Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Faroe Islands 2015
Franking Labels 2015

The Provisional Stamps during 1940-41
The two World Wars caused many disruptions and disturbances in the Faroe Islands. The Faroes was occupied by British forces and became totally isolated from the Danish Kingdom, the only outside connections being via UK and Iceland. Soon there was scarcity of daily necessities and already in 1939 ration cards were taken into use. Provisional bank notes were introduced as well.

It was also an irony of history that both in 1919 and 1940 the Post Office started having fears of stamp shortage. Postmaster General Johan Danielsen knew well that the situation could arise as it had done in 1919.

It became quite clear to the Postmaster that the stock of current values was hardly sufficient while there was an abundance of other values.

It soon became evident that the prerequisites for getting more stamps to the Faroes were unsatisfactory even though the war started in September 1939 and Denmark was not occupied until April 9th 1940. There were regular postal connections, but during the autumn of 1939 British Authorities ordered the shipping companies DFDS and Bergenske, carrying mail between Denmark and Faroes, to call at Kirkwall en route in order for the mail to be examined, which of course meant censorship. As a consequence in February 1940 the shipping companies declared that they no longer would accept mail on these routes.

Partly due to these difficulties of navigation and bad ice conditions in Skagerrak and Kattegat, the Tórshavn Post Office did not obtain the necessary stamps prior to the occupation of Denmark on the April 9th 1940. On April 13th that year the first 250 British soldiers were sent ashore in the Faroes. "Islandsk Falk", arriving in Tórshavn on the 23rd February 1940, was the last vessel to maintain normal postal connections between the Faroes and Denmark until the end of the war.

It did not make life easier for Postmaster Danielsen that Danish High Commissioner Hilbert, perhaps wanting to underscore his position as "The Governor", ordered that the new postal tariffs in Denmark be adopted in the Faroes as of 10th July 1940 - this in spite of doubts whether it was at all possibly to supply the Faroes with the new values which meant an increase in the price of an ordinary letter from 15 øre to 20 øre!

Already on April 27th 1940 Postmaster Danielsen had written to the UPU office in Bern requesting that new Danish stamps be sent to Faroes via neutral countries. However, no one knew how this would be possible.

One of the first solutions Mr Danielsen had in mind was a so-called FRANCO PAID hand cancellation with the values of 5 øre, 10 øre and 20 øre. Four sets were produced to be used in Tórshavn, Klaksvík, Tvøroyri and Vágur.

However, Mr Danielsen had a change of mind, not being satisfied with this untraditional solution. He preferred the well-known solution of 1919 where the post offices whenever necessary made use of over-printed stamps. The FRANCO hand cancellations were temporarily discarded.

The introduction of over-printed stamps
The printer H.N.J Bookstore played an important part when the decision of over-printing the first stamps was taken in the autumn of 1940. Postmaster Danielsen had been taken ill and therefore the acting Postmaster, chief controller Laurits D. Hansen, conducted the operation.
Two sheets of postage stamps, the red 15 øre “Karavel” were used as sample prints with the value 20 printed over the 15. These sample prints, however, were unsuccessful because the overprinting was hardly visible to the naked eye. Consequently a bar was placed under the value “20” when the stock of 1399 sheets was printed. These stamps were sold for the first time on November 2nd 1940.

Even if some parcels with stamps from Denmark arrived in Faroes via neutral countries after this first overprinting, the list of over-printed stamps during World War II grew longer due to various values being depleted.

The overprinted stamps used in 1940-41 were as follows:
20/15 øre red (AFA203a) 2.11.1940 …..…139.900 exemplars
50/5 øre wine red (AFA246) 6.121940……...25.000 -
60/6 øre orange yellow (254) 21.12.1940…….17.500 -
20/1 øre green black (196a) 2.05.1941……..42.500 -
20/5 øre wine red (246)        17.03.1941…….70 -

In the summer of 1941 the second edition was over-printed:
20/1 øre green black (196) 3.06.1941………4.000 exemplars
60/6 øre orange yellow (254) 11.06.1941……5.000 -
50/5 øre wine red (246) 23.06.1941…………2.500 –

There is a difference between the first and second printing. The space between the zeroes in the over-printed stamps is 13 mm. Since the HNJ printers were a traditional book printer many other variations are to be found in all these sheets.

FRANKO PAID taken into use
Early in 1941 both Mr Danielsen and Mr Hilbert realised that the situation was far from satisfactory. In spite of the new overprints other arrangements had to be made. It was even suggested that British stamps be used in the Faroes but instead Postmaster Danielsen and Governor Hilbert agreed to use the FRANKO PAID hand cancellations mentioned earlier! Later the figure "5" was removed so the postal staff could instead write the actual value of the mail.

In a report after the war Postmaster Danielsen wrote that these cancellations were taken into use due to “the gravest need”.
6 øre stamps sold as 5 øre.

A consignment of stamps from Denmark arrived in early June 1941. It came in handy but the lowest value was 8 øre and at the time the Post Office was running out of the 5 øre value. As a consequence something happened in the Torshavn Post Office that may well be termed a "world sensation". Postmaster Danielsen ordered that in the period May 26th - September 8th 1941 no less than 180 sheets of 6 øre stamps be sold for 5 øre each stamp!

Besides a franking machine was ordered from Britain. It did not arrive until 1943 and was not used to any great extent. Shipments of stamps had now improved and after 1943 there was no need for any special measures to cover the demand for stamps in the Faroes.

It can be added to this story that on the April 5th 1952 Aage Tholl, the well-known Danish stamp collector, who is a devoted admirer of Faroese postal history, sent a request to the Danish post authorities asking whether overprints from 1940-41 still were valid to use. Mr Tholl received an affirmative reply! However, in a letter to the Tórshavn Post Office dated July 2nd 1953 the Postal Administration invalidated the use of overprints which in reality has been a temporary arrangement in the Faroe Islands during the Second World War.

Already then life in the Faroes had returned to normal even if ration cards and shortage of goods persisted until the end of 1952.

author: Álvur Danielsen

stamp images and description thanks to: