This cover has a fine vignette of the 150th Anniversary, Sydney Souvenir Cover (1788-1938) with a map of Australia, a portrait of Captain Cook, an Aborigine, a kookaburra, a kangaroo, an emu, and a stylized central picture of the Settlement of Port Jackson in 1788. The cover was printed in Cabramatta (see lower right hand corner of vignette) and it has a registration label for Cabramatta, N.S.W. It has the blue 3d and red 2d KGVI as well as the green 1d Queen Elizabeth definitive stamps, which are postmarked CABRAMATTA/ 11 AP 39/ N.S.W. It is addressed to Monsieur Karoui, 22 Rue de Naples, Rabat (French Morocco). There is a manuscript ‘Voir au dos’ (See back), as well as a boxed RETOUR/ L’ ENVOYEUR (Return to sender) (Figure 1).
The hand-stamp of the sender is identified as L, Alavoine, Longfield St., Cabramatta, N,S,W, Australia and the reason for the letter’s non-delivery is found in the manuscript ‘ Décédé/ F. 16. There is an out-going G.P.O. SYDNEY/ RS/ 11 AP 39P/ N.S.W-AUST , a transit oval REGISTERED/ 1O-AM/ 22 MY 39/ 2/ GIBRALTAR, two postmarks in Morocco: a reception TANGER CHERIFVEN/ 18 30/ 23 -5/39/ MAROC (top left, 23 May 39) as well as reception postmark of RABAT (——)/ 8X/ 24 -5/ 39/ MAROC (top right). There is no dated return postmark in Morocco, but there are two postmarks back in Sydney: G.P.O. SYDNEY/ RS/ -3JY39/ N.S.W-AUST and a red double circle DEAD LETTER OFFICE/ 4/ JUL/ 1939/ SYDNEY, N.S.W. The centrally placed Cabramatta postmark might be either the origin or return postmark.. Thus the round trip Sydney to Rabat to Sydney took almost three months (Figure 2).
French Morocco (Fr. Maroc) was a colony of France established by the Treaty of Fez in what is now the country of Morocco minus the north which was a Spanish protectorate. It existed from 1912 when a protectorate was formally established, until Moroccan independence on 2 March 1956, and consisted generally of the area of Morocco between Fez and Rabat, south to Mogador. French activity in Morocco began during the 19th century and in 1904 France and Spain secretly partitioned the country of the sultanate, with Spain later creating Spanish Morocco from its portion. A French postal agency had sent mail from Tangier (Fr: Tanger) as early as 1854, but the formal beginning of the system was in 1891, when French post offices were established throughout the sultanate. The offices issued stamps of France surcharged with values in pesetas and centimos. In 1911, the Sherifian post was created to handle local mail (note the TANGER CHERIFVEN postmark). The map of Maroc, a French protectorate at the time of this letter showing Gibraltar, Tang(i)er and Rabat, would have been similar to Figure 3.
Modern day Rabat has a 2005 estimated population of 1.2 million and it is the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. The city is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreb. Silting problems have diminished the city’s role as a port. Tourism and the presence of all foreign embassies in Morocco, serve to make Rabat the second most important city, after the larger and more economically significant Casablanca. It was the French administrator of Maroc, General Hubert Lyautey, who decided to relocate the capital from Fez to Rabat. When Morocco achieved independence in 1956, Mohammed V, the then King of Morocco chose to have the capital remain at Rabat (Figure 4).