Collect Southern Africa

South West Africa

The Occupation Period 1914 - 22
By Tony Howgrave-Graham
All the Text for this Article appears below - As time permits some 100+ Illustrations will accompany it
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August 1914 to 9 July 1915 - THE WAR

In 1914 South West Africa was a German Colony, it covered a large area, roughly equivalent to Germany and Italy combined. At the outbreak of War on
4 August the Imperial Government requested Botha to mount a campaign in South West Afria particularly to negate the perceived threat to the South Atlantic from wireless stations located there. South Africa raised an army extraordinarily quickly despite considerable resistance from hard line Boers.
This resistance grew until Generals Beyers, Kemp and Maritz led a Rebellion which put plans for the invasion back three months.

German forces numbered about 10,000; 3,500 being professional soldiers and the rest made up of reservists (mostly farmers and tradesmen). The Union forces numbered some 43,000. The war plans envisaged invasion on four fronts with A & B forces from the south, C force from the west, E force from the east and D force from the north with a view to cutting off the German retreat. A Force was based at Steinkopf and B Force at Uppington.
Together they formed the Southern Force. After a skirmish on 15 September they first saw action on 26 September at the Battle of Sandfontein which resulted in defeat for the Union forces and a number of prisoners of war being taken.

Central, or C, Force invaded Luderitzbucht, largely unopposed, on 18 September. The coastal region ofSouth West Africa is very inhospitable Namib Desert and they had to spend the next three months there twiddling their thumbs and relaying the destroyed railway line back towards AUS and Keetmanshoop. All this because of the time taken to quell the Boer led rebellion.

Northern Force landed at Walvis Bay on Christmas Day 1914, forwarding to Swakopmund but not advancing up the Swakop valley until 20 February.

It was from February 1915 that the campaign took off with C Force advancing from the west capturing AUS on 1 April, the same day as the Eastern Force took Rietfontein having trekked across the Kalahari. Southern Force crossed the Orange River and took Warmbad on 3 April. Windhoek surrendered on
12 May before the Northern Force had blocked the German's retreat northwards. There followed a six week lull in the fighting which the troops found very testing as they were on half rations and forbidden from raiding local farms. The final push forward from Windhoek ended quickly with the formal German surrender occurring on 9 July.

The Stamps used during the Occupational Period
Most people are introduced to this fascinating period of collecting by finding South African stamps with South West African postmarks. These are generally King's head issues and as it requires a look at the postmark one is quickly caught up by the extraordinary forms some of these take. All the basic values are known used and are listed in the South African Colour Catalogue but not by Stanley Gibbons.

The 3d blue is very scarce as it wasn't issued until October 1922, just before the end of the period. The 1/3 is nearly as scarce through lack of usage.
The high values are occasionally found, usually originating from packages containing diamonds. Booklet stamps can be found such as the nice ½ds showing an unusually large portion of the tete-beche stamps attached at the right. The sale of the excess 1½d booklet stamps including the tete-beche pairs also didn't occur until 1922 so these are also scarce. The coil stamps are scarce to rare. It's still not certain if a machine for the ½d & 1d existed in Windhoek. These values can occasionally be found. The 1½d and 2d are rare.
High values on part of a diamond package
A very scarce 3d ultramarine
1½d Tete-beche pair
Booklet ½d Pair
Showing large portions
Tete-beche attached

KALKFELD 8.10.22

The 1910 2½d commemorative is again scarce and was never on sale in South West. Interprovincial usage of earlier Cape, Natal, OFS & Transvaal stamps was valid but in practice the vast majority of examples are entirely philatelic and genuine usage restricted to one or two known possessors of such stamps where their use is contrived.

The Postage Dues are interesting. As within the Union, stocks of Transvaal were used up before the Union ones were used. The ½d, 2d, 5d, 6d & 1/- can be found from the Transvaal set and the ½d, 1d, 2d, 3d & 5d from the Union set. (The Union Handbook is incorrect suggesting that other values exist)
POSTMARKS associated with the CAMPAIGN
Army Base P.O. D.C.
4 Luderitzbucht
Army Base P.O. D.C.
4B Luderitzbucht
Dumb Army Base P.O. D.C.
4 Luderitzbucht
Dumb Army Base P.O. D.C.
4B Luderitzbucht
The first cancel was a Force C oval used at Luderitzbucht and it is scarce, especially cancelling stamps. The most usual cancels are the Army Base PO double rings. No's 4, 4A and 4B (scarce) are associated with the Central Force, whilst 5, 6 and 6A attributed to the Northern Force. They were rendered dumb in March 1915. The dumb 4B is interesting in that it was reduced to simply 4 but this was left off-centre whereas the dumb 4 retains the 4 in the centre. The dumb 6 moved on to Windhoek and a dumb 8 was used at Keetmanshoop it is not known in its original state.

Other Army Base office marks relate to the campaign but originate from within South Africa. For example, A.B.P.O. 7 was used at Kuruman by Eastern Force at the start of their endeavours and is also known rendered dumb.
An example of a
Force C Oval
Triple boxed
F.P.O. 31 - AUS
Triple boxed
F.P.O. 18 - GARUB
South Africa D.C.
F.P.O. 4 Bethany - O.F.S.
The Field Post Office marks were originally very similar to their Base Office counterparts but these were recalled in March 1915 and replaced by triple boxed types so that the original types aren't known used in South West Africa.  
The new types appear in black, blue, purple or red. The most commonly encountered
is 31 (Aus) and 37 (Kuibis), but most are scarce to rare with some numbers still unseen. Swakopmund 13 is more common but unusual in being a larger version only known in black. Even more surprising is that their return of available postmarks later in 1914 shows the normal type of FPO cachet in purple alongside the larger type in black,
though the former has never been seen used.
Part of a return of available postmarks from Swakopmund showing the
unique large type F.P.O. 13 which saw use and a standard type which didn't

A possible circular type F.P.O. mark used in South West Africa is the unique looking
FPO 15 of Wynberg Hospital. It is not known if this was used by a field unit of the hospital or by the hospital itself. It was changed to a regular triple boxed 15 in March 1915 and was then, almost certainly, used by field units but it is not recorded where.
Both cancels are very scarce.
Unique type F.P.O. 15 of
Wynberg Hospital
Triple boxed F.P.O. 15 of
Wynberg Hospital

This period covers the time from the capture of a town or area until control of postal services was passed back to civilian hands on 1 October 1915.
Thus which cancellers were available? Clearly the military ones were and generally at smaller offices these were the only ones that were available.
The boxed FPO cancellers are the most prolific such as 44 at Okahandja, 50 at Omaruru, 57 at Otjiwarongo and 60 at Grootfontein. The dumb ABPO 6 was used at Windhoek. The SA Field Post & Telegraph Corps circular datestamps were also pressed into service at various places. The rare example used at Hatsamas is shown where the name has been added in manuscript - Illustrated at right
Otavi had a similar cancel but added the name separatel


A Postcard from Sturman during his visit to Windhoek on 20 June 1915
cancelled by the unaltered German Windhuk a datestamp
Altered German Datestamp
SA Field & Telegraph Corps double circle cancelling the registration stamp
and a manuscript Otavi across the postage stamps

Major Edward Sturman, the Director of the Army Postal Services (he went on to be PMG), clearly visited Windhoek around 20 June 1915 to assess the situation. He sent postcards to his two children whilst there and these are both cancelled by the unaltered German Swiss type a cds. This canceller was used unchanged for a short time after the surrender of Windhoek, as was the c cds. Interestingly most of the usage of this is on mail from members of the Postal Corps. Windhoek also managed to find the old German Windhoek single ring which had been sitting in a drawer since 1903 when the name changed to Windhuk. This just had the DEUTSCHE / SüDWESTAFRIKA removed and it was fit for purpose. The German Swiss type a canceller also had the same removed from its bottom segment in August. The first permanent canceller arrived from Pretoria in late August. Surprisingly this had the name spelt with a U rather than the OE.

Unaltered German Wanderstempel FPO 1
used at Tsumeb
Unaltered German
Later altered to RAIL
TSUMEB canceller with
DEUTSCHE excised

Tsumeb also provides much interest. The German Wanderstempel IV had been pressed into service by the Germans by soldering a 1 centrally at the top and using it as FPO 1 at Otavifontein. This was used again unaltered by the post office at Tsumeb during July and August though it is rare. Tsumeb also possessed a German bowed cds. This is reportedly used unaltered for a very short time in July. The DEUTSCHE was then defaced by having a line sawn across it and by mid-August the whole word was removed.

1 October 1915 - 31 December 1922 POSTAL SERVICES UNDER CIVILIAN CONTROL
The numbers and types of canceller used now proliferates and forms the bulk of most collections. Early on offices had to make do with what they could improvise until, gradually, most places got permanent cancellers from Pretoria.

The Non-Permanent types fall into several main categories:-
1. Continued use of and adaptations to the military cancellers. These are numerous but good examples are - The FPO 57 of Otjiwarongo where a town handstamp was used in wanderstempel fashion in, or near, the top segment or Otavifontein (FPO 59) which was first used in bright red. Later it appeared in black and wore badly so that the 59 became unreadable and the name was added to the top segment in manuscript. When the South African Engineering Corps were at Kolmanskop Station they had a boxed date stamp with the German spelling Kolmannskuppe and SA/EC either side of the date.
The final PE of the name and the SA/EC were removed in 1918.

2. Contrived Provisional Cancellers which are interesting. Outjo had a simple handstamp comprising the name and date only. A BK cancel, believed to originate from Brackwasser, is very rare. Kub used an old German Postagentur cachet, Kuibis produced a canceller from an old German Regierungs Bohrkolonne Sud military handstamp by just removing the KUIBIS segment from the bottom centre. Neuheusis made a simple Post Neuheusis handstamp to which the date was added in manuscript.

3. Manuscript cancels - These were the last resort when nothing else could be found. They are scarce to rare and mostly used early before any other cancellers became available. Klein Windhuk is probably the most common but Neuheusis, F/H/N for Feldschuhoorn, Leutwein (first in green, then black) and Tses also exist. Kub also used manuscript but I suspect this was in 1918 when the rubber canceller had worn out and before the double ring arrived.

4. Rubber cancels - These were issued to 36 offices in 1916 though not all have been seen used. A representative selection is shown. They appear in various colours, sometimes more than one from the same place. Rubber tended to perish quickly in the South West Africa climate and many wore badly until they became completely unreadable. The worn example shown from Klein Windhoek is particularly clear as it is on card and is obviously much larger than in the original state. Albrechts was even more dramatic but doesn't show as well as the name degenerated too. Ondonga went on using its rubber cancel long after it became completely unreadable.

5. Mail Bag Seals - These were occasionally used in a few places to cancel ordinary mail producing odd looking intaglio marks.

6. Altered German Cancellers - These are what draw a lot of people into collecting this period of South West Africa. As the post offices tended to be in their old German equivalents the old German cancellers were obviously the ones readily available. Alteration of these was relatively simple though in a number of cases they might be adapted for use in a completely different office. These altered cancellers proliferated rapidly. The most common of them is the altered Swakopmund-Windhoek railway oval. The illustration is of Zug 2 (Train 2). The actual cancel used for the conversions is said to be Zug 1 but there were, in fact, four trains and it's difficult to see how the Swakopmund cancel (made by deleting Windhoek) and the Windhoek cancel (made by deleting Swakopmund) could be made from just one canceller. Despite being common these two cancellers have many varieties with virtually every possible stop variety existing (high stops, low stops, high & low, missing stops or 2 stops together etc.). The time code can be missing, as, indeed, can POST.
Other converted cancellers can also be interesting, especially when produced from a different office. Aroab was made from Arahoab, a completely different village many miles away, by simply removing the AH so leaving a large gap between the AR & OAB. Guchab was converted from Gochas and the final B can often be found reverting to the S. Ondonga was converted from Olukonda, Bethany from Bethianen (though these were the same place) and Kolmanskop from Kolmannsküppe by closing the ü and removing the final PE. The double N remained as a spelling mistake and the O can be found reverting to a U. In all these examples the resultant name is shorter than the one it derived from so it appears off-centre. Windhuk Rail was converted from the old German Windhuk c canceller shown earlier used unaltered. The metal RLS Windhuk used for registered mail was converted from the German Fahlgras Bz Windhuk. The F was converted to an R, the AH removed, the L left, the GRA removed, the S left and the Bz removed! Again the resulting spacing is curious. There are far too many conversions to discuss them all but they make for very good collecting.

The standard double ring, or Permanent cancellers were made in Pretoria and gradually replaced the contrived cancellers, especially in the bigger towns. Although, perhaps, less exotic than their predecessors there is plenty of interest amongst them. Of note is the Windhoek SWAP canceller of 1920.
The P was added to denote Protectorate which, at the time, it was commonly believed South West Africa would become. In fact later in 1920 it was decided that it would become a territory mandated to South Africa so early in 1921 the P was removed leaving an off-centre SWA. Luderitzbucht had a name change to just Luderitz in late in 1920 two of its cancellers had the BUCHT removed leaving just Luderitz at the top left.

I hope this may have kindled your interest. The period actually has much more to get ones teeth into than there has been space to describe here. During the campaign period there is, of course, censorship and after it Prisoner of War and parolee mail. Also of considerable interest are the problems of getting mail in and out of South West Africa whilst the war in Europe continued and the retributional DETAINED mail to and from Germany. Then there are the instructional marks, registration and revenues when you've completed your collection of all the above!

The Occupational Period ended on 31 December 1922 and the Mandate Period began on 1 January 1923 with the issue of the stamps of South Africa overprinted for use in South West. It is remarkable that the unoverprinted stamps were only valid for use in January. Finding these used in January is nice but better, in fact extremely rarely, is finding covers with combinations of overprinted and unoverprinted stamps. Also nice is finding unoverprinted stamps on covers used after January 1923 when they pick up Postage due.
Putzel - Postmarks of South West Africa
The Great War - Official History - The German SWA Campaign
Collyer - The Campaign in German South West Africa
SA Field & Telegraph Corps (1914-15)
Gerald L'Ange Ashanti 1991 - Urgent Imperial Service
SADF Archives - Report on the Army Post Office (1914-15)
World War I - History of the Vetinary Services
Tony Howgrave-Graham - The Springbok 1997 Volume 45, No's 2 & 3 Pages 38 to 58 and 99 to 110 South West Africa - The Occupation Period
Snowden Forces Postal History Society - Unions used in South West Africa
C.C.S.G. Bulletin - February 1988 Civil Censorship - WW1 - South Africa
South African Philatelist - October 1993 Wanderstempels
Uwe Albert - SWA - Censor Labels, Censor Cachets & Prisoner of War Post"

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