Collect Southern Africa
Pre - Union Transvaal
The History of South Africa 1896 - 1910 with emphasis on Transvaal as the Economic centre
Displayed at 2011 Leamington Spa Weekend by Paul Van Zeyl
Report by Otto Peetoom
This display and talk by Paul is an ongoing subject as he has presented the audience with earlier chapters of the History in previous years.
The earlier story was published in The South African Philatelist from the February 2011 edition.

In his own style Paul entertains those present which includes a South African habit of throwing Afrikaans words into his dialogue. On this occasion those who understand Afrikaans were relieved that none of the characters in his story were given a klap (a slap) by some disapproving party.

His talk starts with the failed1896 Jameson Raid, the build up of Armour by the Transvaal funded by its gold. President Kruger celebrated his birthday on 10 October 1899 followed by a declaration of War the following day. Ladysmith is besieged and as the war progresses the British outnumber the Boers. At Pietersburg stamps were issued by the Boers to demonstrate that they were still in charge. War ends, Gold must be mined and in 1904 Chinese labour is introduced.

In December 1905 when the Conservative government under Arthur Balfour collapsed, Smuts joined Botha in London and sought to negotiate full self-government for the Transvaal within British South Africa. Using the thorny political issue of Chinese labourers, the South Africans convinced Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the Cabinet and Parliament to allow the Boers to run the core of their economy.

In 1910 the Union of South Africa came into being and although Botha was appointed Prime Minister, Smuts was given three key ministries: those for the Interior, the Mines and Defence. Undeniably, Smuts was the driving force and visionary in South Africa.

Further recommended reading Chinese Miner’s on the Rand, 1904 – 1910
By Franco Frescura The SA Philatelist October 2010.
Known Inverted Centres of South Africa and An Unchronicled Transvaal Error
By Otto Peetoom

Two Transvaal 1902 KEVII Revenues are known with this particular variety being the 2/6 and 5/- values - Sheets were printed in two panes of sixty. As the 2/6 inverted centre is encountered more often, the general consensus of opinion is, that there were perhaps two sheets of the 2/6 value and only one of the 5/-.

The Union of South Africa claim to fame is the 1927 London 10/- printing with an inverted Table mountain. Thought to be printer’s waste and discovered in the Nissen Stock after Stanley Gibbons acquired it in October 1977.
A single copy and two vertical pairs are the only known examples of SG 39a.

SG 39a
Transvaal KEVII ½d with an Inverted Centre

Has anyone seen this Item?

In the June 1926 edition of The South African Philatelist on page 51 under a title An Unchronicled Error the following appeared

One of the old hands in the Union Postal Service, whom we have known for many years and whose word we have no reason to doubt, asked us, in the course of conversation the other day, whether the halfpenny K.E. Transvaal, bi-coloured, was known with the centre inverted. Such a variety not having come to our notice, we asked for further information, where upon an interesting story unfolded. When the bi-coloured halfpenny was current, our informant was on the stamp counter of the Johannesburg G.P.O.
One day, he said, an old Jew with his head closely guarded by a bowler, bought a sheet of halfpenny labels from one of the stamp clerks and departed with his purchase, only to return a few minutes later with the query “Are these all right?”, at the same time passing his sheet across the counter.


The clerk, we were told, noticed that on all the stamps the King’s Head was inverted and replied to the effect that they were not all right, and offered to exchange them for another sheet. The customer, however, insisted on retaining his stamps and departed with them. Our informant states that, before handing the sheet back to its owner, his fellow clerk showed him the sheet, and both he and his mate realised that they were looking at something good. Nothing more has been heard of the stamps, and although the stamp clerks lost no time in examining their stock no further sheets of the variety came to light. A watch was, we were informed, kept on all the halfpenny stamps for years afterwards, without result.

Perhaps some of our readers know something of the above variety. If so, we shall be very glad to hear from them. Incidentally, we may mention that the postal official who unfolded that above story possesses a copy of the fairly well known Transvaal K.E. 2/6 revenue stamp with the inverted centre.


1. The Edwardian Stamps of the South African Colonies by Brian Trotter page 242
2. Article in the October 2011 edition of The South African Philatelist page 166/67 by Otto Peetoom
3. A Facsimile of a ½d KEVII inverted centre

Imperial Military Railways
Displayed at 2011 Leamington Spa Weekend by
Alan Drysdall
Report by Otto Peetoom

This fascinating subject was new to most of the audience and focuses on events during the
1899 - 1901 Boer War and Alan’s display includes many interesting items of postal history & memorabilia.
Whenever the Boers retreated they blew up everything of use and badly damaged the railway system. For the British the movement of troops and equipment required the control of the railways. In 1899 four Railway Pioneer Corps were formed with the task of repairing the railways damaged by the enemy.
Often temporary repairs were effected that would bypass the damage and Alan’s display includes photographs that demonstrates the foregoing.
The Railway Corps made use of Postal Stationery and employed their own handstamps on private and official mail.

These handstamps are either encountered as cachets or at times used to cancel postage stamps. They used British or Z.A.R. stamps & stationery and also operated their own T.P.O.’s.
Alan pointed out that when using GB registered envelope the rate was 2d and when they employed Z.A.R. envelopes the rate was 3d. The various T.P.O.s consisted of a Northern T.P.O. that went from Pretoria to Pietersburg and the Western T.P.O. ran to Krugersdorp. The Midland T.P.O. to Bloemfontein and possibly as far South as the major junction of Naauwpoort some 30+ miles South of Colesburg.

The Eastern line to Lourenco Marques was important to the Boer forces as it was their only access to the sea.
In the Eastern Transvaal the railway line from Pretoria to Komatipoort went via Waterval Boven. This route consisted of two T.P.O.s, one from Pretoria to Waterval Boven known as the Eastern T.P.O. with a cancels coded A, B, C & D. Between Waterval Onder and Komatipoort it was known as T.P.O. East with cancellers No 1 & 2. The route between Waterval Onder to Waterval Boven created constant problems to the Pioneer Corps because it had to transverse a steep incline plus a tunnel using two locomotives on a rack-railway.

The Encyclopaedia of South African Post Offices & Postal Agencies
Volume 4
by Ralph Putzel provides the following information:

Waterval Boven

From Waterval Onder to Waterval Boven the line climbs 208 metres in 7.5 kms, from the Elands River Valley and the Lowveld to the eastern edge of the Highveld a gradient of 1:20. Consequently it was found necessary to build a rack-railway over this distance, which passed through a steep, curved tunnel near the waterfall.

Waterval Onder situated 90 metres below the waterfall on the Elands River:
During the Second Anglo-Boer War President Kruger stayed there from July to August 1900 before his departure for Europe.

Web design by Otto Peetoom