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Herbert Mailänder View Drop Down

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    Posted: 26 April 2015 at 8:36pm
Gurkha Correspondence during the World War II

The nearly 50 years of the Pashupati Era (1907-1949) justly embraces the first half of the 20th century so that the great technical innovations of those times and the two World Wars were able to leave traces in the postal matters of Nepal. Particularly, the World War II has led to an Indian/Nepalese postal agreement, that in a certain way has temporarily anticipated the effects of a membership to the “Universal Postal Union” allowing for the first time that correspondence from Europe and Africa could also be sent directly to inner nepalese towns. Before Nepal joined the “Universal Postal Union” in 1959, letters of nationwide provenance could be sent only to Kathamndu because the capital was the only Nepalese town served directly by the Indian Post already a member of the “Universal Postal Union” since 1876.

Now going back to the events of the war, Nepal declared war on Germany on September 4, 1939 and provided soldiers to reinforce the British troops in defense of India and Burma. In this context, the Nepalese Prime Minister Joodha Shumsher Rana arranged, only a month later the 27 October 1939, an agreement with the British Indian Post Office in Kathmandu for the exchange and management of free postal service for the Nepalese soldiers and civil officers stationed in India during the war. Dr. Shrestha shows a picture of the document of this postal agreement on page 36 of his book "Nepalese Postal History".

With the further development of the war, the Gurkha battalions in British service were sent to North Africa to help to counteract the threat of Feldmarschall Rommel's desert raid from Lybia to conquer Cairo and the Suez Canal. With the British victory at El Alamein in Egypt in autumn 1942, General Montgomery was able to turn the tide in the North African Campaign in favor of the allied forces and starting his own for a raid to drive out the Italo-Germanic troops from the African continent. Montgomery's back conquest raid started immediately after the victory at El Alamein in November 1942 and ended, after taking Libya, with the fall of the last bastions of the german Panzer Army “Afrikakorps” in Tunis in May 1943.

The allied conquest of the African coast of the Mediterranean Sea created the necessary conditions for a successfull conquest of the europian homeland, that the allied nations will do first with an invasion from the south through the landing in Italy in September 1943 and, nine months after, in a second phase with the landing at the North French coasts of the Normandy in June 1944. Gurkha regiments took part in the Italian campaign.

The below illustrated letters, written by Gurkha soldiers from the african and europian theaters of war, indicate that both the Nepalese as well Indian Postal authorities have tacitly and with a good sense extended the applicability of the postal agreement of 1939 also to the correspondence of Nepalese soldiers serving outside of India:

1943 - Stampless Airmail Letter Card from a Gurkha soldier of the 4th Indian Infantry Division (F.P.O. NO.17) send from Misurata, Libya to Palpa. MISURATA, at that time the third greatest town of Libya, was one of the key points for the conquest of the country. The letter was channeled - as requested by the sender - via the Indian Exchange Post Office of NAUTANWA BAZAR, then handed over to the Nepalese Exchange Post Office of BHAIRASHAWA where it receives the first Nepalese postmark, and finally delivered to the addressee in PALPA after receiving the cross type postmark of Palpa.

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1943 - Cover from a Gurkha soldier of the 10th Indian Infantry Brigade (F.P.O. NO.15) send from Akaki, Cyprus to Palpa. The Brigade, formed in part by Gurkha regiments, has participated in the Nord African desert campaign in the most delicate moments and after the battle of El Alamein was retracted in Cyprus to lick his wounds. Unlike the previous Libya-letter, this cover was channeled to enter Nepal via KATHMANDU, where it received the Nepalese Exchange Postmark, and then transported through the mountains up to PALPA where it received at arrival the consuete cross type postmark of the Palpa Post Office.

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Undated - Post Card from a Gurkha Prisoner of War sent from a P.O.W. Camp in Italy to Palpa. As usual for P.O.W. Red Cross correspondence the card bears only the Red Cross marking of Geneva (Switzerland). Also the Nepalese postmaster's of Bairashawa and Palpa have must be familiar with this international rule of "NO POSTMARKS on RED CROSS Prisoner Mail", because neither the one nor the other has fitted the card with postmarkings. A proof that the card has actually reached the Indian subcontinent is given by the Indian Censor Mark DHP/9, the letter code of a censor station in Bombay specialized in Prisoner of War correspondence.

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I would greatly appreciate any correction, comment or additional information about the theme,


Herbert Mailänder

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