27 mei 2024

Biak to Nice – Netherlands New Guinea

The cover shown above was sent by Lieutenant Colonel G.J.B. Veenhuys to a real-estate agency in Nice, France. Veenhuys was stationed at the marine corps barracks on Biak, an island which is situated in the so-called Geelvink Bay in what is now Indonesia. Besides its strategic location, the city of Biak is equipped with an airport: ideal for defense operations.

Netherlands New Guinea cover, sent from Biak to Nice, France on the 17th of September 1962.

On the 1st of October 1962 the Dutch government would transfer the colony to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority and on that same day most of the Dutch troops were repatriated to the Netherlands. Dutch citizens were repatriated as well, an estimate of 12.000 citizens still lived in the colony by mid 1962 and all were eager to return to the Netherlands, especially after it became clear the colony was to be transferred to Indonesian rule.

Situation of Biak (green) in the current province of West Papua.

In order to cope with this evacuation the Dutch government opened an airbridge between Biak and Schiphol. This operation was called Spectrum and was ready in August 1962. Because of the threat of war many people made use of this service, but civil servants had to remain in the colony until the 1st of October. When this date had finally past, 2540 servants which were still on duty could return to the Netherlands. Only 800 of them stayed behind to take care of an orderly transfer to UNTEA rule. The last Dutch soldiers departed Guinea in late November 1962 (1).

Dutch Submarine Dolfijn departs Biak on the 1st of October 1962, © Rinus Peperkamp

The rate of a letter with destination Europe was 65c in 1962 and Colonel Veenhuys stamped his envelope accordingly. I’m not so sure how the airmail fee is included in this rate, but the cover clearly states ‘by airmail’ and the postmark reads Biak Luchthaven (airport). So, the cover obviously went by plane to France, and therefore it seems to me that the airmail fee was already incorporated in the 65c.

In a previous post I mentioned that NNG covers sent to other countries than the Netherlands are quite scarce, especially if they are not philatelic. I do wonder how many (non-official) NNG covers were ever sent to Nice or even France as a whole! Couldn’t be more than a couple of thousands, since at its peak by mid 1960 there only lived a mere 18.000 Dutch citizens in Netherlands New Guinea. (1).

Hollandia together with Biak were the only two places in the whole of NNG were considerable amounts of mail were processed. Several NNG postmarks was used quite often apparently, so that the post deemed it useful to insert a time indicator as well. So we even know that this piece was posted at 11 a.m. This additional time stamp might have been helpful for NNG domestic mail – though even domestic mail took more than one day travelling – but for locations abroad it seems quite ridicule. Bureaucracy at its finest.

(1) Meijer, H. (2007), ‘Daar heb je ze weer’: de overkomst van overzeese rijksgenoten uit Nieuw-Guinea bezien in het perspectief van de algemene repatriëring uit de Oost in Transparant, 18.2:18-25

20c bird of paradise and 45c Juliana en profil

For the original publication see the Dutch Philately blog by Hugo Brieffies.

Hugo Brieffies

Hugo Brieffies

See http://dutchphilately.blogspot.com/ for more articles by Hugo Brieffies

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