The Aero-Club of Syria and Lebanon between the two wars


 « Un hommage à Mr Abdo Ayoub, notre premier président de la Lebanese Association de Philatélie dont le mandat s’est terminé en Avril 2017 »

Created at the beginning of the year, the Syria-Lebanon aero-club was officially inaugurated on October 23, 1923, under the impulse of Commander Danan (Chief in Command of the air forces in the Levant), in order to introduce young people to aeronautics and develop their taste for flying. The club will be affiliated to the international aeronautical federation on September 1924.

Fig.1- Press clipping from “L’aéronautique Paris” January 1923.

On April 15, 1924, the first aerial meeting was held in Rayak, organized by the founding committee of the aero-club. Chaired by Alfred Sursock (who died later in 1924), it included Habib Trad as vice-president, Youssef Audeh as treasurer and Michel Zaccour as secretary.

Fig. 2- The founding committee Newspaper owners are part of a commission to give this activity the most publicity; the event reputation attained an international level.

Fig.3- Press clipping “Les Ailes”, journal hebdomadaire de la locomotion aérienne 16/10/1924.

At the meeting of Rayak, where the French pilots demonstrated their skills, there was also a LEBANESE. His name is Youssef Akkar. He is the first Lebanese to fly alone a plane and will be personally congratulated by General Weygand. Youssef Akkar will be sent by the Club to France to deepen his knowledge in aeronautics.

Fig.4- Lebanese pilot students in 1923.

Under the leadership of the French Army which provided materials and instructors, the Rayak pilot school counted already 24 pupils. The golden youth will be passionate about this sport.

Fig.5- Part of correspondence attesting the support of the French mandate to the project. It should be emphasized that the founding committee of the club was eminently francophile and France took advantage of it for its own propaganda.

The Aero-Club committee opens a subscription to the Syrian and Lebanese populations to acquire training equipment.

Fig.6- Vignette issued to collect funds for the Aero-Club.

Unsuccessful, the club will have to be satisfied with equipment that the French put at disposal of the Lebanese.

Fig.7 and 8- Military correspondence emanating from the High Commissioner General Gouraud, and Commandant Denain, concerning the cession of a Limousine plane to the aero-club with restrictions!

Fig.9- Flown cover by French military aviation from Rayak to Rakka (28/04/1925). Notice the heading of cover.

Fig.10- Flown cover by French military aviation from Rakka to Deir ez zor (1/07/1925). Notice the heading of cover.

In 1938, the section of the Aero-club of Beirut was detached from that of Damascus.

Fig. 11 and 12- The Syrian section took the name of « Maurice Nogues Aero-club ». Notice the logo on cover and front of the plane.

Fig.13- Membership card 1936 of Mr. Michel Aoun (from Aley).

The aero-club of Lebanon is recognized of public utility. Its president, Habib Trad, one of the country’s first pilots, bought the country’s first airplane for training and built a Hangar in Bir Hassan.

Fig. 14 and 15 – Bir Hassan airport under construction in 1938 with the hangar to protect airplanes.

There was a talk of buying a second plane when the war comes to break this momentum. Deprived of its ground and its unique plane the club falls. Then begins for the club a long period of lethargy which it leaves only in 1957 thanks to the efforts of Gabriel Trad and it’s only in 1961 that the flying section of the Aero-Club recovers its activity.



The two lozenges with large digits used by the Beirut French post Office

The French post office in Beirut was opened in November 1845. Although already available since 1849, the French stamps began to be used in the Levant Offices starting from 1857. The office in Beirut is not an exception and the lozenges of points were used to cancel stamps, featuring the office’s number, as already used in France. The first used lozenge was characterized by the number 3706 along with a double circle cancel (fig.1),

fig. 1

as seen on the letter below (fig. 2 and 2a). Unfortunately, the letter was mutilated from another 40ct stamp to complete the double rate of 50ct each.

fig. 2

fig. 2a

The use of this combination lasted until August 1862. Since that date, the French post office began to use the new lozenge with large digits characterized by the number 5082 always together with the double circle with “BEYROUT SYRIE” and dater (fig. 3).

fig. 3

A change of linguistic nature occurred from June 1866 when the double circle cancel was replaced with another one adding an “H” to Beyrouth (fig. 3a).

fig. 3a

So far “nothing new under the sun” except that, while checking the lozenge 5082 on a 5 Francs stamp (fig. 4 and 4a), I used a letter of 1873 (fig. 5) with very clear lozenges and I realized that the cancel on the 5 Francs stamp differed from the one applied on the envelope. The easy deduction is that the postmark on the 5 Francs is a fake.

fig. 4

fig. 4a

fig. 5

But a curious observation concerning the lozenge’s perfection used on the envelope has prompted me to analyze one more envelope, from 1868 to be precise (Fig. 6),

fig. 6

and with great surprise I noticed the substantial difference between the lozenges applied on the two envelopes. These differences are visible through the widths of number 5082 as well as the two points on the corner and their position from the base of digit 2 (fig. 7)

fig. 7 (please zoom)

In my stock of images, the last date of use of the old deteriorated postmark I could find was 2 October 1870 (fig. 8) and the first with the new postmark was 30 June 1871 (fig.9):

fig. 8

fig. 9

the substitution occurred in this time range, but I leave you the fun game to discover the closest date.

                                                                                                                                                 Bernardo Longo