Royal Reels: Gambling


I have long been intrigued by foreign postmarks on Australian stamps, and was surprised by the present marking, which I have not seen before, on an Australian stamp.  The cover is addressed to a Mr. S. Cassuto, C/o Barclays Bank, Alexandria, (Egypt).  The blue 3d KGV Head Australian stamp is cancelled with a purple outer double ring and a single inner ring with KHEDIVAL MAIL LINE and S/S TALODI is centrally placed.  The sender and the place of origin were not identified (Figures 1 & 2).

A bilingual arabic and English inscribed postmark is seen on the reverse with a centrally placed date 14. SE. 31 8.30 A and PORT TAUFIQ/ F.T. in the lower third (Figure 3).

Khedive (from the Persian ‘Lord’) was a line of governors and monarchs who ruled Egypt and Sudan from 1805 to 1914.  Muhammad Ali Pasha (ca.1769-1849) assumed the title when he took power in 1805.  As a general of the Ottoman Empire, he had driven Napoleon from Egypt and set himself as a practically independent monarch.  The original name of the Khedivial Mail company is unknown, but it is thought that it was founded in 1858.  The Khedivial Mail Steamship & Graving Dock Co. Was formed in 1898 to operate ships and docks owned by various departments of the Egyptian Government, but little is known of the early years of the company or it’s ships.

The new fleet was registered under the British flag and operated passenger and cargo services between Alexandria, Constantinople and Syrian ports and between Suez and Red Sea ports. Later services were extended to Piraeus, Malta, Marseille and Cyprus.  P & O Line took control of the company between 1919 and 1924. In 1936 the company was re-formed in Alexandria as Pharaonic Mail Line and in 1941 was changed to Khedivial Mail Line.  Services from the Mediterranean to Boston and New York started in 1948 and from 1951 calls were often made at Charleston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.  A Port Said – Bombay – Karachi service started in 1953. In 1961 all Egyptian shipping lines were nationalised and became part of United Arab Maritime Co. who discontinued New York sailings, but for a time made passenger and cargo sailings to Canada until 1965.

The Ship List ( describes 74 ships that the company owned over this period of time, but no mention of them serving Australia is given.  Similarly, J.S. White in the shipping mail section of his The Postal History of New South Wales 1788-1901 does not mention the Khedivial Steamship Company.  The steamship Talodi shown on the present cover was built in 1928 and had a tonnage of 1,590.  In 1961 it was taken over by the United Arab Maritime Company, Alexandria, and in 1969 it was shelled and sunk at Suez.  Another example of KHEDIVIAL MAIL LINE/ S/S  TALODI is shown with the use of Egyptian stamps, and is also addressed to Barclays Bank, Alexandria (Figure 4).

Another example of the Company’s postmark of a different type was used with the oval S.S. TAIF/ KHEDIVIAL MAIL LINE, with the use of Egyptian Stamps,  also was addressed to Barclays Bank in Cairo.  The S/S Taif was built the same year, taken over by the same firm, and sunk at Suez in the same year, as the S/S Talodi (Figure 5).

An enlargement of an arrival postmark in the above figure shows an arabic upper third, the date in the middle:  -7 MR 31 T-104 and PORT  TAUFIQ  ISMAILIA in the lower third (Figure 6).

The company’s markings are different in the next scans of two ships both purchased in 1922 from the Royal Mail S.P. Co. London, which are straight two-line markings:  S.S. BELKAS/ CYPRUS-EGYPT with Egyptian stamps in 1929, sent to Mr. F. Hendrey, Alexandria Egypt (Figure 7).

A similar two-line S.S. BILBEIS/ CYPRUS – EGYPT is found with a Cyprus stamp on a cover to the same addressee at Alexandria in May 1929 (Figure 8).

Another triple circle marking but with the full name of the company has been seen struck in blue or violet, and it is claimed to have been used only in 1930:  KHEDIVIAL MAIL S/S. & GRAVING DOCK COMPANY LIMITED/ S.S. RODA which was purchased from the Union SS Co of NEW ZEALAND in 1927 (Figure 9).

A brochure dated September 1938 for the Khedivial Mail Line Sailings and Passage Rates lists the Regular Mail, Passenger and Cargo Services between: Alexandria, Piraeus, Malta, Marseilles, Port Said, Cyprus Ports, Palestine, Syria, Suez, Hediaz and Sudan Ports is shown in Figure 10.

The main purpose of this paper is to obtain reader feedback concerning the first figure in relation to Australia and the Khedivial Mail Line.

Categories: Postmarks