Stamp News July 2008
Philately of Epic Proportions
From Kelantan Malaya to Ernie's little Audrey
Highly franked postal articles from Malaya to Australasia prior to the end of WWII are seldom encountered. Correspondence pre-war was generally limited to basic rate letters and postcards by sea. Following the introduction of the airmail service in the early 1930s one begins to find letters sent by air, but again almost invariably at a rather modest basic airmail rate. During the war years the airmail rate was 25c per ½oz. There is no particular shortage of base rate airmail covers from Australian Defence Forces serving in Malaya.
Our subject item, however, is quite out of the ordinary. As is the case for some featured "Epic" subjects, this is not a cover but rather a significant portion of the wrapping from a package. Fortunately, it is replete with the details which enable us to determine the essential Philatelic prerequisites.
The article was sent in 1941 (the uneven surface of the original article was not conducive to the delivery of full strikes of the datestamp) by Sgt H.A. Baird, of the R.A.A.F. Baird, who was then at the R.A.F. Station at Kota Bharu, Kelantan, finished the war as Flight Lieutenant (7 Operational Training Unit). One assumes the contents were a gift to his sweetheart, perhaps local handicrafts, sent by registered airmail at a very hefty $5.15. That postage rate represented the 25c ½oz. airmail rate x19 (ie for an article weighing 9-9½ozs.) + 40c registration fee. $4.75 + 40c = $5.15. The R.A.F. Censor inspected the package, applying his handstamp and initialling prior to releasing for transmission.
This article is the record franking known to me for this period from Malaya to Australasia. It is considerably enhanced by the Sultan Ismail franking, a handsome series, on this occasion including a pair no less of the $2 red-brown and scarlet, a rare denomination on "cover". Most of the items I've featured in this column are valuable, and this is no exception.
The addressee details, Miss Audrey Watts, care E.A. Watts, Capel Court, 375 Collins St, Melbourne, add personal touches to the story. Audrey was the daughter of E.A. ("Ernie") Watts, a legendary builder in Melbourne. Watts had five children, all girls! I had an office next door to 375 Collins Street for eleven years. By that time, Capel Court had been replaced by a skyscraper. I don't know how the story of Flt Lieut Baird and Audrey unfolded.
Rod Perry's other column, Woodchip-free Zone, appears in Stamp News. Rod invites owners of highly franked covers of the world to send scans of their items to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.