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CANTON ISLAND CENSORED WW2 COVER to AMATEUR RADIO STATION, MISSENT to CANTON CHINA via VICTORIA, HONG KONG

This World War 2 censored cover has a blue 3d King George VI Australian definitive stamp postmarked with a slogan cancel which reads ‘ENCOURAGE/ YOUR/ DEFENCE FORCES associated with an unusually shaped datemark, certainly due to two superimposed cancels, a square boxed Australian postmark overlaid with a circular postmark which was applied in China. What is near-illegible is BRISBANE followed byQ’LAND/ 830AM/ 30 MCH/ 1940. The same circular postmark was applied again in China to the upper left hand side of the cover front, and it is bilingual in both English and Chinese script. There are 2 distinct purple censor handstamps, a boxed ‘PASSED BY/ CENSOR 7, applied in Brisbane, as well as a triangular CENSOR/ HONG KONG with a ‘4' at its centre. The letter is addressed to Amateur Radio Station, K.F.6 J.E G, Canton Island (Figures 1, 2, 3 & 4).

The reverse has no evidence of a ‘missent’ handstamp and the earliest postmark is a double circle VICTORIA/ 9 AM/ 6 MY/ 40/ HONG KONG at lower left. The same postmark is seen next as a double circle VICTORIA/ NOON/ 8 MY/ HONG KONG at top centre, with the same postmark dated VICTORIA/ 6. PM/ 16 MY/ 40/ HONG KONG at middle left. There are 4 single circle bilingual English and Chinese postmarks for Canton (China) proving it was sent to the wrong Canton, and this postmark came in two diameters. There is a single unknown distinct postmark that has a double circle cancel with a wide dark bar which contains a ‘maltese star’, which is unlikely to be an arrival postmark at Canton Island. The reverse shows a red OPENED BY CENSOR label, applied in Queensland (Figures 5, 6 &7).

Kanton Island (also known as Canton Island or Abaringa Island, is also known as Mary Island, Mary Balcout’s Island or Swallow Island, is the largest, northernmost, and as of 2007 , the sole inhabited island of the Phoenix Islands, in the republic of Kiribati. It is an atoll located in the South Pacific Ocean roughly halfway between Hawaii and Fiji. The Island is a narrow ribbon of land enclosing a lagoon with an area of 40 square kilometers. Kanton’s closest neighbour is the uninhabited Island of Enderbury, 63 kilometers to the south. The capital of Kiribati, South Tarawa, lies 1,765 km to the west. As of 2005, the population was 41, down from 61 in 2000. In 2010 the population was reportedly 24, with 14 adults and 10 children. The island’s sole village is called Tebaronga.

Kanton Island was discovered on August 5, 1824, by 2 London whaling ships: ‘The Phoenix’. Capt. John Palmer and the ‘Mary’ , Capt. Edward Reed. Kanton got its permanent name from the New Bedford whaler Canton which ran aground on the atoll on March 4, 1854. The Island has been described as being shaped like a pork chop and much of the land surface is bare coral, sparsely covered with herbs and low bunch grass; trees and bushes are found near the village site.

The British laid claim to Kanton Island during the 1850s, which was reasserted on August 6, 1936, with the British making several visits there culminating in the placement of two radio operators on Kanton on August 31, 1937. On June 4, 1937 Kanton was the site of a total solar eclipse and the island was occupied briefly by American and New Zealand scientists. During this time the Americans laid claim to the island. The British re-occupied the island in 1937 but 7 Americans landed on the island the next year, and President Roosevelt formally placed the island under the control of the U.S. Interior Department.

Pan American airways operated flying boat service to the island. During World War 2 the US Navy built a 6,230 foot airstrip and Kanton Island became a stopover point for the Navy Air Transport Service flights to Australia and New Zealand. The island was defended by ca. 1200 combat troops and support personnel. After the war Pan Am resumed service to Australia and New Zealand via Kanton Island.

There is no fresh water on Kanton, which is a problem for the settlers. Rainwater is collected in cisterns, and Pan American Airways had a large distillation plant on the island when it operated there during the 1940s and 1950s.

The second cover was dated JUL/ 15/A.M./ 1940 is an example of the First Air Mail flight by Pan American Clipper from Canton Island to New Caledonia and New Zealand was addressed to Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii (Figure 8).

This paper was abridged from a paper in Wikipedia.

 

 
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