Censored and Military Postal History

World War II - Press Censorship - United Kingdom

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In World War II, 1939-1945, Britain was very concerned about journalist's copy and photographs that were mailed from Great Britain to foreign countries. According to a report on British Censorship, that I discovered (and had declassified) in the National Archives, Washington, D.C., written by Major Hugh E. Alford, M.I., Assistant to William Preston Corderman, U.S. Chief Postal Censor, it states that the Press Section's function was to censor, "All letters to or from newspapers, periodicals, magazines, trade journals, scientific journals, booksellers, publishers, writers, authors, journalists, libraries, book clubs, news services (e.g. Reuter's) and literary agencies." Research shows that virtually any correspondence to or from publishers of all kind was dealt with by the Press Section, more usually known as the Press & Censorship Bureau. Most of these items are addressed from Britain to U.S.A. but a few transit items and other destinations are known to exist.

United Kingdom

Express airmail 3.5 oz. preprinted NEWS PHOTOS cover from London to New York, franked 9/3: paying 7 x 0.5 oz. @ 1/3 per 0.5 oz. "All-Up" airmail rate plus 6d Express Fee. Undated 'LONDON /F.S' (Foreign Section) cancel as frequently used on Press mail is tying the orange 'EXAMINED / BY CENSOR' label of the P.&C.B., Press & Censorship Bureau, clearly indicating censorship prior to postal cancellation. Cover is superscribed with purple handstamp 'AIRMAIL SPECIAL DELIVERY' and in manuscript 'CAN BE / OPENED / FOR / POSTAL / INSPECTION'. Also U.S. Customs Clearance cachet on front.

United Kingdom


Paid at surface rate from Londonderry,
'17 Jan 1940' to New York.

Prior to the Ministry of Information taking over responsibility for censorship from the War Office, the red/white PC.22 'OPENED BY / CENSOR' label was used and as is normal a censor number, 237, is applied in blue crayon.

The orange P&CB 'EXAMINED / BY CENSOR' label was used for the rest of the war.

United Kingdom


1941 airmail rated cover paid 1/3 for North Atlantic Airmail Service from London FS (Foreign Section) to Chicago.

The large oval double ringed censor mark

    -2 APR 1941
    * BUREAU *'

usually in purple is one of the scarcest British censor markings.

United Kingdom


Polish language cover from Bolton, Lancs '15 DE 40' to New York rated 1/3 for airmail service on 'Winter Route' of North Atlantic Airmail Service.

Censor number applied to P&CB label by censor 208.

A small number of labels are known without the letters P&CB at the bottom right of label.

United Kingdom


Many Press covers are undated during this period but as most emanate from the British capital city, they have a LONDON or LONDON FS handstamp cancelling the stamps.

Like the censor labels there is a censor number in crayon, 309, accompanying these markings and most items are rated for airmail due to the nature of the enclosures.

This marking reads 'POSTAL SUB-SECTION' on the 3rd line. A similar boxed and unboxed mark is also known where the 3rd line reads 'POSTAL SECTION' but none of the text is underlined.

Updated: 4 February 1999
Copyright © 1999 Karl Winkelmann