Occupation Period 1914
the Text for this Article appears below - As time
permits some 100+ Illustrations
will accompany it
Watch this Space!
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
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.
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
values on part of a diamond package
very scarce 3d ultramarine
KEETMANSHOOP JAN 23
OTAVI 4 OCT 22
Showing large portions
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)
associated with the CAMPAIGN
Base P.O. D.C.
Base P.O. D.C.
Base P.O. D.C.
|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.
are associated with the Central Force, whilst 5,
6A attributed to the Northern
Force. They were rendered dumb in March 1915. The dumb
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
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
example of a
Force C Oval
F.P.O. 31 - AUS
F.P.O. 18 - GARUB
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
(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.
of a return of available postmarks from Swakopmund
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
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
in March 1915 and was then, almost certainly, used
by field units but it is not recorded where.
Both cancels are very scarce.
type F.P.O. 15 of
boxed F.P.O. 15 of
SERVICES UNDER MILITARY CONTROL to 30 September 1915
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
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
Altered German Datestamp
Field & Telegraph Corps
double circle cancelling the registration
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
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
German Wanderstempel FPO 1
used at Tsumeb
Later altered to RAIL
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.
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.
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
The final PE of the name and
the SA/EC were removed in
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.
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
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.
- Postmarks of South West Africa
The Great War - Official History - The German SWA
Collyer - The Campaign in German
South West Africa
SA Field & Telegraph Corps (1914-15)
Gerald L'Ange Ashanti 1991 - Urgent
SADF Archives - Report on the Army
Post Office (1914-15)
World War I - History of the Vetinary
Tony Howgrave-Graham - The
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
Uwe Albert - SWA - Censor Labels,
Censor Cachets & Prisoner of War Post"