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ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVAL VOLUNTEER RESERVE & TRAWLER BASE, GIBRALTAR

This registered airmail cover appeared on an Australian Philatelic auction site and it has an uniquely uncommon destination. The cover has a pair and a block of four of the one shilling Lyre Bird stamp, plus a single copy of the 1d green QE stamp, with multiple GUNDAROO/ 1 NO 41/ N.S.W-AUST postmarks. There is a Gundaroo New South Wales registration label, a red OPENED BY CENSOR label and a purple PASSED BY CENSOR/ S. 187 handstamp, as well as a label with EXAMINER 6222. There is a manuscript routing ‘by California Clipper/ and Atlantic Air Service’ and the cover is addressed to Lieut J.B.J. Osborne R.A.N.V.R., Trawler Base, Gibraltar (Figure 1).

The reverse shows the turned over portion of the red Opened by Censor label as well as the folded bold label P.C./ OPENED BY/ EXAMINER 6222. A blue and red Lady Gowrie Red Cross Appeal, 1d Charity stamp has been applied, and there is a transit postmark of G.P.O. SYDNEY/ AIR/ 3 NO 41A (Figure 2).

James Bedford Jeffries Osborne is recorded as serving in the Royal Australian Navy, and his date of birth was listed as 7 September 1908, with place of birth given as Sydney. He enlisted in Sydney on 10 November 1939 and was discharged on 25 February 1954. His rank was Lieutenant Commander and his ship posting at time of discharge was the HMAS Penguin. At sea, it was not uncommon for a sailor to serve in more than one warship or small vessel. I n deed, there were men who saw service on three or four (or more) warships during six years of service. In 1939-41, the main area for operations of Australian warships was the Mediterranean where several made their combat 'debut'.

The HMAS Sydney sank the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni in June 1940, and others served off Greece and Crete, with some older ships joining the 'Scrap Iron Flotilla' taking part in the 'Tobruk Ferry'. Another important role was escort duties, particularly across the Indian Ocean where German armed merchant cruisers, or 'raiders', were active. It was in the Indian Ocean that the German raider Kormoran sank HMAS Sydney in November 1941, the worst Australian naval loss of the war.

Reorganisation of the Naval Reserve occurred again in 1921 with the creation of the Royal Australian Volunteer Reserve (RANVR), but by the depression years the force had dwindled to some forty officers. The Second World War saw a dramatic increase in numbers, with the Reserve boasting some 2863 officers and 26,956 ratings (representing some 80% of the Australian Commonwealth Naval Forces) when hostilities ended.

Gibraltar was pivotal for the Allies in WW II, both for the navies and for the armies in the war in Africa and later in Greece and Italy. One of largest Allied Navies’ defeats was the sinking of the British Aircraft carrier HMS Royal Ark which was torpedoed by the German’s U-81 off Gibraltar on November 13, 1941 (a date at the time that Lieutenant Osborne was in Gibraltar), when the Royal Ark was thirty miles east of Gibraltar. It sank the next morning with only one man lost (Figure 3).


 
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