Air Mail Across Indian Ocean, 1944-45

The route from New Zealand to the UK via Australia was re-opened for high priority air mail and forces airgraphs in July 1943 [1]. The mail was flown across the Indian Ocean between Perth and Lake Koggola, Colombo in a Catalina flying boat by Qantas. This service was kept secret.

In July 1944, the route was re-opened for civilian airmail letters, but the mail was sent from Perth to Ceylon by sea [1]. From August 1944, civilian air mail letter cards were accepted from New Zealand to the UK and were flown Perth - Ceylon using Liberator aircraft.

Air Mail Letter Cards Routed Across Indian Ocean

air letter card

From August 1944, civilian air mail letter cards were accepted to the UK. The route was trans Tasman by TEAL, Sydney - Perth and Perth - Ceylon by Qantas and Ceylon - UK by BOAC and so there was now an all air route from New Zealand to Britain.

This air letter card is dated 7 December 1944 and is addressed to North Wales. The censor number is D.D.A./106 which had been assigned to Auckland [2].

The rate for civilian air letter cards was 8d while forces air letter cards cost 6d. Although this air letter card has a civilian address it is only franked with 6d, but no postage due has been applied.

Correspondence about this route for air letter cards from R.A.F. personnel in June - August 1944 is given in [3]. It includes descriptions of the route by the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department and the Australian Department of Civil Aviation.

air letter card
Modified air letter cards, December 1944

In December 1944, the air mail letter cards were modified and now had the blue shading on the outside of the card rather than inside as previously.

This modified card is postmarked in Timaru on 13 February 1945 and was redirected 16 days later in London on 1 March. Again, although it has a civilian address and is only franked with 6d, there are no postage due markings.

air letter card

Although, the card was posted in Timaru, censor number D.D.A./37 according to [2] is a Wellington censor number.

air letter card
To Pay handstamp

On this card, the date of the postmark in Timaru is difficult to make out, but could be 27 March. It was redirected in London 18 days later on 14 April 1945.

It is addressed to the same person as the previous card and again is only franked with 6d.

air letter card

However, this time there is a To Pay 4d handstamp. The deficient postage was 2d and that was always doubled to determine how much had to be paid. As these two air letter cards are between the same two addresses and are only a month apart, the application of the To Pay seems rather inconsistent.

The censor number is D.D.A./248, a Christchurch censor number [2], which is what would be expected for a letter posted in Timaru.

Privately Manufactured Air Letter Cards

air letter card

In November 1945, the New Zealand Post Office approved John Dickenson & Co. to manufacture airmail letter cards [1]. Previously, they had always been produced officially. The inscription was now Air Mail Letter Form.

air letter card

This card is postmarked in New Zealand on 8 November and was addressed to a member of the armed forces and so is correctly franked with 6d. It has no censor markings.

It was redirected in the UK 9 days later at the New Zealand Army Base P.O. UK on 17 November 1945. The new route across the Indian Ocean was therefore able to provide a faster service than the pre-war Empire route via Singapore.

Re-introduction of 1s 6d Route to UK

1s 6d

The re-introduction of the air mail letter service via Australia at the 1s 6d rate was announced on 3 July 1944 and started on 15 July. Mail was sent by air to Sydney by TEAL and flown from there to Perth. It then went by sea to Ceylon and was flown from there to Britain.

With the introduction of this service, the 2s 6d and 3s 6d services from New Zealand to Britain (sea to USA or Panama and then by air) were cancelled.

This cover from New Zealand to Britain franked with 1s 6d is postmarked on 6 June 1945.

On 5 June, the New Zealand Post Office had prematurely announced that, from that date, air mail letters to Britain at the 1s 6d rate would be flown across the Indian Ocean. They had to withdraw that announcement later in June [5].


All scans were made by the author.
[1] Airmails of New Zealand, volume 3, R.M. Startup, 1997, Air Mail Society of New Zealand
[2] The Postal History of World War II Mail between New Zealand and Switzerland, R.M. Startup and C.J. LaBlonde, 2005.
[3] New Zealand Mail via the Indian Ocean Route during World War 2, R.M.Lee, The Mail Coach, vol 26 no 1, pp 11-16, October 1989.
[4] New Zealand Overseas Airmail Postage Rates, R.M. Startup, 2012, Air Mail Society of New Zealand
[5] Official Non-Secret Airmails on the Indian Ocean Air Route to the United Kingdom, B. Watson and R. Clark, The Kiwi, vol 65, no 6, pp 179-184, November 2016.