POSTAL HISTORY  OF NORD
Small and large numeral cancels Local postage rate
1830-1878
German field post  in Valenciennes 1914-1918 Other  subjects

Army Post (Etappenpost) in the District of Valenciennes 1914-1918.


It is necessary here to insist on the fact that private mail was forbidden  in the Etappen aera. German soldiers had the strict ban to correspond with civilians, even those to whom they had been billeted. They could not either serve as intermediary to transport civil mail.
The notion which authorized or not the mail traffic was " the German interest".
Only could circulate:

- prisoners
of war mail
- economic and administrative mail;
- forced workers
mail;
- mail regarding certain family  "urgent" situations as disease or death.


Prisoners of war mail. Business et administrative mail.
Civil mail in transit by Pontarlier ans Switzerland. Locations of field post offices.
Forced workers mail. Examples of field post marks.
Evacuees mail.

Prisoners of war mail.

Mail from and to prisoners of war was sent postage free. The free postage had already been established by the Universal Postal Union during the congress of Rome on May 26th, 1906. This mail nevertheless has to carry the mention " Kriegsgefangenensendung " (prisoner of war mail).
In the first months of the war, German granted no priority to this mail, so that it take a very long time before arriving at destination. When we read the correpondances of 1914, we notice that most of the time prisoners complained to receive not much news from their relatives.
This situation was deteriorated by the fact that German had decreed (until January 1916) that prisoners native of occupied zones could receive or send only a single letter or a card a month. 
Extract og the  Gazette des Ardennes, January, 2nd 1915. 

The District of Valenciennes has a commun border with Belgium, certain inhabitants of the municipalities of the border zone had got used to posting or making send their mail in Belgium where the postal conditions were better.


Card written in the camp of ZOSSEN on February 10th, 1915 for the Superior of the convent of QUIEVRAIN (Belgium) which was in charge of transmitting it to an inhabitant of HERGNIES (Nord). The card arrived at QUIEVRAIN on April 13th, 1914.



The envelope above was sent by an inhabitant of FRESNES-SUR-L'ESCAUT. It was irregularly posted in QUIEVRAIN (distant from 11 km).

Prisoners of war mail towards their relatives in occupied zones was brought at the Kommandantur of their camp which was in charge of inspecting the content of the correspondence, the frequency of sending. Once this examination was made, the mail underwent a systematic delay of 10 days at least. This examination and systematic delay were realized by the strike of a stamp with the mentions  " Geprüft " and "F.a" (Frist abgelaufen: expired period of time). Mail left then towards the post office of the Supreme Headquarters in CHARLEVILLE who managed it towards the zone where lived the adressee. Arrived in the Etappen area, mail underwent again a postal examination. The adresse got back its mail at the Kommandantur.

This card was posted in MERSEBURG on November 7th, 1914. The  absence of control on arrival can be noticed until middle of year 1915.
Card of a prisoner at MÜNSTER. Intended for an inhabitant of ANZIN in the zone of the 6th Army, it was controlled on arrival by the postal control center of the Lines of communication Inspectorate located in VALENCIENNES who put its handstamp " Etp. Jnsp. 6 ".
We can notice the stamp "Inhalt geprüft-Monatliche zulässige Karte" (Contents Controlled - monthly authorized card)
This card was sent on August 5th, 1917 by a French serviceman interned in Switzerland in ADELBODEN. The Swiss put their stamp « Internement des prisonniers de guerre ADELBODEN-SUISSE » (Internment of the war prisoners ADELBODEN-SUISSE). The card  was then routed to KONSTANZ in Germany (round stamp Zensurstelle Austausch Station Konstanz Geprüft), who was the exchange post office planned for the mail of the internees. From there, it passed in closed dispatch by CHARLEVILLE where was made a sorting by Etappen area. In August, 1917, the municipality of SEBOURG was a part of Etappen area of the 6th Army. Arrived in TOURNAI (Etappen Inspection of the 6th Army), the Postüberwachungsstelle n° 40 examined this card. The stamp P.Ü.St (Postüberwachungsstelle) was used for this.

Mail sent to the prisoners of war was brought at the Kommandatur which took care of a very basic control (address and frequency of sending). Then occured a postal censorship in a Postüberwachungsstelle who was in charge of examining the contents and to apply a systematic delay. At the end of this deadline, the mail went towards the post office of the Supreme Headquarters in CHARLEVILLE, then towards Germany.

The letter was examined at first by the Kommandantur of VALENCIENNES
Examined on November 21st, 1914, it arrived at GÜSTROW 14 days later by having passed by MINDEN. GÜSTROW was not its last stop because Alfred CAUDRON was in the camp of PARCHIM. This duration is rather short considering the conditions of routing and the writing of the address. The way was written this one (very current at the beginning of the war) caused a delay in the routing. In the last months of year 1914, families did not know where were held their relatives, prisoners of war.
Card written by an inhabitant of DENAIN for a English prisoner of war in the Camp of TORGAU. This prisoner was a Captain of "Royal Irish Fusiliers".
The card carries the handstamp of the city hall of DENAIN where obviously the card was brought. We also note the linear mark " Geprüft F. a. Postüberwachungstelle" of the 6th Army and the eximaner hand stamp of the camp of TORGAU. 
The story of this Captain is interesting. His name is Albert Victor OLPHERT. He arrived in France on August 22nd, 1914 with the rank of Lieutenant. He took part in the battle of Le CATEAU on August 26th, 1914 where he was seriously wounded and took prisoner. He was promoted (although prisoner) in the rank of captain in October, 1914. We know that he was interned in the Camps of GIESSEN, MERSEBURG, TORGAU and finally NEUBRANDEBURG. Germans, considered him as a private during more than a year before his rank is definitively established. Further to an agreement between England and Germany, Captain OLPHERT was transferred in Holland at the end of December, 1917.

Civil mail in transit by Pontarlier ans Switzerland.

In the first months of the occupation, it was possible to make pass mail to occupied northern France via Switzerland by PONTARLIER. René DELAME mentions that on December 10th, 1914, 300 letters arrived at VALENCIENNES from France via PONTARLIER and BASEL.

This card was posted in the field post office of the 1st French Infantry division located at this date in Aisne. The card arrived in ANZIN without a visible examination of the German authorities.

Forced workers mail.

Germany which has huge need of workforce tried at first to recruit under German contract Belgian and French workers to work in order of priority at first in Germany, then in Etappen areas and finally in the General Government of Belgium.
In front of not much success of this recruitment, German set up a system of forced labor and had incorporated the workers in battalions of civil workers (Zivilarbeiter Bataillonen or Z.A.B) created on October 3rd, 1916.

Every man from 17 to 60 years with no professional activity could be required and sent to work on the maintenance of roads, railroads, on the construction of military works sometimes very near the front, even if these civilians did not have to, according to the laws of the war, be actively involved in military activities against their own country.
In exchange for this work, the workers were accommodated, fed and paid (40 c for a worker and 65 c for a foreman). The pay was calculated per day  actually worked. The salary was weekly poured. To prevent any escape attempt, every worker could not possess  more than 10 Mark.
The Germans required workers had to wear in the right hand a red
10 cm width armband for the French, yellow for Belgians and green for the Russians. The foremen had to wear in more a white armband.
The working and living conditions in the Z.A.B. were very hard
As they received a salary, even if it was about a hard labor, the civil workers had to frank their correspondence. These workers were authorized to recieve from their close relations and to send a card a week. They could receive a 5 kg packet a month and could send 2 money orders of a 5 franc minimum in the month. A preprinted entire was imposed.
Mail to the workers was brought in Kommandanturen. These verified the frequency of sending and the correctness of the address and the mail mentions. Cards were sent then towards the postal censor office then towards the services or the units which employed the worker.
Mail from the civil workers were briefly controlled by the service or the unit which employed him, then left towards the 
postal censor office of the Army where was the civil worker. Then, a new control was made by the postal censor office of the Army where was the addressee.
Card intended for a civil worker in service in the ZAB 33 in DONCHERY. It was a worker draftee thus old enough to be mobilized in the French Army. To avoid that these  young people flee the occupied territories, German sent them in battalions of civil workers.

This card was intended for a civil worker employed by the Direction of the military railways n° 3 (Militär Eisenbahn Direktion 3) whose Administration was located in HIRSON ( Aisne).

Evacuees mail.

In March, 1915, German require municipailties of the District that they provide lists of people without resources or incapable to work, this to evacuate them towards France. During all the war, several convoys of evacuation were organized by German with the assistance of the Red Cross. The evacuees were sent in Belgium where they underwent  a several weeks "quarantine", they were then sent to Germany and Switzerland then finally to France.

Card posted in WEIL AM RHEIN (German-Swiss border), by one evacuated inhabitant of Valenciennes. The 10 Pf corresponds to the postage of a card in the foreign rate. The stamp was not cancelled by the post office of LÖRRACH (on which depends WEIL), but by the postal censor office of the 2nd Army (stamp " Geprüft P.Ü.St ") on arrival to VALENCIENNES.

Business et administrative mail.

Postal rates.
On December 15th, 1914, the 4th Army (in Belgium) created the first Lines of communiocation mail service. We unfortunately have no dates of beginning of the other postal services in the other Lines of communiocation zones. We can suppose nevertheless that the various Lines of communiocation postal services began for the greater part in 1915.
With the creation of specific postal rates, Germany overprinted its postage stamps. These overprints were specific to every zone of use.
Stamp of the General Government of Belgium.  Stamp used in Lines of communication areas. Stamp of the Reich Stamp of Bavaria
Overprinted stamps "Belgien" were used in the zone controlled by the General Government of Belgium. Until the middle of December 1916, they could be also used in the Etappen areas.
Overprinted stamps "Cent" were exclusively used in the 
Etappen areas. The postage stamps of the Reich (not overprinted, type Germania) were valid in all zones. The stamps of Bavaria (type Louis III) were valid in all the Etappen areas, even if one meet them most of the time in the areas where were located Bavarian fieldpost offices. Bavaria did not make overprint the stamps which were used in the Etappen areas.
An agreement between the German States allowed the use of the stamps of the Reich as the stamps of Bavaria on soldiers mail. These stamps thus could be used side by side on the same mail. The same agreement worked with the mail circulating in
the Etappen areas.
It should be noted that German imposed a forced currency for the franc (French or Belgian) : 1 mark for 1, 25 franc. This course lasted during all the war.
Postal rates of December 15th, 1914

In Lines of communications and Belgium To Germany
Letters:
up to 20 g
Additional 20 g 
10 c
10c
25 c
15 c
Postcards 5 c 10 c
Postal rates of August 15th, 1916
Letters:
up to 20 g
Additional 20 g
15 c
10 c
25 c
15 c
Postcards 8 c 10 c
Postal rates of March 20th, 1917
Letters:
up to 20 g
Additional 20 g
25c
15c
25c
15c
Postcards 10 c 10 c

As it can be seen, the types of mail objects authorized to circulate are very restricted. There is nevertheless a type of mail  not mentioned in the postal rates, but which were authorized for certain services. It is about declared value letters. Their postage rates corresponded to the German foreign postal rates  of 1906.
The postage of such letters cost 20 Pf (25 c) to 20 g and 15 Pf (15 c) by 
additional 20 g. To this, it was necessary to add a fixed tax of 20 Pf for the registration and 8 Pf for insurance for each step of 100 Marks.

Letter from LILLE towards ANZIN. As it is banking letter, it was examined by the banking control agency of LILLE (stamp " Inhalt sachlich geprüft ").
As LILLE was in the zone of the 6th Army, the Postüberwachungsstelle 40 militarily
axamined the letter (mark " Postüberwachungsstelle "). As ANZIN was in the Etappen area of the 2nd Army, the Postüberwachungsstelle 39 (mark " Geprüft P.Ü.St ") which examined on arrival this mail. This envelope weighed 18 g and contained 98 Marks. It is franked with 50 Pf : 20 Pf for the postage to 20 g, 20 Pf for the registration and finally 10 Pf for the insurance.



This label accompanied a parcel weighting 2.550 kg and containing 49.000 Marks. This parcel was sent by the branch of CAMBRAI of the Credit du Nord for the branch of LILLE. The postal rate of 1906 shows for parcels towards France a postage of 80 Pf (to 5 kg) and an insurance of 8 Pf each step of 240 Marks. There was no registration for such postal object. The total postage of this object was thus 17.20 Marks (or 21.5 Fr). The postage contains 78 stamps of 25 c, but certainly contained 86 to make 21.5 Fr. This parcel was brought on November 17th, 1917 to the fieldpost office of the 54th Infantry division (Deutsche Feldpost 721) which was at that time in CAMBRAI and was registered under n° 1762. The parcel was examined by the Kommandantur of CAMBRAI and its passport office.


Types of mail.
Mail circulating in Etappen area can be classified in 3 categories:
- The administrative mail examined by the Civil Administration ( Zivilverwaltung);
- The banking mail 
examined by the banking control agency ( Bankaufsichtsstelle);
- The mail of mining companies or concerning coal examined by the mining administration (Bergverwaltung).
The adminsitratif examination was made on these 3 categories besides a military inspection exercised by a military postal censor office (Postüberwachungsstelle). These offices handled the Etappen mail  in a parallel to the military mail and prisoners of war mail.

Business mail necessary for the life in the Etappen area could circulate. Here, a letter sent by a wholesaler in DENAIN to grocer in LILLE. The postage rate of December 15th, 1914 also applies to this letter. DENAIN being in the area of the 6th Army, the postal censor office located in VALENCIENNES examined this letter.
Letter from VALENCIENNES to ANZIN franked with 15 c (Rate of 08/15/1916). These two municipalities were a part of the area of the 1st Army since the end of September 1916. This letter was normally examined by the military postal censor office of this Army. This postal censor office (Militärische Ueberwachungsstelle des post-und Gütterverkhers 1. Armee) was located in VALENCIENNES.
Letter from VALENCIENNES (Etappen area) to BRUSSELS (General Government of Belgium) franked with 25 c (Etappen stamp) refering to  the postal rate of March 20th, 1917. The stamp " Zulässig Militärische Ueberwachungsstelle of post-und Gütterverkhers " was amputated of the mention " 1. Armee " since February, 1917.
This letter was sent from DOUCHY  for the sub-prefect of VALENCIENNES, it is franked with 45 Pf in Bavarian postage stamps and from Reich. These stamps are cancelled by a circular stamp and the control is realized by the stamp " Zulässig. 4 Postüberwachungsstelle ". Even if DOUCHY was a part of the area of the 6th Army, the use of postage stamps of Reich was authorized on the place or as a supplement to those of Bavaria. From March, 1917, a 10 Pf  was worth 10 c, but two 10 Pf stamps were worth 25 c. In this example, we have 2 pairs of 10 Pf adding  50 c more one 5 Pf, representing in total 55 c, a triple postage (Rate of March 20th, 1917).
From February 1st, 1918, the High Command of the 17th Army settled down in SAINT-AMAND. BRILLON was a part of the Etappen area of this Army. This letter was examined on May 18th, 1918 by the postal censor office of the 17th Army (Postüberwachungsstelle 31) located in MONS (Belgium) which cancelled the stamps with its date stamp and which also put its handstamp " Zulässig 2! Postüberwachungsstelle X ". Arrived in VALENCIENNES, this letter was again examined by Postüberwachungsstelle 39 (mark "Geprüft P.Ü.St").

Banking mail was examined at first militarily and then administratively by the Bank control office created on April 10th, 1916.

This letter was militarily controlled by the 1st Army (Zülassig Militärische Ueberwachungsstelle des Post-und Güterverkehrs). It passed in transit by the banking control agency of VALENCIENNES who put its stamp "Bankaufsichtsstelle Valenciennes". We can notice that Bankaufsichtsstelle noted under its stamp the order number of entry of this letter that is 4365, but also a partial date 21/3 (1917).
This letter from LILLE ( 6th Army) to VALENCIENNES ( 2nd Army) shows us a postage of 80 Pf (85 c) for a weight to 100g. The letter was examined by the 6th Army (Postüberwachungsstelle 40), then by the banking censor agency of VALENCIENNES. The number of entry of the letter in the register of this office is 18849, what places this letter between March and April, 1918.

The administrative mails bearing a mark of examination of the Zivilverwaltung are a few.

The civil Administration of the 2nd Army possessed a examination stamp "Geprüft Aushändigung genehmigt. Civilverwaltung 2." (Controlled authorized Distribution. Civil administration 2.)
Letter of the municipality of SEBOURG for the sub-prefecture of VALENCIENNES.
We are here after the end of April, 1917, because before this date SEBOURG was in the area of the 1st Army.
The military examination was made by Postüberwachungsstelle n° 40 located in TOURNAI (Belgium) which cancelled the stamp with its circular stamp and has put its stamp "Zulässig 4. Posüberwachungsstelle".
In this case, the administrative inspection was realized by a
seal-stamp of the civil Administration of the 2nd Army.

Mail of mining companies was administratively often examined before by it was militarily controlled.

More than 20 gr letter for Belgium franked with 20 Pf (rate of December 15th, 1914). The military postal censor office examined this letter on May 17th, 1916. The stamp " Geprüft F. Potsüberwachungsstelle 6. Armee" had to be the stamp "Geprüft F.a. Potsüberwachungsstelle 6. Armee " used on the prisoners of war mail. The "a" of "F.a". had to get damaged and disappear. The mention in  kurrent writing means " Mit der Bitte um gefl. (ällige) Weitergabe (please forward). The Bergverwaltung cancelled the stamps with its handstamp "Bergverwaltung Etappeninspektion 6."
Since October 1st, 1916, the 1st Army was in VALENCIENNES and the 6th Army always occupied LILLE. This letter was sent by the Company of the Streetcars of LILLE for the mining company of DOUCHY. It is franked with 15 Pf (rate of August 15th, 1916) and was examined by the Postüberwachungsstelle in TOURNAI. 
Letter to 40 g franked with 20 Pf (25 c) for Belgium according to the rate of August 15th, 1916. This letter shows us that in November, 1916 the mail intended for the municipality of PERUWELZ always passed in transit by TOURNAI. 
This letter shows us a peculiarity. Indeed, it passed by the postal censor agency of the 1st Army (stamp "Zulässig Postüberwachungsstelle"), then by the Bergverwaltung of VALENCIENNES. This administration put its regimental stamp "Deutsche Bergverwaltung VALENCIENNES Feldpoststation 292 " what is rather unusual. This combination of administrative marks strengthens the hypothesis that there were no examination stamps, but rather administrative handstamps which could serve as control stamps.


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