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Indian Postal History 1947-1997

1948 June 8, The Stamp That was Valid for a Specific Flight Only!

A special "AIR MAIL" postage stamp in 12 annas denomination was issued on 29th May 1948, to commemorate the 1st external air service commenced on 8th June 1948 from Bombay to London via Cairo (Egypt) and Geneva (Switzerland). The stamp bore the picture of constellation VT-CAP "Malabar Princess " used in this inaugural air service by the Air India international Ltd.

As these stamps are not intended for normal postal purposes except for use on the 1st Flight only, a limited quantity of this stamp was printed. These stamps were sold from 29th May 1948 to 8th June 1948 after which were withdrawn and were not used as normal Postage Stamps.

Special Counters, at under mentioned Head Post Offices were opened for the sale of this stamps, namely Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Ambala, Amritsar, Bangalore, Bombay, Calcutta, Cuttack, Darjeeling, Dehra Dun, Delhi, New Delhi, Jubbulpore, Kanpur, Lucknow, Madras, Madura, Mrerut, Mussoori, Nagpur, Nainital, Patna, Poona, Ranchi, Shillong, Simla, Srinagar and Vizagapatnum.

Purchasers of other places would obtain these stamps by registering their requirements with any of the above nearest HPO even before 29th May 1948. Arrangements were made for the supply of special designed First Flight Covers free of charge to the purchasers of this stamps.

First Flight Covers bearing this stamp should not be posted in the post office or street letter boxes but should be handed in, at the special counter in the above referred HPO or at the Philatelic Bureau at Bombay GPO.

All post offices were strictly instructed that covers bearing the new 12 annas Air Mail stamps and intended for conveyance by the First Flight, should not be cancelled by any post office other than the Philatelic Bureau, Bombay GPO, nor should any date stamp be impressed by any post office on these covers. Great care should be taken by all concerned to see that these Flight Covers do not get soiled in the course of their transmission to the Philatelic Bureau, Bombay GPO, where stamps borne by the covers will be cancelled by a special cancellation before their onward journey.

For wide publicity of this stamp, two postal notices were issued.

v Postal Notice No.10 dated 12th May 1948.

v Postal Notice No.15 dated 25th May 1948.

First Flight Cover Privately Printed posted on 8th June 1948 from Bombay to London.

It appears that at least 4 different Special Cancellations Dies were prepared from a Master Die. If a close look is given, one can find differences in the cancellation dies. The major difference is noticeable, when you compare the position of ?Y? of Bombay and ?I?of First. The other difference is clearly noticeable, if the tail of plane is compared.

This stamp created history and also many controversies. Late Jal Cooper in his editorial, which was published in August 1948 issue of "India's Stamp Journal", had stated that the Free First Day Covers were not available freely though the Department had announced that a Cover would be given free with purchase of each stamp. The second muddle was the issue of a single value of 12 annas, which didn?t make up the prevailing postage rates, viz. 10as for Cairo and 14as for Geneva. In case of Cairo, 2 as were over paid but for Geneva it was under paid by 2as. Many collectors didn?t put extra 2as stamp of cover though the cover was addressed to Geneva. It appears that the Department allowed without any postage due to fly covers to Geneva. That is why, we find covers to Geneva with only 12as Stamp.

The major muddle was experienced at London, where the Post Master General of London, flatly refused to put Receiving Post Mark on back side of letters received by the First Flight of Air India. The non-co-operation was further carried by refusing to accept mails, for the return flight, which took place on 11th June 1948. That is why Return Flight Covers are not found freely and easily. In my opinion, they are very very scarce because some covers were made privately by Late Jal cooper.

Bombay-London-Geneva First Flight Cover

Posted on 8th June 1948, reached Geneva on next day. Receiving Post Mark of Geneva on the reverse

London-Bombay Inaugural Return Flight

Registered cover posted on 12th June 1948 from Geneva, reached Bombay on 15th June 1948

Very rare known postal article

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