Philately from Australia, September 1959
Organisation of Postal Services in the New Hebrides by the New Caledonian Post Office, - by Hamilton Croaker

Links & More

more to come.......

I have lately been able to examine the full text of all decrees relating to postal matters in New Caledonia from 1901 until 1908.

By a decree of 20 March 1903 it was arranged that a postal agent would be on board the boat from New Caledonia calling at ports of the New Hebrides, to accept and deliver letters and to give a postal service. He was to have postage stamps for sale and was to be supplied with postmarks and other equipment.

By a decree of 14 December 1904 a post office was established at Port Vila, New Hebrides.

By a decree of 24 March 1906 the policy was announced of establishing post offices in the New Hebrides, other than that at Port Vila.

No subsequent decree appears to have been issued actually opening further post offices. In 1908 the postal affairs of the New Hebrides were taken over by the Condominium and the fact that this was pending may have prevented the 1906 decree from being put into operation.

A list of post offices open occurs in one of the official annual publications of New Caledonia during the early years of the twentieth century, In 1904 the following note appears after the list:


Nota - Un agent embarqué assure
          le service postal avec
          les Nouvelles-Hebrides.

This note appeared after the list of post offices also in 1905, 1906, 1907 and 1908.

However, in 1906, for the first time, the list of post offices included Port Vila (Nouvelles-Hebrides). It was also included in 1907 and 1908.

Port Sandwich does not appear in the lists of post offices. However, datestamps were used reading Port Vila and Pt. Sandwich.

The reasonable deduction from the above seems to me to be that a postal agent was on board ships from New Caledonia to the New Hebrides, supplying a postal service at the ports. He was supplied with date-stamps for Port Vila and Port Sandwich, with which he postmarked letters handed to him at the respective ports, until 1904.

In the year 1904 a land post office was established at Port Vila but the postal agent continued to act as before at Port Sandwich.

It appears also that no further post offices on land were opened in the New Hebrides, in spite of the decree of 1906 foreshadowing them.

In 1908 the postal matters of the New Hebrides became the responsibility of the Condominium authorities. The post office at Port Vila continued to use the same date-stamp as had been in use under New Caledonia as well as one with English wording. Also the Port Sandwich date-stamp continued in use for a short time. Whether this was used at a land post office opened by the Condominium authorities or by "an agent on board" abut under the Condominium post loffice, I have not been able to determine from official sources. I suspect that the latter was the case, as overprinted stamps of the Condominium postmarked Pt. Sandwich are very rare and the date-stamp was certainly not in use for very lang. Also, and most important, I think, was the fact that no subsequent types of date-stamps were issued for Port Sandwich and there was never one with English wording. Had there been a land post office at Port Sandwich I feel sure that the British half of the Condominium would have demanded such a date-stamp to be used side by side with the French one!

The above facts are of great interest because they mean that all New Caledonian adhesives with the Port Vila cancellation dated prior to 1904 and the Pt. Sandwich cancellation throughout, are really ship cancellations, bur the New Caledonian adhesives on which they appear were used abroad in the New Hebrides.

It should be noted that the same cancellation of Port Vila may be found on New Caledonian adhesives but dated after the Condominium. These were arrival marks, put on at the first port of call, and so also were from ship letters. However, such New Caledonian adhesives were not used abroad in the New Hebrides.

The Pt. Sandwich date-stamp was also used with dates after the Condominium for the less legitimate purpose of cancelling, by favour. the French local adhesives.

to top