Despite its vast size, South
Africa was extremely slow to introduce an air mail service
to speed up the delivery of local mail. Eventually, in 1925,
the Civil Air Board in South Africa decided to institute a
three monthly Experimental Air Service between Cape Town and
Durban, to establish whether such a service could be provided
economically and reliably.
The British Post Office agreed to take part as well and the
route was from Cape Town, via Oudtshoorn, substituted for
Mossel Bay due to the presence of fog, Port Elizabeth and
East London to Durban.
Air Mail fee
Rate for Surface Delivery
1d for Postcards and 2d for letters
The Air Surcharge
Rates (which were wholly illogical!) were
1d for delivery within South Africa and 3d Overseas
For Letters - The rates per ounce were 3d
and 6d respectively
For Parcels - The rates per lb were 6d and
The 1925 Airmail Stamps
A set of four Air Mail stamps
was specially printed specifically for the Experimental Air
Service that was inaugurated on 2 March 1925. The chosen denominations
bore the above rates in mind and include a 1d, 3d, 6d and
These stamps were only valid for the carriage of mail on the
foregoing service. An orange Airmail etiquette was also produced.
The stamp Issue was printed on unwatermarked
paper by the Cape Times using photo-lithographic offset in
sheets of 120 stamps divided into two panes of sixty by a
central gutter. As the same master negative was used for each
pane, the minor plate varieties are repeated on each sheet.
The Union Handbook Catalogue lists two to three varieties
for each value.
Gauge 12 using a single line treadle machine being a rather
crude and amateur fashion. One line of perforations was omitted
at the edge of some panes and sheets and affects all values
except the 6d.
There were no
Control numbers or marginal arrows, but on each sheet in the
centre of the right hand margin of each pane there is an enlarged
value tablet. These also appear in the centre of the top and
The set was issued on 25 February 1925 and
available in the areas served by the new service. In addition
they were available in Johannesburg, Pretoria and at the High
Commissioners Office in London.
The stamps were only valid for the Airmail surcharge, thus
ordinary stamps had to be employed for the normal postage
In addition to the stamps, an Official Souvenir Card was issued
for members of the U.P.U. and a different Official Souvenir
Card, inscribed in English and Afrikaans, was also prepared,
each with a set of stamps attached.
Signed by either Thomas Boydell, the Minister of Posts
and Telegraphs or by E.G. Stuurman, the Postmaster
The use of the 1925 Airmail stamps was discontinued at the
end of June 1925 but remained for sale in Pretoria until 31
October. After that all residues of stamps, as well as the
plates were destroyed.
Two items that appear to have been misappropriated from the
Printers are: Three sets of prints of the Engraver’s
unaccepted designs and an imperforate block of twelve 1d stamps
found amongst waste by a youth.
A dealer cut them into single examples and as may be anticipated
their condition is not very good.
Unfortunately this issue has attracted the attention of forgers,
but the forgeries are quite easy to spot as the perforations
are to a different gauge being 11, 11½ or 13. The forged
stamps also show differences in the presentation of the design
as well - poorly printed, the colours look faded as compared
to the genuine stamps.
A report on the above appeared in the November 1953 edition
of The South African Philatelist on page 197 (See
further down page)