LETTER to N. R. JAMES, ADELAIDE from NAMATANAI, NEW IRELAND
This fine cover is addressed to Mr. James, c/o Weather Bureau, G.P.O. ADELAIDE, South Australia. It has a red Registration label of Rabaul/ Deutsch-Neuguinea, a purple hand-stamped Crown over an oval PASSED CENSOR/ initials/ RABAUL, and the two stamps a green 3d Roo and a brown 5d KGV Head both have the N.W./ PACIFIC/ ISLANDS overprint, as well as 2 purple NAMATANAI/ 18 AU 18/ , an early unworn state of this postmark (Figure 1).
The attached white label on the L.H.S. is seen on the reverse with Opened by Censor Rabaul, a REGISTERED/ SYDNEY postmark, date illegible, and a REGISTERED ADELAIDE/ 2/ SE 4/ 18 arrival (Figure 2).
Namatanai is situated on the east coast of New Ireland, formerly Neu Mecklenburg in the German colonial period, somewhat south of the islands centre on Abuto Bay. It is the second largest town on the island, only smaller than Kawieng 170 miles (272 km) to the west. It had a native population of ca.14,000, and like the rest of the island it was populated by coconut palms (Figure 3)
A post office was opened in September 1911 with a circular datestamp introduced in January 1912 which was inscribed NAMATANAI/ DEUTSCH-/ NEUGUINEA (Type 79). This circular date stamp remained in use until November 1914, when the district was occupied by Australian forces, and it has only been seen in black on the German colonial yacht stamps (Figure 4).
Under the early Australian military occupation, Namatanai was administered as part of the Kawieng district, and was garrisoned by a white police master and forty native police. In early 1915 it was restored to its former status as headquarters of a separate district with a garrison consisting of an officer, ten N.C.O.s and men, plus a force of native police.
The postmark seen on this cover was similar to Type 76, but in which the QUEENSLAND was obliterated by the means of filling in of the lower segment with soft metal to produce a thick black continuous arc segment, in its earliest state, similar to the more common filled-in type in use at Kokopo. In the later stages of use of this type, the soft metal gradually fell out and Queensland became partially discernible. The earliest known date for the use of this filled-in postmark at Namatanai was 24 January 1917, and a series of postmarks in use after the German occupation period is seen in Figure 5.
Even by the late date of 1918, the German registration remained in use at Rabaul, or else it represented a philatelic favour to the sender.
This paper relies heavily on the monograph by John H. Powell (1964) The Postal History of the Territory of New Guinea from 1888 to 1942, Melbourne, the Hawthorn Press.