CENSORED LETTER from MANUS, NEW GUINEA to BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
There are several intriguing features in this censored cover sent to Fritz Thomae, Buenos Aires, Calle Bernardo de Irigeyen 725, South America, and several bidders recognized this for they pushed the price to USD 637.00. There is a purple print OPENED BY CENSOR label without any other identifying mark on it, and there is a partially obscured typed ‘Enclosed letters for enemy countries’. There is mixed postage of the green ½d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamp which is perfined ‘0 S’, and the grey 2d stamp of the same series has the ‘N. W./ PACIFIC ISLANDS’ overprint. Both stamps have been postmarked with the Type 84 MANUS/ 31 JA 17 postmark (Figure 1).
The reverse shows no evidence of the routing which probably was via Queensland, but there are two identical reception postmarks of BUENOS AIRES/ MAY/ 3/ 1917/ C (Figure 2).
The vendor was approached as to the identity of the recipient (for the typewriter produced imperfect type) and he confirmed ‘Thomae’ which was used instead of ‘Thomä’ as there were probably no umlauts on the typewriter. The vendor had no further information on the identity of the recipient.
The Admiralty group is situated 380 miles (608 km) north-west of Rabaul and consists of the large island of Manus and numerous small islands. A post office was opened at Manus on 6 December 1912 when it was Manus Deutsch-Neuguinea and this postmark was used up to the time of the Australian military occupation on 22 November 1914, when the armed Germans and native police surrendered.
A garrison consisting of an officer and 12 naval ratings was posted at Lorengau, the seat of administration and port. The Australians initially used a straight line ‘Manus’ postmark. The postmark shown on the cover became a permanent c.d.s. on 3 July 1915 and remained in use until at least 27 December 1928, superceded by Type 85 which had the format ‘MANUS/ dd mm yy/ NEW GUINEA’. This format was introduced in late 1928 and remained in use until 1933, usually in black, but also exists in violet. All the postmarks used at Manus are seen in Figure 3.
In the latter half of 1917, Manus was without supplies of the N.W. PACIFIC ISLANDS overprints, and had a supply of the stamps of the Commonwealth of Australia punctured ‘O S’. Only a small number were sold to the public and these consisted of the half-penny, one-penny, two-penny and three-penny values, and accounted for the uncommon use of the green ‘O S’ ½d used on this cover together with the grey 2d NWPI overprint. The same situation occurred at Aitape, and the total number of all values sold with the perfin would not have exceeded 300.
This probably was part of the reason for the amount paid for this cover at auction, but the use of Argentina (with its German population) for onwards transmission of letters for enemy countries added to the intrigue! Manus Island (at top left) is seen in Figure 4.
The postal information in this paper is derived from J.H. Powell (1964) The Postal History of New Guinea from 1888 to 1942.