The Tourville "Airmail" 16 July 1929
Yes, the New Hebrides had Air Mail stamps too - but very rough and ready ones!
 

1925



There exist forgeries: Steel font and in oily black ink.


Maybe there had been administrative problems in Vila like in New Zealand, who knows.
Tourville in NZ
Click to close


Tourville & plane

The Tourville and the C.A.M.S. amphibian plane on the water

Tourville & plane

The FBA 17 on Tourville's catapult. Source UIM Marine



Here is some more info on the planes and the one (!) pilot. The quoted plane "F.B.E." was a "FBA 17 HL 2 n° 5" (Franco-British-Aviation)."
More about the planes
Click to close


This is a typical newspaper note in 1929.
1929 news
Click to close
Source:Trove Australia

List of officers of the Tourville. Some can be found as addressees on the letters.
List of officers
Click to close


Letter from the assistant Post Master re Tourville Air Mails.
Letter re NH Air Mail 1929

From "The Australian Air Mail Catalogue": Letter re NH Air Mail 1929: "The stamps were nerver used" cannot be correct. There are no isolated stamps with the AIR MAIL handstamp and the letters were cancelled on arrival in Nouméa on 20 July. So there were used. The question is how did they come to New Caledonia.

Letter re NH Air Mail 1929

The same catalogue says the covers were flown to Malekula and that on 18 July covers were flown in New Caledonia. So at least one plane was operational. The Tourville had no catapults in 1929, they were

bild

On the occasion of the French cruiser "Tourville" 's visit in Port Vila, some people there decided to produce the first New Hebridean mail despatched by air as the cruiser carried planes. One of them arrived at Port Vila on 15 July 1929. On 16 July about 800 covers with 1925 stamps were processed, the stamps on the letters being overprinted with a 36mm x 4mm "PAR AVION" rubber stamp. The Tourville proceeded to Nouméa, and the plane was used en route, landing at Norsup on the island of Malekula. The covers were backstamped in Nouméa on 20 July.
Considering the production process, no mint stamps with the overprint can exist.

This is the "as it was supposed to be" version!
 
The "as it really happened" version is revealed in "The Australian Air Mail Catalogue" based on a letter dated 30 September 1931 from the assistant postmaster in Vila in reply to a question of an Australian: he writes that the covers with the overprinted stamps were never used due to a breakdown of the plane. It is not clear to me if they weren't flown at all or if the plane made an (emergency?) landing at Norsup / Malekula with or without the covers. The planes were flying in mid June in Tahiti and later at end of July in New Zealand. All newspapers say that the Tourville arrived in New Zealand from the New Hebrides. But a contemporary book states clearly that New Caledonia was visited. It states that Tourville arrived in Nouméa on 17 July and left on 27 July.

 bild

16 July 1929

Coverfront of a Tourville cover sent to Nouméa with correct 50c. rate to NC. Madame Agez supposedly was the wife of Raymond Agez, a famous Nouméa radio operator who most surely was involved in the Tourville action. ("SeSi" coll.)

16 July 1929

A complete cover from this "Tourville" flight. The plane landed in Norsup, North Malekula on its way back to the Tourville which was on the way back to Nouméa. Of course the "Par Avion" overprint was unofficial. This cover is backstamped Nouméa, 20 July 1929. (Goron coll.)

16 July 1929

"Par Avion" letter to France, forwarded in Strasbourg. The British 2d and French 30c stamps cancelled with the correct PCH type 9A cancel. Frontstamped on arrival in Strasbourg on 29 August 1929. (Merot coll.)

16 July 1929

Another complete cover from this "Tourville" flight. The address "Rue Drouot" in Paris was that of Theodore Champion, who collaborated with Yvert & Tellier. of Amiens in the production of the famous French world stamp catalog. Backstamped Nouméa, 20 July 1929. (Mele coll.)

16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929

"Tourville" postcard to Noumea, a 20c stamp on the address side and a 30c on the picture side. (Merot (†) coll.)

16 July 1929

"Tourville" postcard to Noumea, a 20c stamp on the address side and a 30c on the picture side. (Merot (†) coll.)

16 July 1929

This "Tourville" cover thanks to Bertrand Sinais, 65th auction April 25, 2008, 7, rue de chateaudun, Paris. Sorry, no URL available. Picture shows only part of the letter. French 50c stamp with "PAR AVION" handstamp on a "Mère Marie Alexis" letter to France. Cancelled on transit Noumea 20.7. and Nantes 29.8.1929. ("RW" coll.)

16 July 1929
16 July 1929

Arrival cancel on reverse

This "Tourville" cover thanks to Bertrand Sinais, 65th auction April 25, 2008, 7, rue de chateaudun, Paris. Sorry, no URL available. Picture shows only part of the postcard. French 10c, 30c and 1f, British 2/- stamps with "PAR AVION" handstamp on on a postcard showing the cruiser Tourville, according to the description cancelled Vila (not the 1f and 30c). Arrival cds Noumea 20 July 29.

16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929

This "Tourville" cover thanks to "The Australian Air Mail Catalogue".

16 July 1929

This cover originated on the "Tourville" and was flown from the ship to Port Vila having been cancelled using the ship's standard cancel. At Port Vila it was franked with the British ½d and 1/- stamps which were then 'overprinted' with the locally made 'PAR AVION' rubber stamp. As the stamps were affixed top down, the left stamp got the overprint inverted, the right one correct.
Then the letter was processed like the other 'PAR AVION' letters. ("JGI" coll.)

16 July 1929

A similar cover first processed on the Tourville, date stamped with the ship's standard cancel CROISEUR TOURVILLE 14-7-29, with correct 50c. rate to NC and not overpaid like many others. ("SeSi" coll.)

16 July 1929

A complete cover from this "Tourville" flight. The plane landed in Norsup, North Malekula on its way back to the Tourville which was on the way back to Nouméa. Of course the "Par Avion" overprint was unofficial. This cover is backstamped Nouméa, 20 July 1929. (Goron coll.)

16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929

French 50c on a cover to Noumea; adressee a staff member of the Tourville. (millet coll.)

16 July 1929

 bild

 

Tourville Booklet


Thanks to "SeSi" I can present the pages of a small booklet here about the Tourville

 

Page 1

Page 1 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 2

Page 2 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 3

Page 3 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 4

Page 4 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 5

Page 5 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 6

Page 6 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 7

Page 7 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 8

Page 8 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 9

Page 9 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 10

Page 10 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 11

Page 11 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 12

Page 12 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 13

Page 13 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 14

Page 14 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 15

Page 15 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 16

Page 16 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 17

Page 17 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Page 18

Page 18 - TOURVILLE booklet.

Croiseur TOURVILLE

Postcard showing the Tourville. ("Sesi" coll.)

Croiseur TOURVILLE

Postcard showing the Tourville. ("Sesi" coll.)

Croiseur TOURVILLE

Postcard showing the Tourville. (ex Millet coll.)

Croiseur TOURVILLE

Le croiseur Tourville:
10 000 tons, length 191m,
speed 34 knots,
power 131800 hp,
8 75mm and 8 37mm guns,
6 torpedo launchers 550mm,
2 aircrafts, 605 seamen.
Data and picture thanks to "http://francois.delboca.free.fr/fstourvi.html" - Port de la Rochelle-Pallice

Croiseur TOURVILLE

 bild

16 July 1929

They handstamped what they could find in the Post Office: even the 1924 overprints are on this piece: the only ones known so far with the PAR AVION handstamp. Image thanks to Prestige Philately Australia.

16 July 1929

Mixed franking of both British and French issues bearing 5/- Britsh issue only 15 known. Backstamped on arrival in Nouméa on 20 July 1929. ("Mele" coll.)

16 July 1929

Probably a normal commercial letter in between all the special occasion Air Mails at this Tourville event. The normal use is circumstantiated by the fact that there exists another letter from the same sender to the same destiny. (See British covers of the 1925 issue in 1928). This cover is backstamped in Nouméa on 20 July 1929. ("JGI" coll.)

16 July 1929

Letter to a member of the cruiser Tourville in Nouméa. The mixed French and British postage is 1F 05c. (Klinger coll.)

16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929

"Hôpital Francais" cover to Saint Pierre, Ile d'Oleron, France. Mixed postage with the highest British value of the 1925 series, 5/- and a French 40c stamp. Backstamped Nouméa 20 July 1929 and Sait Pierre, Charente, 29 August 1929. (Klinger coll.)

16 July 1929

"Hôpital Francais" cover to France. English 6d and ½d postage. ("RW" coll.)

16 July 1929

Letter to a member of the cruiser Tourville in Nouméa. The mixed French and British postage is 3F 10c. (Klinger coll.)

16 July 1929

Four letters to Nouméa - all to the same addressee. The 1912 and 1925 French postage is 10F!
40F for four letters to Nouméa - quite a lot just for fun!
All backstamped Nouméa 20 Juil 29. Images thanks to Corinphila auction, May 2005.

16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929

6d, 30c &1F to Orly, France, backstamped Noumea 20 July and Orly 25 August.
Image thanks to Gaertner Auktionen, Germany

16 July 1929

50c to France, backstamped Noumea 20 July and Luneville 30 August 1929. (Millet coll.)

16 July 1929

7F15c (!!!) on a Tourville cover to Sydney.

16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929

Four letters to Nouméa - all to the same addressee. The 1912 and 1925 French postage is 10F!
40F for four letters to Nouméa - quite a lot just for fun!
All backstamped Nouméa 20 Juil 29. Images thanks to Corinphila auction, May 2005.

16 July 1929

Four letters to Nouméa - all to the same addressee. The 1912 and 1925 French postage is 10F!
40F for four letters to Nouméa - quite a lot just for fun!
All backstamped Nouméa 20 Juil 29. Images thanks to Corinphila auction, May 2005.

16 July 1929

Four letters to Nouméa - all to the same addressee. The 1912 and 1925 French postage is 10F!
40F for four letters to Nouméa - quite a lot just for fun!
All backstamped Nouméa 20 Juil 29. Images thanks to Corinphila auction, May 2005.

16 July 1929

Another cover from the Tourville Airmail event. This cover is backstamped on arrival in Nouméa on 20 July 1929. ("JGI" coll.)

16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929

Three letters to Sydney, all to the same addressee.
1.) The 1912 mixed French and British postage is 5! The handwriting seems to be an owner inscript!
2.) The 1912 French postage is 5F too.
3.) This one has a French 1912 postage of 5F too and there is a specialty on this cover: the top left and left two stamps have only one PAR AVION handstamp.
Images thanks to Corinphila auction, May 2005.

16 July 1929

Three letters to Sydney, all to the same addressee.
1.) The 1912 mixed French and British postage is 5! The handwriting seems to be an owner inscript!
2.) The 1912 French postage is 5F too.
3.) This one has a French 1912 postage of 5F too and there is a specialty on this cover: the top left and left two stamps have only one PAR AVION handstamp.
Images thanks to Corinphila auction, May 2005.

16 July 1929

Three letters to Sydney, all to the same addressee.
1.) The 1912 mixed French and British postage is 5! The handwriting seems to be an owner inscript!
2.) The 1912 French postage is 5F too.
3.) This one has a French 1912 postage of 5F too and there is a specialty on this cover: the top left and left two stamps have only one PAR AVION handstamp.
Images thanks to Corinphila auction, May 2005.

16 July 1929

Letter to a crew member of the Tourville. Imaage thanks to Philatel

article 2011

Article in "timbres magazin" Oct 2011

16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929
16 July 1929

 bild

 

According to the book "Croisière merveilleuse du "Tourville" autour du monde" by Marcel Le Braz (Paris, 1930) the Tourville entered Vila harbour on 10 July 1929 at 4 p.m. For four days there were festivities and on 14 July a reception on board. On the same day the covers must have been on board as two carry the TOURVILLE cancel. Braz writes "At midnight on 14 July arrangements for the Canal du Segond (Santo) and Norsup (Malekula)." He also shows a picture of the hydroplane FBA 17 HL off the ship at a beach. So it was in action. The bigger plane, the C.A.M.S. with a 450 h.p. Lorraine-Dietrich engine could start and land from either land and water whereas the smaller F.B.A. with a 180 h.p. Hispano-Suiza engine could take off and alight only on sea. The Tourville had one catapult.

So what do we know now about these AIR MAIL letters? A newspaper articles tells us that Tourville was first at Santo and then at Malekula. I have a copy of a document where somebody quotes the content of a Tourville letter: "....to go by Air Mail to Noumea tomorrow (17 July 1929)......". The Tourville left Vila in the night from 14th to 15th July. The covers are cancelled Vila 16 July. Tourville had a ship-based Post Office and normally they cancelled the stamps. This was not the case here so the covers were cancelled on Tourville before the stamps were affixed.
The distance Vila - Santo - Norsup - Noumea is about 1300 km and assuming that the Tourville did not travel with fuel consuming maximal speed but only with let's say 25 knots (46 km/h) this distance needs about 28 hours. Not much time left for the stops when Braz in his book is correct saying that Tourville arrived in Nouméa on 17th.
17 July was a Wednesday. If the Tourville met the plane on her way back from Norsup (Malekula) on 17th, took it on board with the mail or if she called at Port Vila again to get the mail and brought the covers to Nouméa on 17 or 18 July why was the mail not backstamped there before July 20, a Saturday?
From my study of the 1929 newspapers in Australia and New Zealand I know that for some reason the Tourville was quite pressed for time: the visit in Hobart in August had to be cancelled. I doubt that she visited Port Vila twice to get the letters when there was no plane flight.

Maybe the Messageries Maritimes steamer VILLE DE VERDUN which was in Suva on 15th July and arrived in Nouméa during the visit of the Tourville there (from Braz' book) called at Vila on her way to Nouméa and carried the letters. I have no information about this. Normally she would call there one her way back. But this would explain the cancellation date 20th July.
There were none of the standard ships in this area at that date: Laperouse and Makambo were near Sydney or in harbour, the Ballande ships of the Compagnie Navale et Commerciale de l'Océanie Saint-Michel, Saint-André and Saint-Joseph were in Nouméa harbour.

To Top