet format of 20. Records relate to “suitable” sheets being selected for splitting into coil strips but unfortunately fail to mention what the criteria for suitability were! Spare ½d and 1d sheets were issued to post offices cut back to 240 stamp format. Examples of these are shown including a superb interpanneau block of 70 of the 1935 1d which illustrates all the key features of the stamps.
Bob Allison returned as part of joint display and showed Field Post Office Double-circle Datestamps used in the OFS/ORC during the Anglo-Boer War. 32 datestamps are recorded as having been used during the period, in most cases, the code numeral relates to the Field Post Office (FPO) in which the datestamp was first used. However, subsequent to the reorganisation of the South African Field Force in 1900 and the formation of new military mobile columns, some datestamps were used by other FPOs and any one-to-one correspondence was lost.
Part II of the joint display was “A Perspective of OFS Postcards after the Anglo-Boer War” by Richard Stroud. Collecting OFS postcards showing towns and dorps from 1902 onwards is not a straight-forward task as many locations did not have any such cards for several years, some not until the Union period, as some places had effectively ceased to exist: they had been burnt, devastated or destroyed during the “Scorched Earth” phase of the Anglo-Boer War. After the Peace of May 1902, Boer prisoners of war were re-united in the concentration camps with their families, given tools and seed and returned to their devastated farms and damaged towns. It took some years for towns to be rebuilt where major damage had occurred. Those postcards that subsequently were produced show much evidence of new build. Cards from many locations have yet to be found.
Chris Oliver continued with Republic Stamp Booklets 1987–2010. Using “Powerpoint” to augment a display of 84 pages that showed the development of stamp booklets in the Republic from 1987, when the S.A. Post Office decided to re-introduce booklets. The display showed nuances and peculiarities adopted in their production and issue, either intentionally or by default, which makes the study of booklets interesting.
Our fifth display concerned The Postal Markings of Natal by Mike Berry. A brief run through the history of Natal prior to annexation by Britain in 1843, was followed by details of the 1846 introduction of the first inland postal service. Initially three Post Offices were opened at key settlements in 1850, and illustrated by pre-stamp and postmark items. Immigration rapidly increased the population but it was not until 1857 that the first stamps, embossed in Pietermaritzburg, were issued to the now 15 Post Offices.
Examples of almost every one of the three different generations of numeral cancels on/off cover were shown, followed by some of the very attractive but fragile circular date cancels incorporating royal crowns and various shield cancels. Later cancels filed A to Z for almost every Natal Post Office until Union were available to view. Next a brief history of POA cancels with a frame of examples and two frames of interesting entires, especially Boer War use of the “wandering POA43” cancel. Finally, two frames of covers bearing a varied range of rubber stamp and other postal markings for special purposes plus some previously unlisted marks.
The last display of the day was Bob Hill’s Cape of Good Hope cancellations. He covered the majority of the date stamps used, including their varieties and late usage, well into the Union period. Amongst the covers shown were several with first day cancellations, shipping and assistant shipping postmaster cancels, Boer War covers, maritime covers including one from the Austro-Hungarian Navy, one from S.S. Nautilus (of only two recorded) plus several with manuscript cancellations including one from Walvis Bay. There were examples of cork cancellations, parcel and pre-post mail and the barred-oval numeral canceller. Bob also showed examples of mail from railway and telegraph offices and items of social history from the period. He read out several Post Office instructions made in the 1880s concerning the use of date stamps. This display won the Tony Chilton Memorial Trophy.
Amongst the Sunday “Bring & Show” displays we saw Z.A.R. double circle single line cancellations introduced in 1894 & in general use by 1896. Some of these have not been recorded previously; unusual Z.A.R. postmarks 1894-1901 from minor locations; the early communication and transportation of mail in Bechuanaland & the Protectorate; registration cachets circa 1910 associated with the first Union stamp; Alan Harley showed how communications were severely disrupted during the Anglo-Boer war. One cover shown took 60 days instead of the, more usual 1½ day journey. Alan also described training for censors, censorship cachets and a PoW cachet of the period; the opening up of Bechuanaland Protectorate to western influence, from the Moffat and Rudd negotiations with the Matabele to the British military intervention resulting in the founding of Bulawayo after the destruction of Gubulawayo; a one-frame study of the ½d vermilion stamp of Great Britain which was overprinted for use in Bechuanaland and the Bechuanaland Protectorate; Eddie Bridges displayed information on the Customs Union between the four provinces at least 4 years prior to political union; John Shaw displayed 1924 proofs and essays following the three competitions for the Pictorials; S.W.A. censored material covering the 1915–23 occupation period; Tony Howgrave-Graham showed the vicissitudes experienced in adapting the gnus on the Natal Coat of Arms and seen on revenues of the province, for incorporation into the Union Arms and the 1/- Pictorial stamp; Bob Hill displayed a medley of perfins, forgeries, mistakes and fly-specs on Union & Pre-Union mail; Alan Drysdall presented some more railway mail anecdotes; Chris Oliver gave a short display of registered envelopes which included the 6d animal stamp.