Prisoners of War 1914-1918 : Download original documents


 TheRuhleben Camp Post Office

 


This photograph shows some of the inmates at Ruhleben queueing outside the camp Parcel Post Office.

In July 1915, the German authorities allowed the residents of Ruhleben to start a 'Internal Postal Service' with stamps, letter-cards and postal stationery. Run by the internees, the service was quite distinct from the official camp mail service found there and at other POW camps.




Mr. Albert Kamp started the 'Ruhleben Express Delivery' (R.X.D.) on 19th July 1915, when he issued the first postage stamp. Albert's brother was in charge of the production of stamps and various items of postal stationery, including orders from various camp organisations and societies. Around 6,000 items of mail were handled each month. Most of it was postal stationery. The rate for letters and cards was one third of a penny (up to 50 grams) and half a penny above 50 grams.

 

Posting mail

This postcard - produced in the camp - was drawn by W. Powell and depicted a scene 'IN THE PASSAGE' An internee can be seen about to put a card into a postbox marked 'P.C', which is on the left of one marked 'Letters Only'.


 

 

Internal postal service stamps

Here is a selection of two-colour stamps. The two at the bottom are a postage 'DUE' and a 'ON SERVICE' over-print respectively. The stamps were hand-made with rubber dies pressed onto pre-gummed paper. When dry they were perforated. Because the Ruhleben stamps, covers and postal stationery became greatly sought after by collectors, forgers were only to happy to fulfill their needs and many such items came onto the market. 


 

 


The RXB postage stamps

The Ruhleben stamps were usually cancelled with an open three-line date stamp.The above cover, bearing four stamps and addressed to 'Mr. Perkins, Barracke V, Box 17', caught the 4.15 p.m. post on 15th October 1915. Perkins would have received the letter within an hour. However, it is possible that this item could have been made up as a souvenir or was even one of those fakes mentioned earlier, as the  number of stamps on it is excessive. One third of a penny (the stamp on the extreme left) would have been sufficient to send it on its way through the R.X.D. system.


A protest by stamp collectors

The R.X.D. enterprise was not to last long. In October 1915, a stamp magazine which was published in Berlin, carried an article about the private Ruhleben camp postal system and some of it's readers complained to the authorities about the use of the semi-official stamps.

 On 3rd April 1916, the Germans closed down the internal postal service. Even though the commandant at Ruhleben had approved the setting up of the Ruhleben Express Delivery service, Mr. Kamps was sentenced to a period of solitary confinement. The remaining stock of stamps and stationery was sized and most of it destroyed. 

On the left, is the offending page which upset a number of readers of the Berliner Briefmarken-Zeitung, (dated 30th October 1915) and caused the German authorities to shut down the Ruhleben R.X.D. postal service.


A stamp-less postal service replaced the R.X.D. but never became popular.



 

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