Beirut, mixed use of various issues stamps from the end of 1918 to the half of 1920

After the 7 October 1918, although nominally under French military occupation, the majority of soldiers and means served to occupy Beirut, were the British ones coming from Palestine. We must not forget that the city was a real field of ruins in the wake of urban demolition implemented by the Turkish governor and on a human level an environment devastated by two years of famine followed by epidemics that decimated the population. This was the reality in which must be imagined the Turkish’s departure and the arrival of the Entente troops. According to international law, among the tasks of the new occupants, was to be allowed the resumption of public functions such as the postal service. In Beirut this was not possible immediately. So, British favored the use of their military postal structure to private citizens who request it. This system had already been adopted in Palestine in the early days of occupation, as emergency service for private use by the civilians population. The first covers known regularly franked with British stamps are dated from the second half of October 1918, their use for civilians has lasted until 4 December 1918 (fig. 1).

fig 1

(fig. 1) Cover containing a letter written by a Beirut’s resident and sent on 4 December 1918 to Egypt through the Field Post Office SZ 8. Is the last date recorded for the British stamps used by civilian in the F.P.O. based in Beirut.

Since November 1918 in the military postal office they were also used E.E.F. stamps (Egyptian Expeditionary Force), their value was expressed in Egyptian currency. The use in F.P.O. by Beirut’s residents is documented until 14 December 1918 (fig. 2).

fig 2

(fig. 2) Cover containing a letter written by an American resident in Beirut  and sent on 14 December 1918 to USA through the Field Post Office SZ 8. Is the last date that I know for the E.E.F. stamps used by civilian in the F.P.O. based Beirut.

I don’t know the mixed-use of British and E.E.F. stamps on the same envelope or Post card. From mid-December 1918 it was reopened the civil post office using the E.E.F. stamps already experienced (fig. 3).

fig 3

(fig. 3) Cover sent on 21 December 1918 to Egypt. The civil post office, closed from early October to mid-December, it had been re-open using the existing ottoman cancels (up the Beyrouth #16).

Only in November 1919, with the landing of other French troops led by General Gouraud, were overprinted French stamps using a small stock brought for the military postal service: on 21 November 1919 appears the first T.E.O. issue stamps (fig. 4).

fig 4

(fig. 4) Beirut’s domestic cover sent on 29 November 1919 franked with 5 mill green overprinted T.E.O. on French stamp. The use of this stamps issue is rare on cover.

This time coming by the old French civil Post, were exhumed the expired Levant stamps that were overprinted as the previous with the new value still in Egyptian currency (fig. 5). Theoretically genuine mixed postage use exist between the two T.E.O. issues.

fig 5

(fig. 5) Right franked rate for letters to O.E.T.A. territories for this cover sent from Beirut on 28 December 1919 to Haifa, Palestine. The postage was paid by 5 mill green overprinted T.E.O. on Levant stamp. The use of this stamps issue is relatively common on Beirut’s covers.

From the day of issue on 1 December 1919 unlike the previous, used only in Beirut, the new T.E.O. stamps were widespread throughout the Levant’s territory at the time occupied by the French. I do not know mixed between E.E.F. and the first T.E.O. issue. Instead I know two covers with mixed E.E.F. and second T.E.O. issue, dated respectively 12 and 21 December 1919 (figures 6 and 7).

fig 6

fig 7

(figures 6 and 7) Two nice mixed. The first is a post card of thanksgiving, sent from Beirut on 12 December 1919 for the city, mixed franking using 1 mill T.E.O. and 2 mill E.E.F. stamps. The second a cover sent from Beirut on 21 December 1919 to Liverpool “Inglisi”, mixed franked by two twins values of 5 mill stamps. Both mixed are very rare.

Meanwhile, the French administration had proceeded to withdrawal the E.E.F. stamps that could be changed with T.E.O. stamps until 5 January 1920. The last date I recorded of E.E.F. used in Beirut was a 5mill stamp on commercial postcard on 2 January 1920 (fig. 8), but this does not exclude other lucky discoveries with posthumous dates.

fig 8

(fig. 8) Post card sent on 2 January 1920 franked with 5 mill Orange E.E.F. stamp. Is the last date that I know for the E.E.F. stamps genuinely used in Beirut.

The transition from the status of “Territoires Enemy Occupés” in the “Occupation Militaire Française”, forced in February 1920 the postal administration to issue stamps with new overprint O.M.F. Syrie, still with value in Egyptian currency. Furthermore not withdrawn the T.E.O. stamps. From this moment it is possible their mixed use on cover (figures 9/12).

fig 9

fig 11

(figures 9 and 10) The first letter was sent by a known and talented Beirut’s collector on 24 February 1920, the mixed postage of 1 Piastre was “composed” by a block of four of 1 mill T.E.O. together with 1, 2 and 3 mill O.M.F. stamps of the first printing in thin characters.
The second mixed T.E.O. and O.M.F. stamps, is a commercial registered double rate cover (5m + 3m + 1P) sent from Beirut on 11 March 1920 to Alep with O.M.F. overprint in fats characters.

fig 10

fig 12

(figures 11 and 12) Two more mixed. The first is similar to the previous cover but shipped the day after, 12 March 1920, again to Aleppo. The second, sent to France on 25 March 1920, was composed by a pair of 3 mill in thin characters and 4 mill T.E.O. stamp.

The registered letter sent from Beirut on 1 April 1920 to Palestine (fig. 13) is properly franked for 1 Piastre and half (5 mill for letter direct in O.E.T.A. territories and 1P for Registered fees). Do not be fooled, this is not a mixed triple: the stamp of 5 Piastres first TEO issue, even if it had not been demonetized, has been placed just to be canceled for the benefit of the unfortunate recipient Capt. R. A. Alphert, which on arrival was no longer in Bir Salem near Ludd.

fig 13

(fig. 13) cover with Registered number 163 repeated two times.

Theoretically after 30 April 1920 ends up the possible contemporary  use on cover of the two issue creating mixed postage (figures 14 and 15).

fig 14

fig 15

(figures 14 and 15) Two last mixed. The first is a double rated cover to foreign (1P + 6mill), sent on 2 April 1920 to Switzerland. The second, franked for 1 Piastre, was sent to Galata on 7 April 1920 and show the error “S” inverted in the T.E.O. value of 4 mill.

The French government made it compulsory to use the new Syrian Pound that was worth ⅓ of Egyptian Pound. They were issued paper money and also stamps with values in “centimes” and Piastres (figures 16 and 17).

fig 16

fig 17

(figures 16 and 17) A good souvenir: 1 Syrian Piastre. It is curious that the French administration has used the services of a British company to print paper money to be used in the area that she administered. The second picture reproduces a cover franked at double rate to foreign (3P + 1,75P), sent from Beirut on 14 May 1920 to England. All postage was paid by the new O.M.F. stamps with value in Syrian Pound.

The O.M.F. stamps with value in Syrian currency, came into use from 1 May 1920. A registered envelope sent to Constantinople, still franked with T.E.O. values stamps (Fig. 18), attest that for at least the first half of May, the old T.E.O. stamps still had values and mixed postage in Egyptian and Syrian currency can exist. Unfortunately I do not have but I saw her.

fig 18

(fig. 18) This Registered cover has the great virtue of witnessing the tolerated use of old Egyptian currency stamps on 11 May 1920, after more of a week it had come into use the new Syrian currency.


Bernardo Longo