Collecting Interests

It is possible to have a wide-ranging general collection with one or two items illustrating all the varying aspects of the War; with this you will be able to give an interesting display to local philatelic societies.

But you may soon begin to wonder whether, for instance, a couple of prisoner of war covers are enough; you may feel you should have an example from each country or even from each camp where prisoners were held. Then perhaps you have two or three Army or Field Post Office marks; what about looking for one of each number? But there are over 50 FPO numbers. You may well feel that a general collection is no longer possible. Perhaps it is time to limit yourself to one particular field.

These are some of the possibilities (articles on them may be found in the Anglo-Boer War Philatelist):


From late in 1899 to May 1900 Boer Commandos occupied northern Natal, a stretch of eastern Cape Colony around Colesberg and, further west, the country around Mafeking, Vryburg and Kimberley. Postmarks of Vryburg, Colesberg, Dundee or Newcastle etc., with ‘C.G.H’ or ‘Natal’ excised, may be found; also ‘Hoofdlaager’ marks, ‘Commando Brief’ adhesives and temporary local handstamps.


In the early months of the War many British soldiers (including Winston Churchill) were captured and held in Pretoria; and later at Waterval, Nooitgedacht and Barberton.

So long as Boer prisoners were comparatively few, they were held at Cape Town, Simonstown and in Natal. After 4000 were captured in February 1900 it was decided to send them overseas for fear that Dutch sympathisers in the two colonies might rise in rebellion and set them free. Two camps were set up on St.Helena; as these filled, further camps were opened in Ceylon, India and Bermuda. There were also two internment camps in Portugal!


These camps began to be set up late in 1900. Not all these camps had their own identifiable marks; but there are some nice examples; often the address (or the sender’s address) is the only clue. Possible combinations of inter-camp mail (including PoW camps) are numerous and are keenly sought after. Mail to and from Native Camps is scarcer: it is limited largely to officials, since the inmates and their potential correspondents were almost all illiterate.


Volunteers from Canada, New Zealand and most of the Australian States came to support Britain. Mail to and from these contingents is very desirable, and proportionately expensive.


Pietersburg siege stampBesides the 3 well-known sieges (Kimberley, Ladysmith and Mafeking) several other towns were briefly cut off (Rustenburg, Schweizer Reneke, Vryburg, Wolmaransstad) and local stocks of stamps were overprinted – sometimes with dubious authority.

The Boers in the field in Northern Transvaal officially printed some primitive-looking stamps, which were validated by the Pietersburg postmaster’s initials.


Handstamps were issued for Base Offices, Field Post Offices, Stationary Post Offices and Travelling Post Offices on various railway lines. There are some 60 numbered FPOs and several without numbers; APOs for named towns (either circular or octagonal marks); large rubber APO marks; and some unusual Natal Field Force ‘corks’.


The first recorded censorship dates from Oct 10 1899 (the day before war was declared) in Pretoria. British censorship began at Durban, recorded from Oct 12 1899, for mail to and from the Republics via Lorenço Marques. Further censorship developed for PoW mail in Cape and Natal; for all mail in British-occupied parts of the Republics; and by late 1900 in many parts of Cape Colony. The variety of seals and handstamps is enormous.

OTHER AREAS of collection and study include:

Medical and Welfare Services

Army Telegraph Cancellations

Shipping: Transports, Prisoner of War and Hospital Ships

Mail and Marks of Individual Towns, especially those affected by military advances or guerrilla activity

Postal Rates and Tax Marks