19 mei 2024

A 1928 Airmail Flight to and from the DEI and the Associated Airmail Stamps

Much has been written about the series of flights from Amsterdam to Batavia during the second half of 1928.

Figure 1: Airmail stamps.

The official announcement (Dienstorder (DO) No. 507 August 8, 1928) contains the following basic information:

  1. During the months of September and October five planes will depart from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies. The planes will depart from Schiphol on September 13, 20, 27, and October 4 and 11 at 6. a.m.
  2. The opportunity is given to send regular and registered airmail correspondence with these flights to British-India, Burma, Siam, Straits-Settlements, Dutch East Indies and other destinations (China, Japan, Australia etc.). The mail will be collected at Amsterdam C.S (Central Railroad post office) with bags for Karachi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Bangkok, Medan, Palembang, and Batavia. Only the fifth plane will return to the Netherlands.
  3. Airmail surcharges will be:
    1. postcards and money orders 40 cent a piece
    2. letters and other items 75 cent per 20 grams
  4. The airmail surcharge can only be paid for with special airmail stamps which will be available on August 20, 1928.
  5. The airmail stamps show the heroes of the first flight from the Netherlands to the DEI in 1924; 40 cent red: Koppen, 75 cent green: Thomassen a Thuessink van der Hoop.
Figure 2: Front and back of postcard sent from Zutphen (Netherlands) to Bandung October 1928 on fifth airmail flight. 15 cent postcard rate plus 40 cent airmail surcharge.

Then the “Hoofdbestuur der P. en T.” (PTT executive board) in October 1928 announced the following:

The fifth plane leaving on October 11 to the DEI is not just destined for the Ned. Ind. Luchtvaart Maatschappij (N.I.L.M), but will make a round trip, and will carry mail both ways. The airmail surcharges for the return flight will also be 40 (postcards and money orders) and 75 DEI cent (letters and other items) respectively.

It is the plan of the DEI postal administration to issue special airmail stamps in the future, but for right now regular overprinted stamps will be used to pay for the airmail surcharges. These are the only stamps that can be used for this surcharge. According to an Aneta-telegram these stamps were available as of September 20. No details were known but most likely besides the 40 and 75 cent stamps, denominations of 10 and 20 cents will be available for flights in Java.

It turns out that a 1½ guilder stamp was issued as well (HK).

On October 3 another Dienstorder (No. H 639 ) came out. It read:

The Dutch PTT in cooperation with the DEI postal administration will make the DEI overprinted stamps (denominations of 10, 20, 40, and 75 cent and 1 ½ guilder) available in the Netherlands in order to be used for those people not having a DEI connection, but wanting to send mail on the return flight.

It lists the dates and locations in the Netherlands where these stamps could be purchased. One could also order them directly from the Amsterdam post office. The overprints were in black, except for the 75 cent overprint, which is in blue.

Figure 3: Letter sent from Bandoeng to Rotterdam on November 7, 1928. Letter rate 12 1/2 (DEI) cent, airmail surcharge 75 cent.

The mail on the outgoing flight consisted of 21,629 items, 2044 postcards among them, one of which is shown in Figure 2. It is addressed to I.A. Aler, a name some of you might recognize. Although he was the navigator on this flight, he succeeded Albert Plesman as KLM’s CEO in 1954. So this postcard was carried (without him knowing about it) by the person receiving it upon arrival in Bandung. The card was sent by his in-laws (the van der Stoks). They welcomed him upon his arrival in the DEI and wished him a safe trip home and wrote that they would be at Schiphol when he gets back.

Figure 4: Two types of overprints on the airmail stamps.

The flight did not quite go as planned. It should have taken twelve days, but due to a delay (caused by damage to the plane upon landing near Baghdad) it did not arrive in Bandung until October 29, six days late.

The return flight departed Bandung on November 6 and arrived at Schiphol on November 16, only ten days later. Due to the limit of the amount of mail that could be taken onboard some of it was left behind and returned with the Patria of the Rotterdamsche Lloyd, which arrived in Marseille on November 30. Passengers and mail were transferred to the Rapide (also of the Rotterdamsche Lloyd) which arrived in the Netherlands on December 1. The airmail surcharge was refunded for mail traveling this way.

Figure 5:Fokker F VII

The letter shown in Figure 3 did travel on the return flight, which can be verified by the Amsterdam November 16 arrival marker on the back. One might notice the so-called propeller cancel on the front of the cover. These markers were used for a short time to verify that a postal item indeed had traveled by air. It was used to compare surface to airmail travel time of the mail.

Figure 5:Fokker F VIIa

The letter was addressed to Mrs. Aler at the airport Waalhaven in Rotterdam. Her husband was based there at that time.


Although the planes depicted in the overprints appear to be the same there are differences between the lower (10 thru 40 cent) and higher denominations (75 cent and 1 ½ guilder). As shown in Figure 4, the lower valued ones show a single engine Fokker plane with square wing ends with flaps, while the higher values show rounded wing ends and no flaps. As can be seen from the planes shown in Figures 5 and 6, the lower values show a Fokker F.VII, while the higher denominations show the Fokker F.VIIa.


  • Nederlandsch Maandblad voor Filatelie: September 1928 (page 161), October 1928 (Pages 184 and 186), November 1928 (page 208, 209)
  • YouTube Website
  • Jacques Bot, Personal correspondence
Netherlands Philately magazine and the ASNP
This article was originally published in Netherlands Philately, 42/1, pages 17-19, 2018; published here with kind permission of the editor of NP magazine.

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