THE MANY POSTMARKS of the MOLONGO DISTRICT and SETTLEMENT (1918-45)
My interest in Molonglo Settlement was piqued 5 years ago, when I won an auction lot of 300 NSW postmarks on KGV head stamps, which contained 3 copies of this postmark, all dated 1924, and all on the red 1½d (ASC 66). I considered this a rather unusual frequency for a relatively uncommon postmark, but the lack of significant information on the internet re the Settlement, made me put the stamps away.
My interest in the postmark was rekindled when an unknown to me variant (and also unreported by Hopson and Tobin, Volumes 3 & 4, 1998 & 1999) became available on Premier Postal Auctions, Sale No. 47, 24th November 2003, lot #35 . The description is worth quoting in full: "MOLONGLO SETTL’M’T/22 JE 25/C.C.T. on KGV 1½d red. [H&T erroneously state that the original state of this cds had ‘NSW’ at the base. This is the only ‘CCT’ datestamp known to us - only the 2nd copy recorded] PO 30/5/1922; TO 14/3/1945; closed 30/11/1947" (Figure 1).
On reviewing my 3 copies, it was obvious from 2 of the copies that Hopson & Tobin’s designation of N.S.W. at the base was in fact the original postmark (Fig. 2). The dates for my 3 copies were: 16 JE 24, 19 (13?)AU 24 and 26 AU 24, the middle-dated copy being the one with the base not seen. What could not be determined was whether all 3 were Type 2C (stop after the ‘W’). H&T denotes the N.S.W. postmark at the base is a Type 2C, and there is no reason to doubt this, as it would appear that all known types were derived from the N.S.W. Type 2C (Figure 2).
To my knowledge Molonglo Settlement of all Capital Territory postmarks is unique, in that there is a sequence of 4 different markings at the base: N.S.W., C.C.T. (probably Canberra Capital Territory), F.C.T. (Federal Capital Territory) and A.C.T. (Australian Capital Territory). The post office was opened 30.5.1922, and H&T gives no date for the N.S.W. type, but 1924 is recorded in my Figure 2; the C.C.T. is 1925 as in my Figure 1; and, H&T record that the F.C.T. appeared after 1927, and they record the range of dates as 1930-38. An F.C.T example from Premier Postal Auctions was recorded as 1926, but I consider it more likely to be 1936, with a straight top to the ‘3'. This is corroborated in H&T (page M 54) by an example of a 1937 F.C.T. postmark where the ‘3' had a straight top (Figure 3).
Finally, A.C.T at the base was recorded by H&T as 1942. The post office was closed in 1945, but continued as a telephone office until it was closed on 30.11.1947.
There are still gaps in our knowledge, for it is very likely that the early and late recorded dates of several or all types will be extended in the future. In addition, there are facts about other Molongo postmarks that are of interest, for 4 different post offices are described by H&T:
Molonglo (24 k from Queanbeyan) opened 1.12.1860, with the identical closing date of 30.11.1947, same as for Molonglo Settlement; Molongo Defence Camp (6k from Queanbeyan) opened 7.3.1918 and its name was changed to the following on 19.6.1918, and is listed by H&T as Type 2C 1918 (Figure 4).
Molongo Concentration Camp (6k from Queanbeyan) has a postmark shown as MOLONGLO CONCENTN CAMP, opened 19.6.1918 and closed 7.6.1919: Type 2C 1918-?. The camp was also known as Molonglo Internment Camp, and the post office at the camp is shown in Figure 5.
Surprisingly H&T does not mention that Molonglo Settlement postmarks only exist as SETTL’M’T in all of its variants, which is their usualal fashion to show such abbreviations. There is another minor anomaly in the C.C.T. variety, the dot after the ‘T’ is more widely spaced after the ‘T ’than is usual. It is noteworthy that the Defence Camp changed its name to the Concentration Camp which was converted into the Settlement and all 3 were listed as 6k from Queanbeyan. What follows largely is derived from the internet and I am indebted to a Canberra history researcher (Ann Gugler) for much of the information.
"Hopson & Tobin probably had it wrong when they stated that Molonglo was located 24 k from Queanbeyan as it was often referred to as the 4 Mile" (which equates to 6k), so that its post office must have been very close to the site of the other 3 (and all four may have been at the same site). Against this hypothesis is that H&T give different named postmasters for the first and the last named offices, and none for the other two.
We know that the Concentration Camp was for German origin citizens (mostly transported from the German Islands to the north of Australia), and Germany complained about the site, which was short-lived (variously described as 6-12 months). At the end of the war, those barracks that had not been sold off were converted into a workmen’s community. There were 120 tenements of 3-6 rooms each and barrack’s accommodation for 150 single men. The first tenants moved in towards the end of 1921 and shortly afterwards the Molonglo Primary School opened. The population of Molonglo settlement in 1925 was 760, around one-fifth of the population of the Capital Territory.
The Settlement was located on land which sloped from the crest of a low hill, northeasterly towards the Molonglo River. The name of Molonglo is derived from the Aboriginal which means "like the sound of thunder". The slope was uniform and ample to provide good natural drainage. The surrounding area was treeless and the Settlement received little shelter from the prevailing winds. The cottages were of wooden construction, no fire places were provided, the cooking being done on small stoves equipped with iron chimneys. By 1927, the long barracks had been converted to individual houses with an indoor WC and bathroom. There was a sewerage system, the sewage being dealt with in a community septic tank well away from the habitations. The village was described as self-contained with its own bakery, store and lock-up gaol, with its own policeman. The buildings were sold and removed in the 1940's, as people were found accommodation in Canberra.