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