This article is inspired by observation of the great interest regarding an envelope as lot 41, starting at 700 Euro and sold for 1’100 Euros by Cedarstamps auction house in the 23 November 2019 sale (fig 1).
It is an envelope most probably written and sent by an officer of the French navy embarked on the Dunkerque Aviso*. The consignor had the magnificent idea of attaching a cinderella stamp on the front of the envelope depicting the small warship and his crew on the ship’s deck. At the bottom of the stamp on the left is the inscription “International Express, La Seyne-sur-mer” which certainly refers to the publishing and printing house. Unfortunately I can’t say more about this cinderella. We now come to the means by which the envelope was routed, first in the military and then in the civilian postal system which the former used for transport the mail in “special military sack” in peacetime. I specify that this was due for normal correspondence between military and relatives/friends and not for the service releases for which radio encryption secure means was normally used.
The envelope was then written in the military port of Beirut, called at the time “Beyrouth Marina” and the stamp cinderella amicably canceled with the regulatory administrative stamp in violet “MARINE FRANCAISE – SERVICE A LA MER” which was used to authorize the free of charge shipment of mail for military who had the right.
In the military port of Beirut I have always assumed that there was a military relay service used to transport mail from the port (A) to the “Serrail” (B), imaginable through the indications on the map of the port of Beirut that I show (fig 2).
*adopted by the French and Portuguese navies to classify their medium-sized warships.
fig 2 – Port of Beirut, detail from a 1945 map drawn by the Free French Forces.
I have been able to observe various postal objects send with seals inscription “BEYROUTH MARINE”, they were affixed by the military relay to indicate their origin once they arrived at the military post office (figs 3 and 4). It is no coincidence that the envelope in figure 4 has the seal covered by the stamps: its presence was no longer needed since the envelope was consigned to the civil post office and regular franked with stamps used to pay the full free. Why to the Serrail? Because from the latest information in my possession that was the place where the French military post office was installed, indicated as “Sector Postal 600” which served the military based in Beirut and the surrounding areas.
fig 3 – Cover sent to France free of charge, forwarded on 18/10/1928 by Marina military relay to the P.A.A. 600 based in the Serrail.
fig 4 – Cover sent by air to Greece, originated from Beirut port and forwarded by the Marina military relay to the civilian post office
Then our envelope arrives in the French military post office which provided on 16/8/1932 to affix the regulatory cancellation “Postes Aux Armees 600” and a rectangular advertising seal praising the speed of mail sent by air. I also show an envelope sent by the civilian postal agency located near the military base that used a bilingual seal “AVENUE DES FRANCAIS BEYROUTH”, is very rare (fig 5).
fig 5 – Cover sent to Transjordan on 27/11/1935, originated from “AVENUE DES FRANCAIS BEYROUTH” post agency near the port area
I end by showing, by way of complement, an illustrated postcard of the port of Beirut (fig 6 and 7) sent on 2/7/1974 by the post office of “BEYROUTH PORT” probably established in the late 1950s, the final landing point for all mail sent from the port area of Beirut.
fig 6 – The photo side Post card with image taken from the roof of one of the buildings in point “A” in fig 2. In the foreground a small Lebanese warship
fig 7 – The back side Post card sent to Italy with stamp of 40 Piastres cancelled by the bilingual postmark “BEYROUTH PORT” on 2/July/1974