A Question from B.W. (28 Sept. 2005)
Does anyone know the routes and arrangements through which the IRC moved mail during and after World War I, especially in relation to the illustrated cover? Does any one have any further information concerning this cover?
It dates from 1919. It is of unusual interest in a number of respects. It is from the White-held South of Russia during the Civil War. Which, incredibly, had no postal connection with the outside world whatsoever between the cease-fire of 1918 and the evacuation of Crimea in November of 1920 - a period of two years.
There are two known international covers from White South Russia ; this is one of them. Both are addressed to the IRC tracing service in Geneva. Both were sent via the British Military Mission, and bear no transit markings. Both were delivered and docketed by the IRC. (Such items sent after the Bolshevists prevailed are not uncommon).
This particular example is the only Censored item known from the Civil War in the South. It was sent postage due (which is a puzzle, as there was no foreign rate in the first place), as evidenced by the oval To Pay handstamp of Sevastopol, within which is the rate in ms. (1.40 - i.e., twice the 70 kopek domestic rate, as would be the case if it were a domestic due item).
A further note from B.W. (29 Sept. 2005)
International mail from Siberia (White and Red alike), via Yokahama, was unhindered. International mail out of the Soviet heartland had its ups and downs for a while, but it moved. In the (White-controlled) South, there was no international mail at all - in or out. And this from the establishment of White control in 1918-19 through the evacuation of Sevastopol (November, 1920). Where was the UPU?
In theory, mail going abroad could have been carried by the (White) Volunteer Fleet to Constantinople, where there was a Special Conference postal agency, which could have used Turkish stamps to get it on its way. But such items do not seem to exist. One cover (in the Rosselevich-Rayhack collection) survives from Crimea to a refugee in Constantinople via this route in November, 1920. But this was, as it were, carried outside the mails.
There was commercial traffic in and out via foreign vessels as well, once the Great War ended. Greece (however improbably) maintained a military mission there, along with Britain's.
Although docketed by the IRC, this unfortunately only notes the date (Gregorian) the letter was written, and the date of its reply, so no help there - probably by design. Clearly, it must have gone by diplomatic channels, whatever these were and involved. But again - why ? The war had been over, by then, for nine months.
It seems to have been common knowledge at the time that Britain exercised control of international mail, as it did during 1914-18 and 1939-45 by treaty, as another item, addressed to the Ukraine from abroad in 1919 bears the ms. inscription "Via London." It was returned to sender.
Reply by J.T. (28 Sept. 2005)
If sent via the British Military Mission, it "must" have gone via the British postal system. This seems the logical conclusion. The lack of postal markings indicating the route is common for Red Cross covers - at least in the 1914-1918 period. )
Reply by R.F. (28 Sept.2005)
There were Naval vessels operating in the Baltic in the Fall of 1919. The logical route for the cover would have been from the port of Sevastopol by ship to Constantinople and then by British mails across the Mediterreanean to London and then on to Switzerland.
Chief of the British Military Mission in in Southern Russia in 1919: Holman, Herbert Campbell (1869-1949), Captain, General Staff Indian army.
Joined Devonshire Regiment. Promoted Lieutenant, assigned to India Staff College, Quetta, 1892. Awarded First Class Language Qualification in Russian, 1895. Captain, Indian army, 1900. Assistant Secretary to Military Department, India, 1901. Staff Captain (Intelligence) DAQMG at HQ, War Office, 1902-4. Attached to the Russian army in Manchuria, June-November 1905. Major, 1907. Assigned to General Staff, 1910. Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, 1914. Lieutenant-Colonel, 1915. Brevet Colonel, 1916. Colonel, 1917. Brigadier-General, 1919. Chief of British Military Mission, Southern Russia, 1919-20. DQMG India, GOC Sind Rajputana, 1921-2. GOC Mhow, 1924-7. Retired, 1928. War Service: Burma, 1891-2, Wuntho Expedition, dispatches; China, 1900, dispatches, awarded DSO.