Interim Period I

FREE Civilian Mail

Starting in November 1917, civilians were permitted free use of the military post offices until the new stamps were available. When the new stamps arrived in February 1918, the supply was limited and they were made available only to three military post offices:  Jaffa, Jerusalem and Headquarters FPO GMI. As a result, the stamps were not sold to the public. The military post offices in occupied Palestine accepted letters from civilians and collected the postage, usually noting in pencil on the cover 1PT, or 1/2PT (the amount collected), and applied their MPO cancellation to the cover. This mail was then forwarded to one of the post offices that had stamps, where the postage was affixed and their MPO cancel was applied.  By the end of October 1918, most post offices had stamps for sale to the public and this practice ended.

The earliest free covers reported are one from FPO HM mailed on November 20, 1917, and second mailed at the same office two days later. The third reported usage are several covers canceled at APO SZ44 on December 17, 1917, the day after the post office opened in Jerusalem.


The Israel Philatelist

The earliest free covers reported are one from FPO HM mailed on November 20, 1917 and another mailed at the same office two days later. The next reported usage is several covers canceled APO SZ44 on December 17, 1917, the day after the post office opened in Jerusalem (Figure 2).

Figure 1 shows the front of a cover posted at APO SZ 44 the Army Post Office of Jerusalem on January 24, 1918. At that time no stamps were available in Palestine, so the cover was accepted free and properly postmarked as if it would have been franked with postage stamps.* The sender was Mr. Karnik Bodourian Armenian Convent, Jerusalem and the letter was addressed to: Conseil d’ Administration Central de l’Union Generale Armenienne, 2 Rue Cheri£, Boîte Post-ale No. 1079, Le Caire, Egypte.
The cover shows the censorship marking “PASSED/CENSOR/6” in a box and upon arrival at Cairo was evidently submitted to superiors for a decision on the franking. The cover shows on the top left a manuscript marking in red “5C/m / APER-CEVOIR-TO COLECT 5 Centimes” and below it an initial. In compliance with this instruction, a 5 milliemes Egyptian sphinx stamp was affixed to cover the inland postage rate and duly canceled “DELIVERY/ CAIRO/ 5 FE 18. 13 DA”. This establishes clearly an official instruction as to the handling of mail arriving from Palestine without franking.** (Ed. note: **The evidence of one cover cannot be accepted as a clearly established official policy Rather it would indicate one method of handling such mail.)


The Israel Philatelist, 1974, Volume 25, Issue 3-4, Page 25 (492).

Figure 2 shows another civilian letter from the interim period. Mailed by Clark’s Tours from Jerusalem through APO SZ 44 on 24 December 1917, it passed it was censored and was re-sealed with ‘Opened by Censor” labels. Apparently no postage due charges were charged on the letter’s arrival at New York.


 The Israel Philatelist, 1976, Volume 27, Issue 1-2, Page 7.

Figure 4, a civilian cover to Cairo mailed in Jerusalem on 12 February 1918 shows that the concessionary period for local mail and letters to Egypt extended beyond 10 February 1918 when the first 1 piastre tamps were on sale but the 5 milliemes stamp was not yet available.


The Israel Philatelist, 1976, Volume 27, Issue 1-2, Page 7.

Postage Due Cover

A stampless cover sent from Jerusalem to “Carmel Oriental” Alexandria via APO SZ 44.

It was mailed before the 1st Palestine stamps were issued.

The cover was assessed postage due in Egypt even though no postage was payable on civilian correspondence. The Egyptian postage due stamp was added and cancelled, 1/14/1918.

On the bottom front is the hand stamped mark of expert H. Munz.

First Interim Period Postage Due Cover

The Israel Philatelist, 2004, Volume 55, Issue 4, Page 43.

I would like to supplement the pool of recorded covers with a cover I recently acquired. Firebrace records that 4 pieces were dispatched postage free from Jerusalem (A.P.O. SZ44) to Switzerland between December 21, 1917, and January 22, 1918, and marked postage due. The postage due charged on the four pieces was respectively 20, 30, 50 and 50 centimes. The cover I acquired (Figure 1) was sent from Jerusalem to Bern, Switzerland and is dated February 4, 1918. The free franking was not recognized in Switzerland so 50 centimes were charged as reflected by the “50” handwritten notation and the postmark dated March 18, 1918. The cover was also censored in Great Britain as indicated by the triangular censor mark and the censor tape and suggests the name of the censor is Hodgkinson. The back of the cover (Figure 2) bears the name and address of the sender and has a Bern receiving postmark. Firebrace did note that another cover was sent from APO SZ44 in Jerusalem to Switzerland on February 9, 1918, but it was marked for postage due in Great Britain (and not in Switzerland) on May 23, 1918, with an arrival in Geneva on May 26, 1918. In total, therefore, 7 First Interim covers to Switzerland have now been reported – 1 without postage due in December 1917 and 6 marked with postage due (5 Swiss and 1 Great Britain) ranging in postmarked dates from December 21, 1917, to February 9, 1918.

First Interim Civilian Cover, Palestine to Switzerland

The Israel Philatelist, October 2012, page 10; Volume 63, No. 5, Page 10.