Report of the Meeting, July 7, 2018.
Laurence Kimpton, Baghdad-Cairo Air Mails
Despite the alternative attractions of stunning summer weather and a football match in Russia, a very select group of members met at the Victory Services Club – small, but perfectly formed.

Nine members and one guest attended; there were apologies for absence from 12 members.

The Chairman welcomed those attending, and particularly John and Pat Sears, and was pleased to announce that that Peter Andrews’ family had generously agreed that we might auction his collections: look forward to a fascinating ESC auction in September/October. At about the same time, however, Grosvenors will handle the dispersal of the material of Alan Jeyes, our respected former Secretary/Treasurer.

Admin was quickly dealt with, the Secretary announcing that David Feldmans had recently published two more books of Joe Chalhoub in the “Great Philatelic Collections” series – Foreign Post Offices and Post Offices Abroad. The Commemoratives volume is already out of print.

He noted a couple of changes to the future meetings programme – including a “Pyramids” topic for September 15 (please bring along any suitable material). And he presented some illustrations pertaining to Auguste Gorff, German keeper of the Bavarian Beerhall in Cairo during the later 1800s, and asks members – on behalf of a German researcher in Egypt - if they have any Gorff memorabilia. The illustrated card (above) is probably the best known, but any extra information would be gratefully received. There was something of a surprise when he showed a recent packet of stamps received from the Philatelic Bureau in Cairo – clearly so marked – that had been opened and resealed by a purple strip from the (UK) Home Office / Border Force. Has anyone seen another?



A Gorff memorabilia item.

There was another surprise when Laurence Kimpton opened up his magnificent display, with three rounds of frames each holding 48 sheets and detailing as much as anyone could possibly want to know about the early mail services between Cairo and Baghdad. His research not only into the mails and the mail services but also into the aircraft (and other forms of transport) that carried them, not to mention the men who actually flew the planes, was nothing short of prodigious, as his recently published book also indicates.

Noting that the first aerial mail was carried from Cairo in 1918, he explained how the England-Australia air race encouraged early possibilities, and that the RAF operated the Aerial Post / EEF service from as early as 1919, with De Havilland 9 aircraft. The Abukir-Port Said leg was serviced by seaplanes.

Cover from Baghdad to England flown by RAF DH 4 on first flight carrying mail westward.
Unloaded in Palestine and forwarded by train.

From the first Cairo-Baghdad Air Mail of early 1919 and the opening of the service in 1921, the display showed how gradually Egypt gradually found its place in a central role in the communications of the Middle East, even if it required furrows ploughed in the desert to point the way!

As Britain’s major “representative” in the area and the guardian of the sea routes, it would have been unthinkable in No 10 for any other of the great nations to usurp its role – until two New Zealander brothers came along in mid-1923 with a typically Down Under flair for innovation and for cocking a snook at authority with the Nairn Motor Mail service. There was fierce competition between the RAF and motor services between 1923 and 1926, when the RAF abandoned the service, which was taken over by Imperial Airways and extended to Basra.

The Nairn intervention shook up the established air services and led to a reduction in fees for mails in both directions. But Laurence managed to stay well on top of the plethora of minimal changes, and en route showed some wonderful covers – and dispelled at least one myth: Egypt’s first Air Mail stamp in 1926, showing a De Havilland 34 over the Nile – was a neat piece of artwork. But the DH34 never went to Egypt and was scrapped before the stamp was issued, to be replaced by the Vickers Victoria.

Laurence’s display treated those who attended to an impeccable display of an area of which we were all vaguely aware but with little expert knowledge. His enthusiasm and deep research are to be greatly applauded, as the Chairman said in his closing remarks.

Oct 1923: registered cover posted in London for Baghdad franked £1 7s 4d for a packet weighing 2lb 10oz: 2 1/2d postage for first ounce, 1 1/2d for each of 41 subsequent ounces, 6d x 42 air mail fees, 3d registration, 9d late fee. And, remarkably, three ”Seahorse” adhesivesCover from Baghdad to England flown by RAF DH 4 on first flight carrying mail westward.

Please address any QC article or comment or concerns to Mike Murphy at egyptstudycircle@hotmail.com; and any website concerns to Neil Hitchens at n.hitchens@btopenworld.com


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