Royal Reels: Gambling


I have found 3 examples of covers sent from the Austro-Hungarian Consuls in Melbourne and Sydney in the period 1881 until outbreak of WW I in 1914. The first was an 1881 cover with a duplex postmark of MELBOURNE/ 26S/ JY 21/ 91 with VICTORIA as the obliterator on the purple brown one shilling Victorian stamp duty. The cover was addressed to Wien (Vienna), Austria and in manuscript it was inscribed ‘per S.S. Arcadia’ via Brindisi (Figure 1).

The reverse showed an incomplete arrival postmark on ( ). 8. 91, presumably at Wien, Austria, but the special feature of the envelope was the use of a black on gold seal, with inside the circle the words ‘I. AND R. AUSTRO. HUNGARIAN CONSULATE. MELBOURNE’ and a stylised eagle in the centre (Figure 2).

The second cover was on the 2d South Australian envelope with an additional ½d green Kangaroo on map of Australia with three ELSMORE/ 27 OC 14/ N.S.W postmarks, a purple ‘OPENED BY CENSOR label, and it was sent to Baden near Wien. In addition it had a violet ‘RETURN TO SENDER’ and a double boxed blue ‘UNDELIVERABLE/ JUN 18 1915/ II M. D. hand stamp of the Second Military District in Sydney (Figure 3).

The reverse had a red Dead Letter Office hand stamp dated JUL/1/1915/ SYDNEY and it was endorsed on the flap with a manuscript ‘Mahler, Austro-Hungarian Consulate/ Sydney”. The vendor presumed that the letter had been held in Sydney for the period from 27 October 1914 until July 1 1915. It never had begun its journey to Vienna, for Australia had entered the war against Germany and Austro-Hungary on August 3, 1914 (Figure 4).

Another cover was found in a publication (which I have transcribe in abridged form) showing a registered cover, sent from the Austro-Hungarian Consulate-General in Sydney, to Budapest. It was caught up during transit by the outbreak of WW I, and probably never reached the recipient. The postmark on the 5d Kangaroo was indistinct, and is either 7 or 17 July 1914. Another impression on the reverse shows that the cancellation is ‘REGISTERED / SYDNEY NSW,’ and confirms that the date was either 7 or 17 July 1914 (Figure 5).

Ships carrying mails to London were due to depart on 8, 15 and 22 July, 1914. As the journey by sea took at least 30 days at that time, the mails carried on these departure dates would all have arrived in London in August after the outbreak of the war. Great Britain (and Australia) declared war on Germany and on the Austria-Hungary Empire on 3 August 1914. There is a strong possibility that the cover never left Australia. In view of the worsening of conditions in Europe, postal authorities might have held the cover in Sydney to await an improvement in the situation. Finally, they gave up waiting, and sent the cover to ‘II. M. D’ for examination before it was consigned to the Dead Letter Office.

It is very likely that shortly after the outbreak of hostilities the Consulate-General’s Office was closed in Sydney, so there was no one to accept this returned article. The cover would then have been sent to the Dead Letter Office. On the reverse among penciled annotations and initials, is the red double circle cancellation for ‘DEAD LETTER OFFICE / SYDNEY NSW / May 13 1915’. This marked the end of the cover’s journeys. The seal of the Austro-Hungarian Consulate was not used on this cover, but there was a printed ‘Austro-Hungarian/ Consulate-General,/ Sydney, N.S.W.’ on the reverse flap (Figure 6).

In 1862, at the latest, the Austro-Hungarian Empire opened its first Consulate in Sydney. This was updated to a Consulate-General on 2nd November1902. The Austro-Hungarian Empire appointed Honorary Consuls in Adelaide ca. 1898, in Brisbane in 1909, in Melbourne by 1884 at the latest, in Perth-Fremantle in 1910 and a vice-Consul in Newcastle in 1914. The Melbourne insignia that was on the flap of the first cover and that used at Sydney by the Consul were one and the same, except for Sydney replacing Melbourne (Figure 7).

Details about an individual who served in one of the Austro-Hungarian Consulates in Australia are given for Gustav Windorfer, born in Corinthia, Austria in 1873, and trained in the diplomatic service. He was posted to Melbourne at the age of 26 and joined the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria. There he met his future Tasmanian wife. At the time of his marriage he forsook the diplomatic service and went to live at his wife’s property in Kindred, Tasmania. One wonders if he was interned at the outbreak of WWII as were many of his countrymen?

A wonderful map of the Austria-Hungary Empire ca. 1900 is shown on the Wikipedia website: , the extent of the Empire is labeled with numbers from 1 to 18 (Figure 8).

Acknowledgment: The article on the third cover was written by Judy Kennett in the Society of Hungarian Philately Journal Volume 33 No. 2 2002, page 11-12.

Categories: Places