Censored and Military Postal History

World War II - Civil Censorship - Netherlands (Dutch) East Indies

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Although the Dutch East Indies was originally neutral, the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, and the progress of the war in Europe and Asia, had enormous effect on the airmail connections to and from the former Dutch territory. Under pressure of the war situation the airmail routes were altered and the Postal Authorities needed to react quickly to these events. The public had to be advised of the new routes and changed airmail rates.


1. - The Curtailed KLM Dutch East Indies Route

As neither Germany nor France allowed overflying of their territory after the outbreak of World War II, KLM was forced to terminate its Bandoeng to Amsterdam Route at Naples from 5 September 1939. Mail arriving in Naples was forwarded to Amsterdam by train, with mail for the UK and the USA being flown to Shorham for onward (air) transmission. After the German invasion of the Netherlands, the train connection between Amsterdam and Naples was suspended. When Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940, Naples became unusable and the new terminus was Lydda. On 22 July 1940, a weekly service Bandoeng to Lydda commenced and was maintained until 9 February 1942.

2. - The Horseshoe Route

The air routes to England from Africa, the Far East and Australia all converged in Egypt before crossing the Mediterranean and then flying over Greece, Italy and France to the UK. With Italy in the war, the Mediterranean became a war zone, effectively closed to civil aircraft. On 19 June 1940, BOAC, in cooperation with Quantas, opened the Horseshoe Route, linking 16 countries between Durban in South Africa and Sydney in Australia with a weekly service both ways.

The Dutch East Indies Postal Authorities made regular use of this route. Mail arriving in Durban was dispatched to the UK and the USA by steamer. On 28 July 1940, TEAL opened a regular airmail service between Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand, thus connecting the Horseshoe Route with the PANAM trans-Pacific Clipper service (FAM-19) from Auckland to San Francisco.

3. - The PANAM trans-Pacific Clipper Routes

The Dutch East Indies Postal Authorities made extensive use of both the Northern (FAM-14) and the Southern (FAM-19) trans-Pacific services for mail to USA and Europe despite the higher airmail fees. Personal research has proven this after the extension of the Northern Clipper Route to Singapore on 10 May 1941, almost all Dutch East Indies mail was dispatched via this route. The KNILM route to Sydney was used mainly for mail to Australia and New Zealand. Following the Japanese attach on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, the trans-Pacific Clipper services were suspended and only the remaining possibility for airmail to the UK and the USA was the Horseshoe Route with its long transit times.

4. - The KNILM (connecting) Routes

KLM and KNILM, in close co-operation, carried mail on various routes to connect with the PANAM trans-Pacific services. Due to the fall of Singapore and the landing of Japanese troops in the Dutch East indies in February 1942 all civil airmail services, into and from the Dutch East Indies, were suspended.

1940, May 11

Airmail cover weighing 14grams (as indicated on reg label) carried to Saigon by KNILM, then Saigon - Hanoi - Hong Kong by AIR FRANCE, linking up with the PANAM Clipper to San Francisco.

Saigon and
Hong Kong

Saigon - 14 MAy 1940
Hong Kong - 15 May 1940
Honolulu - 27 May 1940
San Francisco - 29 May 1940

Transit time 18 days.


Foreign letter rate (20gr) 15cts
Registration Fee 20cts
Airmail Fee x3
(90cts per 5gr) 270cts
Total Due 305cts

1940, June 10

Airmail cover from Calgary, Canada to Toeloengagocna, DEI. Carried on PANAM's trans-Atlantic Clipper service (FAM-18) from New York to Lisbon for onward transmission to the U.K. by BOAC/KLM DC-3. Then by steamer to Durban to connect with the inaugural of the Horseshoe Route Durban-Sydney via Java on 19 June 1940.

CENSORED in London and Soerabaja.

RATED at 60 cents being double the Airmail rate to the Dutch East Indies via trans-Atlantic and Horseshoe Route. Twice 30cents (Can) per half ounce = CAN $0.60.

1941, October 10

Airmail cover weighing 40grams carried from Batavia to Lydda by KLM, then by train to Cairo for onwards air-transmission to Durban via the Horseshoe Route.

Singapore: Brown tape on left tied by violet "PASSED BY / CENSOR 22 / A"
Cairo, Egypt: black machine "M" in circle and
South Africa: bilingual censor tape on right with red text.

Arrived in Durban 19 Oct. 1941
Transit time 20 days.


Foreign letter rate (20gr) 15cts
Airmail surcharge to Durban
4x (40cts per 5gr) 160cts
Total Due 175cts

1941, March 28

Registered airmail cover from Batavia to Australia by KNILM to Sydney and TEAL Sydney-Auckland linking up with the Clipper "California" for onwards air-transmission to California on PANAM's FAM-19 trans-Pacific Service.

Batavia, DEI: censor tape on left tied with "DEV./5" in circle.
"Ec. C." in circle.

Auckland - 13 April 1940
Honolulu - 14 April 1940
San Francisco - 16 April 1940
Glendale - 17 April 1940

Travel time - 20 days


Foreign letter rate (20gr) 15cts
Registration Fee 20cts
Airmail surcharge
2x (65cts per 5gr) 130cts
Total Due 165cts

One day after the return flight of the "CHINA CLIPPER" to San Francisco
on, 6 December 1941, the service was suspended due to the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941.

1941, November 13

Airmail cover carried on LAST PAN AM "CHINA" CLIPPER flight from San Francisco on 19 November 1941 arriving in Singapore on 29 November. It arrived in Batavia on Dec 4.

Singapore "E" and "25" in circle Batavia, DEI: boxed red "R.K." censor handstamp .


From 21 April 1937 until 18 December 1941 a PACIFIC RATE of 70 cents per 1/2 oz was levied on letters to the Netherlands East Indies.

1942, January 28

Airmail cover from Glion, Switzerland, via Lisbon to catch the PANAM trans-Atlantic Clipper service from Lisbon to New York and then to be forwarded to the Dutch East Indies via the PAN AM trans-Pacific Clipper service.

Due to the closure of the Pacific route following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, the cover could not be delivered. It was unable to travel by the Horseshoe route either, so was marked by the United States Post Office with the purple "SERVICE SUSPENDED / RETURN TO SENDER" cachet.



Foreign letter rate (20gr) .20 SFr
Airmail surcharge
via New York per 5gr) 2.10 SFr
Total Due 2.40 SFr

Thanks to Martinus Verkuil for generously sharing these fine illustrations with us.

Updated: 5 July 2000
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