Army Post (Etappenpost) in
the District of Valenciennes 1914-1918.
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.
notion which authorized or not the mail traffic was " the German
Only could circulate:
of war mail
and administrative mail;
regarding certain family "urgent" situations
as disease or death.
Prisoners of war mail.
from and to prisoners of war was sent postage 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
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
situation was deteriorated by the fact that German had decreed (until
January 1916) that prisoners native of occupied zones could receive or
only a single letter or a card a month.
|Extract og the
Ardennes, January, 2nd 1915.
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.
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
least. This examination and systematic delay were realized by the
a stamp with the mentions " Geprüft " and "F.a"
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.
|The envelope above was sent by
an inhabitant of FRESNES-SUR-L'ESCAUT. It was irregularly posted in
QUIEVRAIN (distant from 11 km).
|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
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
|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
ADELBODEN-SUISSE » (Internment
of the war prisoners ADELBODEN-SUISSE). The card was then
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
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
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
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
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.
mail in transit by Pontarlier ans Switzerland.
first months of the occupation, it was possible to make pass
to occupied northern France via Switzerland by PONTARLIER.
René DELAME mentions that on December 10th, 1914, 300
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.
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.
man from 17 to 60 years with no professional activity could be required
and sent to work on the maintenance of roads, railroads, on
construction of military works sometimes very near the front,
if these civilians did not have to, according to the laws of the war,
be actively involved in military activities against their own country.
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
any escape attempt, every worker could not possess more than
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.
The Germans required workers had to wear in the right hand a
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
of the Army where was the addressee.
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
3 (Militär Eisenbahn Direktion 3) whose Administration was
in HIRSON ( Aisne).
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
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
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.
et administrative mail.
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,
its postage stamps. These overprints were specific to every zone of use.
stamps "Belgien" were used in the zone controlled by the
Government of Belgium. Until the middle of December 1916, they could be
also used in the Etappen areas.
of the General Government of Belgium.
used in Lines of communication areas.
of the Reich
Overprinted stamps "Cent" were exclusively used in
The postage stamps of the Reich (not overprinted,
type Germania) were valid in all zones. The stamps of Bavaria
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
Lines of communications and Belgium
up to 20 g
Additional 20 g
|Postal rates of August 15th, 1916
up to 20 g
Additional 20 g
|Postal rates of March 20th, 1917
up to 20 g
Additional 20 g
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)
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
letter (mark " Postüberwachungsstelle "). As ANZIN was in the
Etappen area of the 2nd Army, the
Postüberwachungsstelle 39 (mark " Geprüft
which examined on arrival this mail. This envelope weighed 18 g
and contained 98 Marks. It is franked with 50 Pf : 20 Pf for
postage to 20 g, 20 Pf for the registration and finally 10 Pf for the
|This label accompanied a
weighting 2.550 kg and containing 49.000 Marks. This parcel
sent by the branch of CAMBRAI of the Credit du Nord for the
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
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.
parcel was examined by the Kommandantur of CAMBRAI and its
circulating in Etappen area can be classified in 3 categories:
- The administrative mail examined by the Civil Administration (
- 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.
mail was examined at first militarily and then administratively by the
Bank control office created on April 10th, 1916.
|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 "
|This letter was sent from
DOUCHY for the sub-prefect of VALENCIENNES, it
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
were worth 25 c. In this example, we have 2 pairs of 10 Pf
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
administrative mails bearing a mark of examination of the
Zivilverwaltung are a few.
|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
|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
VALENCIENNES. The number of entry of the letter in the
this office is 18849, what places this letter between March and April,
of mining companies was administratively often examined before
by it was militarily controlled.
|The civil Administration of
the 2nd Army possessed a examination stamp "Geprüft
genehmigt. Civilverwaltung 2." (Controlled authorized Distribution.
Civil administration 2.)
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
located in TOURNAI (Belgium) which cancelled the stamp with its
circular stamp and has put its stamp "Zulässig 4.
In this case, the administrative inspection was realized by a seal-stamp
of the civil Administration of the 2nd Army.
|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.
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
15th, 1916) and was examined by the Postüberwachungsstelle
|Letter to 40
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
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
hypothesis that there were no examination stamps, but rather
handstamps which could serve as control stamps.