This fairly unique destination cover to a long-time troublesome area, now in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, is related to a series of conflicts starting with the Anglo-Afghan wars during the imperialist Great Game between the United Kingdom and Russia which led to the dismemberment of Afghanistan.
The front which was not seen is a real photo, b/w postcard of ‘The Blow Hole, near Flinders’. The reverse shows it is an Australian card made by The Standard Post Card Co. sent from Janowe Street, Sebastopol to Bombardier H. Wells, 62nd Bty (Battery), N.F.A., Nowshera., N. West Frontier, India. The brown-red on yellow paper 1½d stamp of Victoria is cancelled with a duplex BALLARAT/ AM/ 9 (N)O/ (--)-6-09 with a barred numeral ‘5'. There is a fine reception postmark of NOWSHERA/ 7.-A,M./ 22 JL O9. The legible portion of the message reads: Mr. Wells, I shall be pleased to exchange P.Cards with you, instead of Miss Hay. Miss Sadie [illegible]. In addition there is a partial transit postmark of (TU)TICORIN/ 16 JY/ 09/ --.20 PM (Figure 1).
Tuticorin is a port city in the south-east of India in the State of Tamil Nadu, and is known now as Toothukudi, and it is shown by the red arrow (Figure 2).
What follows is my simplified account of an entry about the region in Wikipedia, and any errors are mine. After fighting 2 wars against the Afghans, the British succeeded in 1893 in imposing the Durand Line (named after Sir Mortimer Durand, the Foreign Secretary of the British Colonial Government), dividing Afghanistan and what was then India. This line is now a poorly marked 2,445 km border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. While the Afghan side resented the border and viewed it as a temporary development, the British viewed it as a permanent settlement. The British, who had captured most of South Asia without significant problems, faced a number of difficulties here.
The first war with the Pushtuns resulted in a devastating defeat, with just one soldier coming back alive, out of a total of 14,800 people. Unable to enforce their writ in the region, the British changed tactics and played a game of divide-and-rule, installing puppet Pushtun rulers, dividing the Pushtuns through artificially created regions, and ruling indirectly so as to reduce the chance of confrontation. Despite this, occasional Pustun attacks did take place, including the siege of Malakand, well documented by Winston Churchill who was a war correspondent at that time.
The Province known as North West Frontier (NWFP) was formed on November 9, 1901 as a Chief Commissioner Province. The formal inauguration took place on April 26, 1902 and at that time NWFP comprised 5 Districts, brought about by Lord Curzon, with the Harold Deane as the first Commissioner, who was a strong administrator; he was followed by Ross-Keppel in 1908, whose contribution as a political officer was widely known amongst the tribal/frontier people. This postcard was received during his administration, and Bombardier H. Wells must have been one of the British troops stationed in NWFP at the town of Nowshera in July 1909. A map of the region shows the town of Nowshera with a red arrow (Figure 3).
Addendum (December 2011): This article has been published in the Australian Journal of Philately No. 118, December 2011. pages 21-22.