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German field post  in Valenciennes 1914-1918 Other  subjects

German field post in the District of Valenciennes 1914-1918.

History. Regimental handstamps.
The German field post. Field post in practice.
The date stamps. The Army post (Etappenpost).

History. 

Before dealing with the field post it is necessary to tell about the events that the District of Valenciennes knew from 1914 to 1918.
AUGUST 1914:
Aug 3rd: the war was declared.
The Germans invaded Belgium despite its neutrality and got closer from the French border. The French army was sent to the border and Valenciennes was left with very few reservists sometimes unarmed. When it became obvious that the Germans was getting closer the border too quickly, other French and English troops better prepared were sent in the District.These troops had to enforce the border and also to enter in Belgium.
Aug 23rd: The first German soldiers (1st Army) entered France in the neighbourhood of Condé sur l'Escaut and a few border fightings occured in the North of  the District.
Aug 25th: The Germans entered Valenciennes after 20 days of victorious combats. The were astonished to find very few french soldiers but also a big amount of military goods in the barraks of the towns. The Station and the railways were not destroyed. The local authorities didn't know about this goods which could be necessary for the civilians during the war if the could have been taken off the German hands.
End of August and beginning of September 1914: The District was not completely occupied and was the area of some combats here or there.The Germans were not numerous enough and numerous little French units are trying to join their lines.

SEPEMBER 1914:
Sept 7th: Fall of the fortress of Maubeuge. 40.000 Germans superiorly armed took more than  40.000 French prisoners. Maubeuge was an obsolete fortress and the French High Command never saw the possibily that the German army could invade Northern France. Nevertheless, it is sure that the 10 days of resistance of Maubeuge allowed  the French to stop the German on the Marne.
In the half of September, the District was entiretly occupied for 4 years of war.

The armistice with Russia in the end of 1917, allowed the Germans to withdraw troops from this operations theatre to the western front.However, these troops were not the better and were not prepared to the combat methods of the western front. Moreover, some units are already contaminate by the Russian revolutionary ideal.
The year 1918 and the big spring offensive could make believe the Germans to a decisive victory. But in June 1918, the German armies were exhausted and they had lost 800.000  men in combats. The "Entente" offensives which followed didn't end since the armistice.
Since July 1918, the counter-offensives of the "Entente" armies made slowly the Germans going back to Belgium passing by the District of Valenciennes. The morale of these troops was very low and made the French civilians hope that the end was near.  The first communities of the District were liberated by English-Canadian troops in the end of October 1918. Before, the Germans had evacuated the population to Valenciennes and then to Belgium. The open warfare  having started again, the Germans move back inexorably.  They nevertheless hope to stop the allies on the  Hermann line whose key position, VALENCIENNES, was protected by the Schelde and the heights of the Mount Houy. Furthermore, the presence of very numerous refugees of the other cities made impossible the direct bombardment of the city. The investment of the city was very well prepared by the English-Canadian. The "Mont Houy" was taken in a single assault.
November 3rd 1918: VALENCIENNES was liberated by the Canadian forces.
The District of VALENCIENNES was occupied successively and/or collectively by 5 German armies, the 1st (in the end of August, 1914 - in the middle of October, 1914), the 6th (at the middle of October 1914-30/09/1916), the 1st (October 1st 1916-20th, 1917), the 2nd (April 20th September 1917- September 3rd, 1918) and finally the 17th (September 3rd 1918-November 3rd, 1918). The 17th army came from the Russian front. Indeed, the armistice with the Bolsheviks had allowed Germany to repatriate a big part of the troops of this front towards France. The 17th army settled its headquarters to ST AMAND LES EAUX on February 1st, 1918. It occupied effectively VALENCIENNES from September, 1918.
The occupied French territories were militarily controlled and administered. The requisitions were frequently authorized and practised there. On the contrary, on the other side of the border, occupied Belgium was administered by a General Government with Belgian civil servants under German control. This General Government gave compensations  to Germany, he could not thus be the object of requisitions.
In Valenciennes, few factories worked, most were dismantled and often only coal mines still worked. The coal left for Germany. All which had some value (militarily or financially) was requisitioned. For 4 years, the population known a real hell, the only concern was to satisfy with big difficulties primary needs as to feed.



Parade for the birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1916 in front of the Town Hall of Valenciennes.
Infanterie Regiment 125.
Parade of the  125th  Infantry Regiment (26th Infantry Division ).  From 1st  until 11th  May 1917, this  regiment was resting in Valenciennes. It participed in  2 parades: 6th  May in front of the General of the Division and the 9th May in front of Prince Rupprecht of  Bavaria

 
During all the of the war, the District was a part of the Lines-of-communication area (Etappengebiet) behind the front and before the area of the General Government in Belgium and the German territory.
The Etappen area was a zone where troops , ammunitions, equipment, supplies necessary in pursuit of the fight
were in transit.
German troops were thus in a relative safety there, in spite of frequent air bombardments from the allies. These raids aimed essentially at the military installations (airfields, stations, storehouses, factories of ammunitions). The precision of these air bombardments was quite relative and it was not rare that civilians were victims of these.


Air raid upon Valenciennes 1915.
Valenciennnes: Air raid that destroyed railways and also 16 wagons of amunition.
Every army had its Etappen area. This area was managed by a Lines-of-communication Inspectorate (Etappeninspektion). This one was in charge of coordinating the circulation of troops and equipment on its territory, but also and especially of maintaining the communications. It  was also in charge of the economic management and to get back the financial contributions asked the municipalities in occupied territories for the life of the troops. Finally, the Etappen-Inspection  took care of maintains of the military and civil order in its zone. Valenciennes was the central town of the Lines-of-communication (Etappenhauptort) of 3 Armies. This  central town of the Lines-of-communication was the seat of the Etappen-Inspection of these 3 armies; the 6th, the 1st and the 2nd. At the middle of September, 1918, it was not possible to settle the Etappen-Inspection of the 17th army in Valenciennes, because the front  was too much near. 

Offices of the Lines-of-communication warehous of the  6th Army located in the Croix d'Anzin.

Finally, we should not confuse central town of the Etappen-Inspection and the seat  of the military High command. As example, and during the period of the 6th Army, the central town of the Lines-of-communication Inspectorate  was Valenciennes while the High command was in Lille.

The German field post.

Military Staffs knew well the importance of the mail for the soldiers. These last ones had a better morale if they had news of the Mother country. We can consider at more than 28 billions the number of mail objects having passed in transit by the German field post  during 4  years of war.
The modern meansof communication  for the time  as the telegraph or the telephone were little accessible to the privates and their family. Most of the time the mail exchanges concerned, letters and postcards, parcel and the money transfer. The Post Office granted the mail franchising for the most part of the types of soldiers mails  and very small expenses for money transfers.

At the beginning of the war:
German field post was organized in anticipation of a new conflict with France. Her experience of the 1870/71 war had allowed to improve the service, however not enough with regard to the enormous upheavals which the 1st world conflict was going to provoke. The field post was certainly prepared for open warfare, but not in such a measure and on so long distances. At the beginning of the conflict, the field post knows big difficulties for the routing of the mail. Her own means of transportation (mostly horse-drawn) even planned for a long time show themselves insufficient in number and in quality.
It was moreover not rare  when the German troops enter Belgium, the field post requisitionned  farm horse wagons and horses which were better adapted to the distances and to the nature of grounds. The postal cars exist, but in small number and were very badly prepared for the long distances on roads often damaged by the passage of the troops and the heavy artillery.
The field post obviously used  the rail links, but was not priority and so passes after troop and ammunitions transportations. Furthermore, troops moved so quickly that it did not still know where they were and so it could not make follow the mail bags.
Also, the civil post office and the field post had expected in no way such an influx of mail and parcel which passed in transit in both directions.
All these gathered factors  made that big masses of mail and parcels in Germany for the front or in the front  for Germany.
It is only at the end of 1914, that the system begins to be set up and to work well. The position war facilitated largely the work of the field post.
1915-1916: The system works well on all the fronts. The field post got organized and was set up. The rules of field post made more rigorous on the manner of writing to the front, because often the addresses were very vague and obliged the field post to long searches. The rules also concerned the contents of  mails and  parcels. Indeed, we could find  everything in parcel  sent by the family as by the soldiers. The perishable foodstuffs and  other matches or  flammable liquids sent by families could damage all or any of the load of a postal car. Also, ammunitions sent as spoils of war by  soldiers to their family could show themselves very dangerous.

Most hard to manage for the post office (civil and military), was the shortage of staff. Indeed, the staff of civil post office which was fit for military service was either affected in the field post or in fighting units. In Germany, it was thus necessary to replace these civil servants by  subsidiary personnel (male and female) whom it was necessary to form and who did not still give good results. In the field post offices, the capable staff could also be allocated to fighting units. It was there also necessary to use auxiliaries  who did not have the return on an experimented civil servant too. Furthermore, the German Army created new divisions which had each a post office. It was thus necessary to move  experienced staff towards these new offices.
1917-1918:
Things were getting complicated again from the end of 1917, because of shortages in any kinds (spare parts and fuel for automobiles, fat and coals for trains) as well as the preparations for the big spring offensives in summer 1918 bother considerably the mail service. The existing means were essentially turned to the needs of the Army. Germany misses everything and all the administrations suffer. The offensives of 1918 were nevertheless well prepared in a postal point of vew, because it was necessary to put back the service in a dynamics of open warfare. Furthermore,  where attacks were going to occur, ground and infrastructures were destroyed by several years of fights  by  German or by the allies. The attack on the sector the "Ladies way" to Reims is a striking example. When the attack begins May 27th, it is in a desolate area that poured the streams of German soldiers.
In spring and in summer, 1918, the field post managed to provide the troops without big difficulties. What bothered most, was the lack of railway means all intended to transportations of troops and ammunitions. The masses of parcel sent by the soldiers to their family were also a heavy problem. Indeed, as families missed everything in Germany, the soldiers their sent possessions or food which they had bought or plundered in occupied territories. In 1917-1918, the shortages in Germany also engendered a particular deliquency both in Germany and in the front. Indeed, it was not rare that the postal trains were partially plundered by deserters or railroad employees or that parcels stored in the front  were diverted by soldiers and sent to their own family. 
At the time of the reversal of tendency and when the offensives allies drilled the German front, the field post was forced to retreat with the troops. The lack of means of transportation reduce considerably the routing of  mail and parcels which remained still very important. From October, 1918, even the privates know what is the situation and each tries to save that he can (food, objects, clothes, fabrics, money) by sending it in Germany with the field post.
The days  following  the Armistice mark a period of chaos in still occupied territories (essentially Belgian) which are being evacuated. The field post didn't work any more, because the staff was on road towards Germany. The troops of the active army make retreat in good order, the reserve troops or the occupation troops  were left  to themselves.


The processing of the mail was different as it passed in transit from the front towards Germany or conversely.

- From Germany to the front:
The mail to the servicemen was gathered in Collecting Points (Postsammelstellen) which were in charge of sorting out the mail. The sorting and the  bagging was made by field post office. In fact, every unit was connected with a field post office.
These bags were then sent towards Master Points ( Leitpunkte). These centres were located near the border but still on German territory. There is a Master Point by Army. However, several Armies can share the same Master Point. These centres  were the only ones to know  the exact positions of the units and their post office. They used a document which included all the positions of field post offices and the links which each unit had with these post offices. This document is called "Overview of the field post network" (Feldpostübersicht). This overview was constantly updated by the informations given by field post offices, but especially by the Staffs which were the only to know the  affectations  of the units. Master Points were thus in charge of sorting out the cars of mail bags coming from collecting points and to sort these bags by field post offices . When it was possible, a car could be filled with only bags intended for the same post office. The biggest Master Point for the western front  was located in warehouse close to the station of Cologne.
To there, it was the civil post office which managed the routing of the mail.
Once this sorting was made, mail bags left by train towards transfer points ( Postumschlagstellen) which were in Belgium or in  Etappen area in the course or in the end of the line. Every Army had several transfer points with which was connected every units.
Brought out of the German territory, mail was taken care by field post and was subjected to the chances of the war (delay at best, destruction in the worst).
Arrived in the transfer point, mail bags were brought back by the staff of every field post office and then delivered to the soldiers.

The senders had to write perfectly the address of the serviceman for whom they intended the mail. Without this, it could get lost, be delayed or returend to sender.In the addresses no place-name must be affixed next to that of the unit of the addressee.

- From the front towards Germany:
The soldiers mail  was collected within their company among which an officer (then later an examiner)  examined at random certain letters or postcards. The control was made on the presence of military informations hidden or not in the mail and on the compulsory attendance of the coordinates of the sender.
From there, the mail left towards the post office  which deliver the unit. In trenches, one had settled mailboxes to facilitate the collection of mail.
In the field post office, the mail was sorted out roughly, mainly by big cities.
Mail bags were then steered towards the distribution points ( Postverteilungstellen) which sorted out again the mail by Province or State. The mail of the big cities was sorted out.
The mail of a soldier belonging to an Army towards an other one belonging to another Army did not follow the same road.
At the beginning of the conflict, it was impossible to make pass in transit directly a mail between 2 Armies. Mail must be previously steered in Germany towards a collecting point (Postsammelstelle) to be redirected towards the Army of destination. It created obviously a lot of delay.
In October, 1914, was created the field post clearing offices ( Feldausgleichstellen / Heeresbriefstellen). These offices were in charge of collecting,  sorting out and making pass in transit the mail between the Armies. These centres were mostly situated in the Etappen areas.

Civilian mail and prisoners of war 
mail coming from occupied zones:
In occupied areas, no private individual's mail could circulate with the exception of the mail intended for a prisoner of war in Germany or in occupied territories or interned in a neutral country. Mail of civil adminitrations as well as the economic mail were authorized. However, they had to pass in transit by Kommandantur which sent them in military postal Censor office  of the Etappen-Inspection (Postüberwachungstelle) which then sent them to the post office of the 
Etappen-Inspection which managed their routing.
It was the same for POW  or civil prisoners who had their families in occupied territories. 


Date stamps.
Before the mobilization, the post offices were equipped with one circle date stamps. Thereafter and finally also quickly, The field post offices recieved  double circle date stamps. Those ones show a date in the form of day/month/year whereas the one circle date stamps show only the day and the month.There was however some modifications of dating block on some of them in order to make also appear the year. The 2 types of date stamps were used at the same time.

The double circle date stamps (except Bavarian types) show also an hour of collecting followed by V (Vormittag: morning) or N (Nachmittag: after midday).
On the ground, the German field post was organized with 3 types of post offices.Each one had a differently made out date stamp.

- Post offices of the Army Corps: Feldpostämter
These post offices deal with the mail of the Army Corps. They were managed by field postmaster (Feldpostmeister). These post offices controlled the Divisions post offices.

Prussian date stamp Saxon date stamp Special type Prussian date stamp Bavarian date stamp Bavarian date stamp
- Post offices of Divisions: Feldpostexpeditionen
These post offices managed the mail of Divisions. It were subordinated to the post offices of Army Corps.

Prussian date stamp Saxon date stamp Special type Prussian date stamp Bavarian date stamp Bavarian date stamp
- Sedentary army post offices: Feldpoststationen
These post offices managed the mail of the occupation troops being in the area behind the front (Etappengebiet) for a rather long  time. They were normally sedentary, but with in the conflict, some could move.

Bavarian date stamp Bavarian date stamp Bavarian date stamp Bavarian date stamp Bavarian date stamp Prussian date stamp Prussian date stamp
The post offices of Divisions and Army Corps were mobile. The sedentary post offices served units which were affected in a place during a rather long  time.
With the position war, it appeared that these date stamps were too explicit and made possible the allied spies to locate with precision the German units.

Also on February 15th, 1917, the post offices changed their names and it was not possible any more to identify the units thanks to the date stamp. The date stamps were"camouflaged" and made out with the mention "Deutsche Feldpost" to which one adds a number.
The post offices for units (Feldpostamt and Feldpostexpedition) take the numbers from 650 to 1021, while the sedentary offices (feldpoststation) take the numbers from 1 to 649 and 2001 to 3113.
One can meet these date stamps only on registered letters or money letters.On simple letters or postcards, one meets a dumb date stamp  made out "Deutsche Feldpost" with 3 stars. It is extremely rare to find the print of a date stamp with number on a simple letter or a postcard.

In addition, on February 15th, 1917 very few post offices had a new type of date stamp (because of manufacturing delays). The military Post Office ordered to the army post-office personnel to scrape the mentions being able to allow the identification of a post office or a unit until the reception of the new type. Due to manufacturing delays the replacement was done in the priority order below:
- new post offices
- post offices which had lost or damaged their scrapped date stamp
- post offices which still had a scraped date stamp
Several post offices never recieved dumb date stamp
So one meets until the end of the war new types of date stamps (with number or star) and scraped ones. However, this scraping did not make possible to mislead the allied spies who managed to rebuild the scraped date stamps.It was decided in October 1917 that each post office of the same Army would exchange its date stamp with another.

Scraped date stamp Scraped date stamp Scraped date stamp Dumb date stamp Camouflaged date stamp

1st Army Newspaper cutting on February 1st, 1917 (Somme-Wacht n° 12    02/01/1917).

Changes of field post addresses.

On February 15th, 1917, as announced in  Army Official Journal, the following measures on the addressing of the sendings by field post will come into effect:
In the addresses are forbidden all the indications on the theatres of operations, the membership in Armies, Groups of Army, Sections of Army, Armed forces, Divisions and Brigades. The indication of a High General Staff cannot follow only the addresses of the members of this General Staffs.
The field post addresses  can contain only the indication of a troop unit until the maximum level of the Regiment, that is: regiment, Battalion and Company (Battery, Squadron) either independant Battalion, Company (Battery, Squadron), or the official mark of the particular unit (High General Staffs, Column, airmen, radio operators, etc.).
To the name of the Troop units which belong to a Regiment, one has to add nothing except the indication of the Regiment, the Battalion, the Company (Battery, Squadron), even not the number of the postal area.
To the name of the Troop units which belong to no Regiment (independent Battalion, High General Staffs, Columns, airmen, radio operators, etc.), the official mark of the concerned unit  is necessary as military address, but with the addition of the mention "Deutsche Feldpost Nr". The number of the competent military post office is to be asked this one.
For the members of the General Staffs of Army Corps as well as Divisions and Brigades, the number of the postal area has to stay in the address.
All the post offices of Army Corps and Divisions are consequently  identified by the mention " Deutsche Feldpost " and a number.
The military addresses must be written for example as follows:

a) Without indication of a number of postal area besides the Regiment.

An Unteroffizier Friedrich Müller
Infanterie-Regiment 91.
1. Bataillon
3. Kompagnie

b) With indication of a number of postal area, because not belonging to a Regiment.

An Jäger August Meyer
Jäger-Bataillon 
2. Kompagnie
Deutsche Feldpost N° 180

c) With indication of a number of postal area, because particular unit  not belonging to a Regiment.

An Trainsoldat Otto Schulz
Reserve-Fuhrpark-Kolonne n° 190
Deutsche Feldpost N° 180
The announcement of the new military addresses to their close relations will be realized by the servicemen. The close relations must be warned in every change of address.

Regimental handstamps (Briefstempel, Formationsstempel).
In difference with the date stamps, the regimental stamps did not form part of the equipment of the field post office. These stamps were manufactured by firms in the request and the expenses of the various units (regiments, battalions, companies, etc...).

So there is multiple different types. These stamps  described very shortly the name of the unit and often the number or the name of the military post office to which it was attached.
Often, this description is incomprehensible because of multiple abbreviations which lost their meaning with the time.
These are not postmarks, but have an important utility all the same; to ensure the free postage for a letter or a card which carries it.
They also made possible to prove that the sender was a military or in all cases an authorized person.
These stamps were used until the end of the war, but with a less large frequency, because after 1917, the number of the new units increased as well as the number of assignment changes.It was very difficult to manufacture these stamps several times with the new wording.
These stamps were struck very often by advance on blank cards or envelopes.
It often happens that one meets cards or letters with the only presence of the regimental stamp.Indeed, the military post offices recieved  instructions in the event of very strong postal traffic not to stricke their date stamp. This in order to save time and not to miss the  departure of the postal convoys. 

After February 15th, 1917, the regimental stamps do not have to contain any more of mention too explicit as place-name, Divisions, Army Corps or Army. The  unauthorized mentions were filed. In time these handstamps were re-made according to the new directives.

These 2 regimental stamps present the transition between the before February, 1917 and after February, 1917. It is here about the Lines of communication warehouse of the 6th Army located in St Amand. After February 14th, 1917, this warehouse takes the number 516. Feldpoststation 411 was situated in St Amand and served all Lines of communication units located in this sector.

Field post in pratice.

Postal rates.

As in numerous countries, the German troops in campaign can send their mail postage-free, whatever the number of letters and cards.
The post office makes a difference between what is private and what is not. The private correspondence benefits for free postage  while the not private correspondence not.
Private postcards, were free, but cost 5 Pf until July 31st, 1916, 7.5 Pf until September 30th, 1918 and 10 Pf from October 1st, 1918 when not private.


Card sent by a territorial soldier (Landsturm). The Feldpoststation n°77 was in VALENCIENNES until 1915.

Private letters to 50 g could also be sent postage free. Beyond this weight, the postage cost 20 Pf. From October 5th, 1914, the postage was reduced to 10 Pf. Letters were admitted to 250 g. From the end of December, 1916, letters between 250 and 500 g were authorized. The postage of these letters cost 20 Pf in the case of a private correspondence.

Letter sent by a soldier who was in the Bavarian military hospital n°24. This hospital was in the business and industry school in DENAIN. This letter was handled by Bavarian Feldpoststation n° 419 the date stamp of which was filed.

As it could not have of weight level upper to 500 g, the post office authorized (without additional tax) an overtaking of 10 % weight. So a letter weighing between 50 and 275 g cost 10 Pf and a letter between 275 and 550 g cost 20 Pf. The heavy letters are named "Päckchen" (small packet) by German.


Fragment of heavy franked with 20 Pf for a weight to 550 g. This letter was handled by Bavarian Feldpoststation n°411 with ST-AMAND.
A not private letter (to 20 g) cost 10 Pf until July 31st, 1916 and 15 Pf to 1919, a letter to 250 g 10 Pf until July 31st, 1916 and 25 Pf to 1919.
Letters insufficiently franked from the front towards Germany were taxed in the simple of the insufficiency. Letters insufficiently franked from Germany towards the front had returned to the sender.

Registration of letters was used only on service mail (Heeressache).

feldpolizei
Postage free registered letter posted in Feldpoststation n°45 located in VALENCIENNES. It is about a service mail between the local office of the secret Military police of the 2nd Army (Geheime Feldpolizei, A.O.K 2.) and the High command of the 17th Army (A.O.K 17). The letter was posted on September 14th, 1918. Post offices had to put the their numbered date stamp on registered letter. The High command of the 17th Army was in Denain since May 1st. We are here in the last days of presence of Feldpoststation n°45 to Valenciennes, because this city will be a part of the zone of the 17th Army in the course of September, 1918.

Soldiers could nevertheless take advantage of declared value letters. To 50 g and 150 Mark, these letters took advantage of the free postage.
Of more than 50 g and to 300 M, they cost 20 Pf and finally the letters of more than 50 g and more than 300 in 1500 M cost 40 Pf.



This letter was posted in Bavarian Feldpoststation n° 407. It contained 320 Mark and weighed 32 g. The postage for this kind of letter was 40 Pf (less than 50 g, more of 300 Mark). The registration number of this letter is 545.

Free postage was granted to postcards and letters to 50 g sent in Switzerland since October 8th, 1914 if the soldiers prove a narrow family link with the addressees (wife, parents, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters). The same  applied with Spain (from February 15th, 1915), Uruguay (from March 13th, 1915 till October 7th, 1917, date its entering the war) and Denmark (from April 9th, 1915). Letters must be posted opened.

Mail cuts.
In preparation of the big offensives and to keep the secret on its intentions, the High command could order a mail cut from some days to some weeks. During this cut, the mail was allowed at departure, but could not be any more forwarded in both directions to the addressee. During  the cut, mail  was thus stored temporarily.
These mail cuts could be geographical  for the units in a particular zone of the front or then concern only the units which were in transit and which were going to participate in the offensive. The mail cuts were not announced, so that the soldiers and the families made responsible the field post of the sudden delays while the post office also was a victim of these cuts. Generally, the field post office affixed on the mails victims of a cut the postmark " Auf militärischen Gründen verzögert " (delayed for military reasons).

The efficiency of these mail cuts was quite relative, because soldiers found backdoors to send their mail. They could give it for example to a soldier on leave who posted this mail in Germany or in a zone which was not the object of the mail cut. In his war memories, general Ludendorff declares: " the mail cuts had no value. There were too many information channels towards the country, I could not suspend the leaves, because they were the only things which the High command could give to the soldier ".


This card was sent by an auxiliary conveyor (Hilfsschaffner) who was used by the Direction of the Military Railways  n°1 ( Militär-Eisenbahndirektion I.). In April, 1915, mail handled by Feldpoststation n° 77 of VALENCIENNES was subjected to a mail cut.

Postal controle.
Besides the delays applied to the soldiers mail, the German army practised mail examination as in many of the other European armies. This examination was made not at all by the field post, but by military services without link with the Fielpost.
From the beginning of the war till April, 1916, the inspection of the correspondence was not regulated, it could thus be made within the units in the most absolute arbitrary power especially as the controlling people, generally officers, had no skill on the subject. Certain company commander lingered only over the possible presence of military secrets, others only on the private life of the soldiers and the others were reluctant.



Card bound for BAMBERG having been controlled by the postal censor office of the 6th Army (Postüberwachungsstelle 6. Army). It presents no departure postmark, however we can notice to the left of the censorship stamp a mailman handstamp which shows that card circulated openly. The text, very short, was controlled because it was written in Shorthand.


This letter to Switzerland was sent as military mail (mention Feldpost) and was franked with 20 Pf according to the international postal rate. Not involving a private mail, because sent to a banker, it could not circulate postage free. Examined on March 28th, 1916 by the postal control center of the 6th Army located in VALENCIENNES, the letter arrived in BASEL on April 2nd, 1916.

The citizens of the Reich territory (Reichsland) of Alsace-Lorraine saw their mail watched of still closer. A doubt always remained concerning their loyalty to Germany.
Mail of soldiers native of these regions was very examined. Already on March 27th, 1914, the War ministry published a secret decree imposing from the institution of the imminent state of war or the mobilization the use of postcards for private mail and opened envelopes for business mail in territories of Alsace-Lorraine and Baden (dependent on Strasbourg and Neuf-Brisach).
The War ministry published again on March 20th, 1917 another decree which established a mail control in 2 directions. He also ordered that the until now random examination (on approximately 5 % of the mail) was made on 90 % of the correspondences. This decree was justified because of "the systematic and increasing enragement" of the population of Alsace-Lorraine on behalf of the allies.

The card was written by a pilot (Flieger) in training in the fighter school n° 2  
(Jagdstaffelschule II) close to VALENCIENNES at THE SENTINEL and who had been created on August 8th, 1917. This card was bound for MOUTERHOUSE near SARREGUEMINES (Sarregemünd) in Moselle. It passed by the postal censor office of this city which struk its stamp " SARREGEMUND *P.K.* GEPRÜPFT UND ZU BEFÖRDERN " (Sarreguemines *Postal Examination* inspected and to send). The card circulated openly otherwise, the postal control stamp would not be there.

3 postal censor offices
(Postüberwachungsstellen) were located in the District of VALENCIENNES during the war:
- " Postüberwachungsstelle der 6. Armee " dependent on the Etappen-Inspection of the 6th Army since March, 1915 and on the 6th Army High Command since March, 1916. It left VALENCIENNES on September 30th, 1916 to join TOURNAI (Belgium). It became Postüberwachungsstelle n° 40 (P.Ü.St. 40) in February, 1917.
- " Postüberwachungsstelle der 1. Armee " dependent on the 1st Army. In VALENCIENNES from October 1st, 1916 till April 18th, 1917. It becomes Postüberwachungsstelle n° 36 (P.Ü.St. 36) in February, 1917. It is very often called " militärische Ueberwachungsstelle des Post-und Güterverkehrs der 1. Armee». (Military control center of mail and goods of the 1st Army).
It left VALENCIENNES for CHARLEVILLE on April 18th, 1917.
- "Postüberwachungsstelle n° 39" (P.Ü.St. 39) dependent on the 2nd Army. Settled in ST-QUENTIN until April, 1917, it went to VALENCIENNES, it lef in September 1918.
Besides the postal control center of VALENCIENNES, from February, 1917 to the end of the war, 9 postal control centers were in activity over the western front:
P.Ü.St. 26a: METZ, Armeeabteilung C.
P.Ü.St. 26b: CONFLANS-VALLEROY, Armeeabteilung C.
P.Ü.St. 28: SEDAN, 3rd Army
P.Ü.St. 30: VERVINS, LAON, 7th Army.
P.Ü.St. 31: MONS, 6th, then 17th Army.
P.Ü.St. 33: GHENT, 4th Army.
P.Ü.St. 38: VIRTON, 5th Army.
P.Ü.St. 44: MAUBEUGE, from January, 1918, for the 18th Army.


How to find informations?
If the subject of the German field post  during WW1 interests you and if you do not have any knowledge of German, you will have to be provided with a good dictionary.
There is some books dealing with this subject, but less than books dealing with de WW2 which is more popular in Germany.
Here are the books which I frequently use:

- Geschichte der deutschen Feldpost im Kriege 1914/18 (History of Geman field post during WW1 14/18) by Karl SCHRACKE. This book deal with the organization and the operation of the field post. It is an old book (1920).
- Die deutsche Feldpost im Ersten Weltkrieg 1914-1918 (The German field post during WW1 1914-1918) by ANDERSON, BORLINGHAUS and KOOP. It's a more recent book (2006).
- Stempelhandbuch der Deutschen Feldpost im Ersten Weltkrieg 1914-1918 (Catalog of German field post date stamps during WW1 1914-1918) by BORLINGHAUS.(2006).

Regarding the little more specialized works in which you will find information on postmarks and post offices locations. I advise you:
- Die Armee-Postdirektion 6 im ersten Weltkrieg 1914-1918 (The field post Direction of the 6th Army) by B. KOOP. It is a very rich work on the post office of the 6th Army. You will find a lot of information on date stamps, places, etc....
The 6th Army had occupied a very big part of the North of France.
- Die Armee-Postdirektion 6 während des ersten Weltkrieges (The field post Direction of the 6th Army during WW1) de B. KOOP.January 2008. It is the republication and the improvement of the previous book.
- Handbuch und Katalog der deutschen Fliegertruppe im 1. Weltkrieg 1914-1918 (German air troops during WWI).
- Les Estampilles Postales de la Grande Guerre. Stéphane STROWSKI. Yvert et Thellier 1976. The German occupation of Norhern France is dealt with.
- Die Post im Westlichen Etappengebiet und ihre Abstempelungen. E. HEBERLE. 1928. The examiner marks are shortly handled for the 1st, 2nd et 17th Armies. Rather goog for the  6th Army.
- Die Deutsche Heerespost an der Westfront. K. ZIRKENBACH 1935-1936. Study appeared in the magazine"Postmarke" about Army post in Belgium and in  French occupied territories.

You can also find 2 interesting books (in English) about the German army order of battle. These 2 books are still published.
- Histories of the 251 divisions of the German army that participated in the war (1914-1918). Printed by The london Stamp exchange LTD.
- German divisions in WWI (7 volumes), printed and published by the Nafziger Collection Inc.


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