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BFPO Information

Started by Paul McTaggart, May 12, 2014, 10:21:02 PM

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Paul McTaggart

I think that Michael Dobbs is my helper here if possible.

Attached is a 1970 5d (First Class rate up to 4oz) with BFPO commerative cancel that I have seen on many a VC NAM cover. However what I am actually interested is the BFPO machine cancel off to the right ?

My questions are:

1. Why a machine cancel - is it becuase the stamp and hand cancel are on the left and not right
2. Why is the cancel 5 days later
3. What is the provanance of the machine cancel

Regards Paul

Michael Dobbs


Sorry to have taken so long to respond, but I had other Society matters to attend to as well as duties within the Kent Federation of Philatelic Societies.  In addition other home and family matters have cut into my available time recently.

It is difficult to be precise about the issue with your cover - I can only surmise in cases without hard references.  However, I'll give it a go.

The commemorative British Forces Postal Service 1210 postmark was applied at the Home Postal & Courier Communications Depot at Mill Hill.  It is highly likely that it was not applied on 15 July 1970 due to the number of covers to be processed.  The datestamp was a self-inking rubber handstamp.  As you are aware this was part of the National Army Museum series and there would have been a good many NAM special covers.

There was another commemorative BFPS postmark used on the same day - BFPS 1211 (Rorke's Drift) also in the NAM series and so the number of covers to process would be very large indeed.  There is no way this number of covers could be dealt with on one day.

It is known that official covers were dealt with first, before other dealers and collectors covers.  It is likely that covers were also processed before the actual date on the handstamp - possibly as soon as they had received the handstamp from the manufacturer and received the commemorative NAM covers from the Museum.  It is certain that handstamping would have carried on for several days after the date on the handstamp.

Such covers were then returned to collectors through the postal system - there was no process of placing in them in an outer envelope.  The Forces Post Office followed the (British civil) Post Office in this respect and this is a cause of angst and complaint amongst collectors.  It often happens that such mail is then put through the system and gets a machine cancellation over the commemorative postmark thus ruining the cover.  This would appear to have happened in this case.

However, whether by accident or design the collector (for I assume he was one) placed the stamp to the left of where it would normally go.  This created sufficient space so that if the cover was placed through a stamp cancelling machine instead of bypassing that process, it would miss the stamp.  From a Forces collectors view (mine !) it provides a neat cancellation of the BFPO London machine cancellation !

This machine was in use at the Sorting Office of the HPCCD at Mill Hill and its use is fully covered in my book "British Forces Machine Postmarks 1940-1983" published by FPHS in 1983.

Regards, Mike  ;)

Paul McTaggart


Many thanks for the response and I am very grateful for the detailed information that you have provided which is what I was after to get the detail behind the markings. You answer is very much appreciated. I fully understand the community / family commitments.