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Help With 2 WWII Censored "Clipper" Covers...

 
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Posted 08/29/2017   2:01 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add blcjr to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Here are a couple of WWII "Clipper" covers -- postal history, not first flights or the like.




I don't have much familiarity with censored covers and would appreciate whatever anyone could tell me about them, or point me to specialized resources for studying censored covers. The censor label on the larger cover looks like labels I've seen attributed to RAF censors. Does that sound right? Where would it have been opened and read? In London? In Lisbon?

The smaller cover looks like it was opened and read twice. The first looks like the same kind of R.A.F. (?) label as the first cover. The second label looks French, and it looks like this cover made it to Marseilles (?), was opened, and then was returned. Lawrence Sherman had a two part series in American Philatelist in 2013 on WWII mail to France that helps me understand the situation with the second cover a bit. But I'm still interested in whatever else I can learn, and especially about the R.A.F. censor labels (if that's what they are) -- where was this done, etc.

One last thing. The first cover was posted special delivery. Yet it took nearly three weeks to get to London (posted Jan 30 in Washington, PA, and then Feb 18 (or 19?) in London. Not quite what we consider "express mail" today. Would the delay be because of censoring, or something else? With Clipper mail it should have "normally" only taken 2-3 days, I would think. But the early days of 1941 were not "normal" and Great Britain was already at war.

Basil
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Edited by blcjr - 08/29/2017 2:07 pm

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Posted 08/29/2017   6:09 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add ggreve to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Check out http://www.postalcensorship.com

The website has not been updated in a while, but the history of censorship is there for multiple countries and multiple examples for each country.
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Posted 08/30/2017   12:55 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Kimo to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
All of those are civilian censors, including the French ones. They were sent from one civilian to another civilian. The RAF did not normally use resealing tape as there was rarely any need as letters from RAF men had to submit their letters to the censors with the flaps unsealed so the letters could easily be read. There was no need to slice open their letters and reseal the envelopes. Once the censors read the letters, they simply used rubber stamp RAF censor cachets in various shapes and outlines that had the letters "RAF" along with the RAF censor's number.

Civilian censored covers such as yours from the US to various countries in Europe seem to sell on eBay in the $1.50 to $3.00 range, though sometimes especially interesting ones go for a bit more. Military censored covers seem to go for a bit to quite a bit more depending on many factors such as where and when and what unit.

There has been some excellent research on Pan Am's transatlantic service being published in the Air Post Journal, the monthly journal of the American Air Mail Society. Many of the older issues of the APJ are available for all on the AAMS website, though they are still in the process of digitizing them. Here is a link to an issue that includes one of these excellent short articles that might be of interest to you: http://www.americanairmailsociety.o...y%202016.pdf
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Edited by Kimo - 08/30/2017 01:34 am
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Posted 08/30/2017   08:09 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add blcjr to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks, Kimo, for clearing up the bit about RAF censorship for me. Makes absolutely clear sense about military mail being read before sealed and no sealing tape used.

I'm not interested in valuation. Mainly I'd like to understand where the censorship took place. I've got 2-3 years of recent Air Post issues I'll go back through for relevant articles. Based on Lawrence Sherman's two part series about censorship of mail to France I think the French censorship likely took place in Marseilles. But what about the P.C. 90 "Opened by Examiner XXXX" style seals? Where were they likely applied? From some reading since my original post I gather that a lot of British censorship of Trans-Atlantic mail from the U.S. to England took place in Bermuda. Lawrence discusses this for mail sent during an earlier period than these; when he gets to discussing mail at the time these were sent, he only writes about mail to France, not England. Looking at Crotty these covers likely flew the New York - Bermuda - Horta - Lisbon route across the Atlantic. Bermuda seems the most likely (only?) place where censorship occurred.

So I have this question about the time it took for the first (larger) cover -- about three weeks -- given that it was sent "EXPRESS FEE PAID." The flight from NY to Lisbon would take about 2 days. Airmail was carried from Lisbon to Bristol via KLM DC-3's for BOAC. This might take another day or so. A complete run from NY to Bristol via Lisbon, maybe 4 days or so. So why three weeks?

Is the delay attributable to mail being off loaded at Bermuda for the censors to pour through? Are you aware of any sources discussing the typical amount of time mail would be delayed for censorship?

As always, thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise. I certainly appreciate it, and I'm sure others do who read these threads but do not necessarily ever post anything.

Basil
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Posted 08/30/2017   09:19 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add blcjr to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Kimo,

While I said I was not concerned about valuation, I was struck by your assessment that covers like these cell in the $1.50 to $3.00 range. So I searched the eBay "covers" sold listings for "censored wwii clipper" and came up with 16 recent sold listings, 11 auction and five BIN. The BIN transactions ranged from $8.99 to $37.99. The auction transactions ranged from $4.99 to $58.50 (7 bids). This is reminiscent of our other discussion about philatelic sales being all about matching up particular buyers and sellers. There are people out there willing to pay more than just $1.50 to $3.00. I think that might be a fair valuation if all the cover has going for it a censor tape. But if the cover sparks other philatelic interests it can bring a lot more. I paid $22.09 for the larger cover at auction on eBay (meaning somebody was willing to pay $21.09 (or would it be $21.59?). But it is an interesting cover because of other things, especially the EXPRESS FEE PAID and SPECIAL DELIVERY stamp and markings, the etiquettes, and to top it off, despite being marked "urgent" it appears to me that it wasn't treated with any special urgency by the censors.

I bought the two covers under discussion to illustrate the vagaries of sending trans-Atlantic mail to Europe in early 1941. While censorship was a definite part of this, there is way more to these covers than just the censor tape.

My point is simply that if the cover tells a story that is interesting to a particular buyer, it can bring (or cost) more than just a dollar or two. A lot of it is in the markings. For example, on the smaller cover to France I'd like to learn more about the stamp applied by the censor:


Unfortunately I don't think it is possible to make out the censor code stamped in the middle of the image. Sherman shows a cover with a stamp like this with a "WK 2" mark in the middle and says that was the mark for the Marseilles censor. The only thing even remotely decipherable would be the numeral, and it looks more like a "3" than a "2" to me. But I haven't been able to find any source for a listing of what kinds of codes were used for what locations in France. It still seems most likely that this would have been censored in Marseilles. If there were other ports of entry to France for airmail in WWII that would be important to know.

Basil
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Posted 08/30/2017   10:29 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mml1942 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
My interests are mostly related to the US censorship of the WW2 period, but I've seen enough of the other countries censorship to be dangerous.

The two labels with the P.C. 90 are British censors, probably either Great Britain or maybe Bermuda, which had a large operation covering a substantial portion of the Western hemisphere to Europe mail. The large four digit numbers identify a particular censor, and in most instances, each individual censor used an assigned number all the time. If I recall, many of the labels used in Bermuda (corrected to) Jamaica also had a "IE" in front of the examiner number.

Edited to add: Bermuda had "IC".

I think (but am not positive) that these numbers were fixed in location of use and person using them. There is a database somewhere that lists many of these by number, label type, and where that number was used.

The French label also has a series of letters - not fully legible in this example - which represents a specific censorship office (see link below to find a list). I believe May 1941 is after the fall of Paris and partition of France into German occupied and Vichy France. As Bordeaux was in German territory, I suspect this letter reached Vichy France, but could not be sent onward to Bordeaux, even after censorship. Thus it was returned.

Hopefully an expert in this European censorship period can chime in and correct any of my statements which are in error.

Additional Edit: This is one site I found a while back with a considerable amount of detail on WW2 censorship.

http://o.lafarge.free.fr/php/accueil_eng.php
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Edited by mml1942 - 08/30/2017 11:48 am
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Posted 08/30/2017   1:44 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add blcjr to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the link. I found a list of the French censor codes there. I learned from it that the wording in the border of the stamp reads "ouvert par les autorités de contrôle" (opened by the supervisory authorities). The other stamped notation -- Retour A L'Envoyer / Relations Postales / Interrompues -- means (my translation, without Google's help -- Return to Sender / Postal Service / Interrupted).

Basil
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Portugal
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Posted 03/12/2018   4:02 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add card12 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Good evening,


Quote:

blcjr said in 30 Aug 2017

[...] So I have this question about the time it took for the first (larger) cover -- about three weeks -- given that it was sent "EXPRESS FEE PAID." The flight from NY to Lisbon would take about 2 days. Airmail was carried from Lisbon to Bristol via KLM DC-3's for BOAC. This might take another day or so. A complete run from NY to Bristol via Lisbon, maybe 4 days or so. So why three weeks?

Is the delay attributable to mail being off loaded at Bermuda for the censors to pour through? Are you aware of any sources discussing the typical amount of time mail would be delayed for censorship?

As always, thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise. [...]
Basil


Dear blcjr,

Here you have some data for the first cover USA --> England

Postage rates
Airmail=30c per 1/2 oz + Special delivery=20 c
Total=50c

Censorship label/number
Flynn (2006) Intercepted in Bermuda do not report the number 2386 in Bermuda.
I could not locate this number in Morenweiser (2011) Censorship Handstamps Censorship Wax Seals Resealing Labels [...]. It is not easy to associate the label with the large number of them referred by the author.
The delay between 30 Jan and 15 Feb is not uncommon for censored mail in those WWII times.

Plane
Dixie Clipper - Flight number 261

Timetable (in case the censorship was apllied in Great Britain)
N. York (1 Feb) -> Bermuda (1/2 Feb) -> Horta (3 Feb) -> Lisboa (3 Feb) -> London (8 Feb - this one only reported by Proud)

BIBLIOGRAPHY
AITINK/HOVENKAMP (2005). Bridging the Continents in Wartime [....]
PROUD ( 2008). Intercontinental Airmails Volume One Transatlantic and Pacific [...]
WAWRUKIEWICZ / BEECHER (1996). U.S. International Postal Rates 1872-1996 [...]
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Edited by card12 - 03/12/2018 4:08 pm
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Posted 06/08/2020   2:33 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Bermuda Sailor to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The Bermuda Specialized Catalogue, published by the Bermuda Collectors Society, has an entire section on these censored covers and labels. The label on the London bound cover is listed as CL5-1A, and was in use from 22 April 1940 - 1 April 1944. Unfortunately the cover addressed to Bordeaux has its label covered by the second "Controle" label and I therefore cannot identify the censors' label.
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Posted 06/12/2020   11:27 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Kimo to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
One other thing to keep in mind is that airmail from the U.S. to Europe at that time was not only carried by flying boat Clippers but also by land aircraft. One should not assume everything when by flying boat. This is a really interesting and active area of study - early trans-Atlantic airmail of the late 1930s and the first half of the 1940s. For anyone would would like to dig deeper I strongly recommend joining the American Air Mail Society at https://www.americanairmailsociety.org/ where you will find like-minded collectors. It is $30 a year if you opt for the electronic version of the monthly Air Post Journal or $40 a year if you chose to receive a printed glossy version of the Journal in the mail.
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