Royal Reels: Gambling


This dramatic Air Mail Flight cover was described by the eBay vendor as follows: “Unusual special airpost registered envelope with Emma Zegels stamps mailed from Batavia to Melbourne, Australia on the Douglas flight and then back to Batavia.via ship. Vignettes and postage/registration on both sides.” Both the vendor and I don’t understand the Dutch language, particularly the word ‘Zegels’. Most of the aircraft carried mail unofficially, whereas the (Dutch) KLM entry, ‘Uiver’, a DC2 plane, carried official mail from Holland via England to Melbourne. Many covers were flown between places in India and in Australia but these have not been listed separately. The relevant entries for the official mail flights were listed as follows: 444: Holland-Australia; 445: Holland -Dutch East Indies; and 446: the present cover which was listed as Dutch East Indies-Australia. The 3 of these official mail were further described by Nelson Eustis as follows: carried on the KLM Douglas DC2 ‘Uiver’, PH-AJU, in command of K.D. Parmentier, and crew J.J. Moll, B.Prins, C. van Brugge.

The front of the cover had Dutch terms which have not yet been translated, a blue printed PER LUCHTPOST/ PAR AVION/ DOUGLAS Vlucht, a red cross with 2 cross-bars, SPECIALE ENVELOPPE voor de NED. INDIE/”DOUGLAS”-VLUCHT/Met gebrulk/van EMMA ZEGELS, etc., a scene of 2 seated Balinese dancers, a deep blue triangular 30 c NEDERL-INDIE stamp (Scott C 18), a block of four and a single ‘Dowager Queen Emma’ black brown 12½ c (+ 2½ c), a surtax for Anti Tuberculosis Society (Scott SP 17), as well as a single bister 2½ c Rice field stamp (Scott 166). There was a green registration label for BATAVIA, and also a blue drawing of a plane and the flag of the Netherlands is seen down the LHS (Figure 1).

The reverse showed a printed blue ship used for the return from Australia and it labeled the sender as the Royal Navigation Co., with the Australian flag, a Kangaroo, a registration label at Melbourne and the strip of 3 2d red Harbour Bridge stamps were cancelled with REGISTERED MELBOURNE dated 31 October 1934 with a reception postmark BATAVIA on 22 November 1934 (Figure 2).

The MacRobertson Air Race took place October 1934 as part of the Melbourne Centenary celebrations. The idea of the race was devised by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and a prize of $75,000 was put up by Sir MacPherson Robertson a wealthy Australian confectionery manufacturer on the conditions that the race be named after his factorry, and that it be organised as safe as possible. The race was organised by the Royal Aero Club and it was to run from the RAF Mildenhall in East Anglia to Flemington Racecource, Melbourne ca. 11,300 miles (18, 200 km. There were 5 compulsory stops at Babhdad, Allahabad, Singapore, Darwin, Charleville, Queensland: otherwise the competitors could chose their route, with a further 22 optional sites for refuelling. The compulsory stops are shown in Figure 3.

Thre were no limit to the size or of the power of the planes and no limit of the size of the crew. There were prizes for the fastest plane, and for the best performance on a handicap formula by any plane finishing in 16 days. Take-off was 20 October 1934, the initial field was whittled down from 60 to 20 and the winner was a scarlet Comet Grosvenor House flown by Flight Lt. C.W.A. Scott and Captain T.C. Black who won easily in less than 3 days. The KLM Douglas DC-2 of this cover won second place, a day later. A poster for the race is seen in Figure 4.

The person on the block of 4, as well as the single stamp on the cover from the Netherlands East Indies, was the Princess Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont (1858-1934). She became the Queen Consort of William III, King of the Netherlands, when she married him in January 1879. She was an extremely popular member of the Dutch Royal family who became the Queen Regent (1890-1898) when the King died in November 1890, and until their underage daughter Wilhelmina became of age at 18. She was the Queen mother from 1890 until March 1934, when she died at The Hague, Netherlands. A photo of Emma as Queen mother, also known as dowager Emma, is seen in Figure 5.

The same design of her as Dowager Emma, (the term used in Scott catalogue for the Netherlands East Indies stamp), was also used for the 6 cents Netherlands stamp which is shown as Figure 6

Addendum (January 2012): Two more covers became available for the 1934 MacRobertson England to Australia Air Race and neither were exciting compared with the above cover. The first was described as Only 21 flown carried by Hanson & Jensen (Denmark), franked GB KGV 1½ d tied by Mildenhall cds & Australia 2d tied by “Melbourne 7 NO 34” cds with cachet signed by Hanson , then returned to England with “Mildenhall 11 DE 34” b/s. Also comes with a label used on the Calcutta-Rangoon leg. AAMC 441 cat. $400 (Figure 7).

The second cover was described as: to UK & New Zealand Signed Only 100. 1934 MacRobertson Air Race GB-Australia, then to NZ, carried by Hewett, Kay & Stewart, printed envelope franked GB 1½d tied by Mildenhall cds & NZ 1d tied by “Palmerston Nth 15 NO 34 cds, signed by Kay. AAMC 438A cat. $150. Only 100 flown to NZ. The reverse was not seen (Figure 8).

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