Slipping Past the Censor

This week we’re following up on our Second World War military mail with some from the Great War. Rarely do ones from this period tell us much of what was happening. Often it’s just: date, field post office, officer’s signature and the censor’s mark. The soldier’s name and service number would usually count as a bonus!

However here we’ve got one that slipped past the censor. It gives us a glimpse into the shock which awaited those chaps who’d hitherto had no experience at all of the realities which awaited them. This particular example was sent from the front to a camp in Hatfield. The sender is a rifleman writing to another in a different company but both were part of the 17th Battalion, the London Regiment.

Dear Bert, just a line in answer to your most welcome letter. Thanks for the address, G Garwood got wounded  in the leg. We were in the big battle, I saw plenty of sights i will never forget. Write more next time.  Jim

There’s a note on front with the place name removed. More than likely by the officer that signed it (who looks like E. Chandler?)

Post from Overseas Postings

While overprinted stamps are very popular, it’s quite rare to find any relating to military campaigns so these examples are a real find.

In most cases, soldiers used the free ‘on active service’ system which supplied free envelopes. Or they might simply write ‘OAS’ on the cover. However, as with the examples here, some members of the armed forces bought stamps which were overprinted to show their military designation.

These examples are from the North African campaign in Tunisia and Libya. The overprinted BA stands for ‘British Army’, MEF is ‘Middle East Forces’ and MAL is ‘Military Administration Lira’, the currency surcharge. The two postage due stamps indicated that the recipient had to pay an excess before their mail would be handed over.


Bonds formed in war have proved to be some of the most profound and enduring friendships in the world. It was exactly this which prompted Charles Evenden to found the Memorable Order of Tin Hats in South Africa in 1927.

With his supreme belief in the power of friendship, ‘Evo’ established local clubs, known as ‘shellholes’ all over the country. Within a year, the idea spread to the UK where the first shellhole popped up in Reading. The charitable works undertaken by its members, many of them disabled through their war service, was a real boon to the local communities and MOTH was organised along military lines for maximum efficiency. It will no doubt hit the news once more when it celebrates its centenary – a fitting illustration of the ties which bind all comrades in arms.

This cap badge features a candle on tin helmet and is surrounded by stars with inverted crossed rifles. The four arms refer to the principles and title of the war veterans groups: SM [ sound memory ], MH [ mutual help ], TC [ true comradeship ] and MOTH. 

Canadian Patches

At first glance the pairing of both the USA and Canada on these Royal Air Force shoulder patches seems odd. When we discover that they were worn by Americans in the RAF before the USA became a military ally, it all starts to make sense. The earlier, more rounded pair feature a distinctly more American eagle while later versions were more clearly derived from the RAF bird.

Under the rules of the Commonwealth air crew, other nationality titles were often worn. The patches below were made in Canada but worn under the empire training scheme.