Today in Postal History



Newfoundland to England
July 26, 1933

This airmail cover was flown from St. John's on the return Transatlantic
flight of the Italian Air Armada of General Italo Balbo
after a triumphal visit to the Chicago's Worlds Fair.

There is a clear single-rim St. John's CDS for July 26 marking the scheduled arrival.*
The planes in the squadron were seaplanes and the arrival was at Shoal Harbor.

Mail intended for the flight was gathered in the St. John's GPO on the 25th
and postmarked that afternoon for the expected arrival the next day.
On the 26th most of the Newfoundland government officials took the train along
with the mail to Shoal Harbor to greet and congratulate Italo Balbo.

Most St. John's mail also received a transit mark of July 27.
A few were given a transit mark of July 28.
Mail added in Shoal Harbor was also cancelled the 27th.

Covers for the flight were serialized and handled by the registry divisions en route.
This cover was number 1451 and received an incomplete blue pencilled registry cross.
This registry service probably occurred on July 28th, anticipating a departure on July 29th.

The northern route through Iceland and Ireland was the initial plan, however,
changes made resulted in rerouting to the southern route via the Azores.
The departure was 
delayed until August 8th.

During the delay the Armada was visited by two Italian submarines and
a surface vessel, Alice (referred to in some accounts as a "navy yacht").
Actually, these were part of a number of vessels comprising the surface support for the Armada.
This surface fleet provided communications, meteorological data, and rescue services.
The meteorological service aboard Alice appears to have been instrumental
in the decision to change to the southern route.

A circular cachet illustrating the squadron's flight back to Italy was added after arrival in Italy.
The cachet is inscribed CROCIERA AEREA DEL DECENNALE which translates to
Aerial Cruise of the Decennal One which I believe
was a reference to the first ten years of Fascist administration of Italy.

The covers were backstamped upon arrival in Rome on August 12-15.
This cover was forwarded to London.

The stamp is a special airmail stamp issued by Newfoundland just for the flight.
The 75c. gold airmail stamp of 1933 (Scott C17) was surcharged $4.50 for the flight (Scott C18).
The reason for the high value is that General Balbo would not carry any covers
for less than $3.75 per half ounce.  Newfoundland added 75 to cover the
foreign airmail rate to any other destination than Canada, U.S.A., or Great Britain.

More can be found about the Newfoundland stopover of the Italian Air Armada here starting on page 3.

The cover has a blue bilingual airmail etiquette.

*I am indebted to Jean-Claude Vasseur, a student of the
Balbo Air Armada flight, for m
uch of the material in this note.

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