Today in Postal History


Mesopotamia I.E.F.
May 10, 1919

This cover has all the marks of a favor cancellation for someone in the unit.
The Indian Expeditionary Force (I.E.F.) was sent to the Middle East early in World War I.
The I.E.F. D took Basra, Mesopotamia, in November, 1914.*

At the time this letter was sent, a portion of the force was still in what was then known as Mesopotamia.
This particular cover was postmarked at F.P.O. (Field Post Office) No. 329 with five CDS.
Can someone confirm that the location of that F.P.O. in May, 1919, was Basra?
The sender used an official oversize O. H. M. S. envelope.

The cover was addressed to the Embarkation Officer at Margil, Mesopotamia.
Margil is the port and a modern residential area of Basra.
Note that there is a receiver on the back for F.P.O. NO. 329 3RD OFFICE on May 10.

The cover is franked with 1914 I. E. F. overprints of Indian stamps.
There is a 12a. claret, a 4a. olive green, a 2s. 6p. ultramarine, a 1a. carmine,
a Ża. yellow green, and a 3p. slate gray (SG E12, E8, E6, E4, E2, and E1).
There are also two 1918 Iraq under British Occupation issues
overprinted on Turkish stamps at the very left and right.
There is a Ża. on 10pa. green and a 1a. on 20pa. red (SG 2 and 3).

*Mauro Mowszowicz provided these notes on the World War I history of Mesopotamia and the I.E.F. D:

"On 5 November 1914, three months after the outbreak of the First World War in Europe, Britain officially declared war on Germany’s Eastern ally, Turkey. On 22 November a British Indian army, known as Indian Expeditionary Force "D" (IEFD), occupied Basra, where a local British administration was immediately set up under the leadership of Sir Percy Cox as Chief Political Officer. While the British Indian military forces advanced slowly up river towards Baghdad and then remained bogged down in the famous five-month siege at Kut, Cox and a small team of officials set about creating a civilian government which would ultimately be extended to all the former territories of Ottoman Turkish Arabia. Among those recruited for the work were Arnold Wilson and Reader Bullard, as well as the more well-known travellers and ‘Orientalists’ of the period, including T.E.Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Harry St.John Philby. While political officers such as Bullard and Wilson were sent out to run regional administrations, Bell and her colleagues worked under the auspices of the Arab Bureau’s Eastern Branch at Basra, preparing detailed intelligence reports on local personalities, tribes and political affiliations. When Baghdad was finally captured in March 1917 Cox, now promoted to the post of Civil Commissioner in Mesopotamia, appointed Gertrude Bell as his ‘Oriental Secretary’, the key intelligence post in the administration.

"During the years of gradually expanding British occupation from 1914-1921 the former Ottoman territories, known before the war as Turkish Arabia, referred to during the war as Mesopotamia, and subsequently renamed as the modern state of Iraq, were the subject of enormous interest to officials in London. Information gathering was an essential tool in imperial rule and in Mesopotamia the need for intelligence was intensified by the requirements of war and the military campaign. By 1918 British government files were full of wide-ranging factual material on the area and after the end of the war this was supplemented by lengthy discussions on the future government of the new state. In August 1921 Faysal bin Husayn was enthroned in Baghdad. The style and details of his administration, however, had already been laid down in the seven years preceding his accession."


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