PLEASANT ISLAND, NAURU, THE N.W. PACIFIC ISLANDS’ OVERPRINTS
Most of the N.W.P.I. covers are philatelically contrived, and this possibly may be an exception. There are seven N.W.P.I. overprinted stamps on the cover: The KGV heads ½d green, 4d orange and 5d orange-brown (looking remarkably red!) as well as the Roos 2d grey, 3d olive, 6d blue and the 9d lilac. All are carefully postmarked P.O. PLEASANT ISLAND/ SE 10/ 1916/ NAURU. In addition, the ½d green has a diagonally placed handstamp ‘CENSORED’. There is the blue crayon cross marking and a red ink manuscript ‘R. Nauru No. 1105 as confirmation that it was registered. The cover is addressed Lieut. Col. W.G. Clements R.A.M.C. ( R ), M.O’s Quarters, Hilsea, Hants. (Hampshire), and a manuscript England has been added (Figure1).
The reverse has a transit mark REGISTERED/ 12 OC 16A/ SYDNEY. N.S.W as well as an oval red REGISTERED/ 9/ 24 NO 16/ LONDON (Figure 2).
The addressee has been difficult to research and he is shown on the cover as a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Army Medical Corps. The RAMC traces its history back to the foundation of the Regular Army, following the restoration of King Charles II in 1660, but it was not until 1898 that officers and soldiers were incorporated into one body known as the Royal Army Medical Corps. The RAMC motto ‘In Arduis Fidelis’ is translated as ‘Steadfast in Adversity’ (Figure 3).
Captain W.G. Clements was a physician in England and by the time the cover was sent he was retired in the RAMC, with an address of the medical officers quarters, at Hilsea Military Hospital, Hants which was listed as a hospital for treatment of venereal diseases, staffed by 47 officers.
The Island of Nauru was of great importance in 1914 when World War I commenced , for its valuable large deposits of high grade phosphate (from sea-bird droppings, ‘guano’) were of great commercial value. The island was situated within several days’ sailing of Australia, and was an asset to be protected.. The Germans had installed a high-powered wireless station there in their chain of stations throughout the Pacific and this was of importance from a naval and military point of view.
Colonel Holmes and his troops occupied Nauru and hoisted the Union Jack on 7 November 1914. The island was then administered from Rabaul till October 1915, and the stamps of N.W.P.I. were used postally with the postmark type ‘126' as described by J.H. Powell in his monograph the Postal History of the Territory of New Guinea, Hawthorn Press, Melbourne 1964, better shown than on the cover, as in Figure 4.
The present Republic of Nauru, previously known as Pleasant Island, with an area of 21 sq. km, is the world’s smallest independent republic. It is a tiny once-rich atoll, located in the South Pacific, south of the Marshall Islands, and almost on the equator at 00 32.7S and 166 55.1E. Occupied by the Australian forces in WWI, it achieved independence in 1968. A 90 year history of phosphate mining have left the central 90% of the island a wasteland. The photo shows Nauru as it was in 1988 (Figure 5).