Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canadian Navy Mail During the Centennial Period

The Canadian Navy came into existence on May 4, 1910, pursuant to the Naval Service Act. In 1968, the Canadian Navy was merged with the Canadian army and air force to create the Canadian Armed Forces, later the Canadian Forces. The maritime component was named Maritime Command replacing the title Royal Canadian Navy.

This post deals with how Navy mail was handled during the Centennial period. As was the case with my article dealing with Centennial Period Commemorative Issues (Tuesday, June 29, 2010) the content of this post is a Postal History-Philatelic fusion, organized as follows:

1. Home Ports
2. Naval Reserve Units
3. Ships at Sea
4. Souvenir Mail

1. Home Ports

In the home ports of Halifax and Victoria, naval personnel made use of the Fleet Mail Office (FMO) for postal service. After unification, the Fleet Mail Offices was renamed the Forces Mail Offices.

a) Halifax

i) FMO

Fleet Mail Office Halifax, September 6, 1967

Forces Mail Office Halifax, May 4, 1972

Forces Mail Office Halifax registration, April 25, 1975
(8 cent Centennial stationery had not yet been replaced)

Forces Mail Office circular date stamp with postal code

FMO Halifax registration handstamp

ii) Naval Barracks

HMCS Stadacona was the naval barracks located at the Halifax naval base:

HMCS Stadacona wardroom meter, December 21, 1970

b) Victoria

FMO Victoria was located at HMC Dockyard, Victoria. In 1970 there were 12 personnel consisting of one captain and 11 non-commissioned officers.

Forces Mail Office Victoria, April 27 1970

2. Naval Reserve Units

Canada’s Naval Reserve was created in 1923. Naval Reservists are individuals engaged in their civilian lives while pursuing a military career, serving on a part time basis.

HMCS York is a Naval Reserve unit located in Toronto. It serves as a training unit to 200 full-time and part-time naval personnel.

3. Ships at Sea

Canadian ships at sea did not cancel mail posted on board the ship (HMCS Bonaventure was an exception). When the ship was in a foreign port, a mail orderly brought and picked up sealed bags of mail at the local post office or at the Canadian embassy or consulate. (Bailey and Toop at page 56 of The Canadian Military Posts Volume 3)

Naval Mail Cachets

Ship mail was identified by the use of numbered circular naval mail cachets

HMCS Cape Scott

HMCS Cape Scott was a Cape-class escort maintenance ship. She was built for thre Royal Navy as HMS Beachy Head in 1944. She was loaned to the Royal Netherlands Navy in 1947 as HNLMS Vulkaan and returned to the Royal Navy in 1950. She was sold to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1952 and served until 1975.

Royal Canadian Navy Mail cachet #33 was assigned to HMCS Cape Scott
Letter sent from HMCS Cape Scott to Montreal.
The letter was posted on board ship February 5, 1968 and entered the Canadian mail stream at Montreal on February 6, 1968

Two ring naval mail cachet

HMCS Kootenay : Great Lakes

Royal Canadian Navy Mail cachet #46 assigned to HMCS Kootenay
Letter from HMCS Kootenay , August 4, 1967, entered the mail stream at Parry Sound Ontario

HMCS Algonquin : Puerto Rico

Royal Canadian Navy Mail cachet #10 was assigned to HMCS Algonquin
Post card sent from HMCS Algonquin in port at Puerto Rico to Sherbrooke
The card was posted on board ship March 31, 1968 and entered the Canadian mail stream at Montreal (Airport Mail Facility) on April 2, 1968

The crewman writes that there are beautiful beaches. The weather is lovely with temperatures from 90 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

HMCS Haida : Nicaragua

Royal Canadian Navy Mail cachet #62 was assigned to HMCS Haida
Post card sent from HMCS Haida in port at Corinto, Nicaragua to Stayner, Ontario
The card was posted on board ship May 8, 1970 and entered the Canadian mail stream at Vancouver on May 13, 1970

HMCS Qu'appelle

After 1970, "CF" (Canadian Forces) cachets were issued.

CF52 cachet was assigned to HMCS Qu'Appelle
Letter posted on board ship December 10, 1974 and entered the Canadian mail stream at Vancouver on December 16, 1974

Handstamped on back of envelope

HMCS Bonaventure

HMCS Bonaventure was a Majestic Class aircraft carrier that served from 1957 to 1970. She was Canada's third and last aircraft carrier.

Mail posted on board the HMCS Bonaventure when at sea received the CFPO-26 cancellation:

CFPO 26 to Ottawa September 27 1968

HMCS Bonaventure's Last Mission

The Bonaventure was scrapped in July, 1970. Her last mission involved the transport of returning Army equipment to Canada after the major land forces Exercise Arctic Express in Northern Norway. The Bonaventure was not involved in the naval exercises Arctic Ice.

CFPO 26 (HMCS Bonaventure), April 24, 1970

Comanding Officer, HMCS Bonaventure
April 20, 1970


The HMCS Bonaventure was decommissioned on July 3, 1970.

Publicity cover mailed June 30, 1970
Large CFPO 26 cancel


Halifax July 4, 1970
Souvenir cover cancelled the day after decommissioning because of rotating postal strike

Instructional handstamp regarding postal strike

4. Souvenir Mail

a) Kiel Week Regatta ( Kiel Germany)

The Kieler Woche regatta is the largest sailing event in the world. HMCS Pickle, the Canadian Navy's training sailing vessel participated in the 1970 regatta.

HMCS Pickle was built as the German yacht Helgoland in 1936, and turned over to Canada in 1953. She served from 1953 to 1979,

b) Norfolk Naval Station, Norfolk, Virginia

When naval ships made port calls at the Norfolk Naval Station "Welcome to Norfolk" covers were produced as souvenirs. An example of such a cover made when the HMCS Lauzon visited Norfolk in 1954 is shown below:

"Welcome to Norfolk" covers had three elements:
i) Visiting ship cachet
ii) Printed cachet
iii) U.S. Ship cancel

i) Ship cachet

Personnel from a visiting ship would be asked if envelopes could be stamped with the ship's cachet:

ii) Printed cachet

Cachets identifying the class of vessel or the name of the vessel and its mission were printed in the upper left hand corner of the envelope.

iii) US ship cancel

The covers were taken to a US naval vessel in port for cancellation and entry into the mail stream.

The HMCS Lauzon cover was brought to the USS Allen M. Sumner

This commercial service was made available to collectors who sent stamped addressed envelopes along with a small fee for each cover serviced. Collectors never knew from which visiting ship they would receive covers. Welcome to Norfolk covers were produced into the 1980s. The covers below are souvenirs of Canadian ships visiting Norfolk during the Centennial period

HMCS Annapolis

HMCS Assiniboine

HMCS Gatineau

HMCS Margaree

HMCS Nipigon

HMCS Ojibwa

HMCS Ottawa

HMCS Provider

HMCS Saguenay

HMCS Skeena

HMCS St. Laurent

HMCS Terra Nova

b) Souvenir Mail From British Ports

HMCS Bonaventure

HMCS St. Laurent visit to Liverpool, October 13, 1970

Royal Canadian Navy Mail 48 handstamp
HMSC St. Laurent