Egypt: Writing Home

The featured image is of an envelope posted in Cairo on 24 February 1936 to an address in Canterbury, England and carries a red prepaid postage stamp. On the back of the envelope is a 1 piastre letter seal beneath the emblem of the Royal Horse Artillery, an arm of the Royal Regiment of Artillery that was formed in 1793 and is recognised today for its role supporting ceremonial duties. The ‘GR’ in the emblem represents George V who had died the month before. Edward VIII was to subsequently abdicate and George VI would not succeed to the throne until December that year. The envelope is a rich piece of both postal and military history – an era when the postal service supported communications between military forces and family at home.

Envelope for letter sent from Cairo, Egypt to Canterbury, England in 1936
Envelope for letter sent from Cairo, Egypt to Canterbury, England in 1936

With the defeat of Germany and the Ottoman Empire in World War I the political landscape of the Eastern Mediterranean was to change. The British retained its interest in Egypt even though it had become a kingdom under King Fuad in the early 1920s. With a large British military presence in the country, a cheap and efficient postal service was required for its troops to communicate with families back home.

1932 Egypt 1p British Forces Postal Seal
1932 Egypt 1p British Forces ‘Postal’ Seal
1932 Egypt 1p British Forces Letter Seal
1932 Egypt 1p British Forces ‘Letter’ Seal

In 1932 special postal ‘Seals’ were issued to members of the British armed forces – a special discounted postal service. The first issue was denominated 1 piastre and included the words ‘POSTAL SEAL’ but this was quickly replaced with the words ‘LETTER SEAL’.

1934 Egypt 1p British Forces Letter Stamp (Carmine)
1934 Egypt 1p British Forces Letter Stamp (Carmine)
1934 Egypt 1p British Forces Letter Stamp (Green)
1934 Egypt 1p British Forces Letter Stamp (Green)

The elongated seal design was retained with an image of the Sphinx for a subsequent issue, now called Letter Stamps, in 1934 comprised two coloured stamps of Carmine and Green, both 1 piastre in denomination. In 1935, George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee and an Ultramarine issue of the same design was overprinted in red with ‘JUBILEE COMMEMORATION 1935’.

1934 Egypt 1p British Forces Letter Stamp (Ultramarine) overprinted Jubilee Commemoration 1935
1934 Egypt 1p British Forces Letter Stamp (Ultramarine) Optd.

The fact that there was little recognition of King Fuad I as the then monarch of Egypt was a source of some discord and therefore, in late 1935, two stamps were issued carrying the portrait of the King for the sole use by British troops at a special discounted denominations of 3m (Green) and 10m (Carmine).

1935 Egypt British Army Post 3m stamp featuring King Fuad I
1935 Egypt British Army Post 3m featuring King Fuad I
1935 Egypt British Army Post 10m stamp featuring King Fuad I
1935 Egypt British Army Post 10m featuring King Fuad I

King Fuad I died in 1936 and was succeeded by King Farouk. The same basic design was retained for a new issue with the same denomination, albeit with smaller dimensions and with the portrait of the new King. The issuing of special stamps ended in 1941 although concessions offered by the Egyptian postal authorities to the British armed forces continued until 1951.

1936 Egypt British Army Post 3m stamp featuring King Farouk
1936 Egypt British Army Post 3m featuring King Farouk
1936 Egypt British Army Post 10m stampfeaturing King Farouk
1936 Egypt British Army Post 10m featuring King Farouk

To view postal issues of the Egypt, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by billmandsphilatelycom

William (Bill) Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 60 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the British Commonwealth including most notably, the issues from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. However, he also has specialist interest in the postal history of Egypt, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Sarawak, Sudan and the Italian States as well as a fine collection of overprints.

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