19 april 2024

Amsterdam to Fort de Kock, Dutch East Indies, per French Pacquet Boat in 1893

The cover shown in Figure 1 was sent in 1893 from Amsterdam and addressed to “Schietschool Fort de Kock Java.” What mainly attracted me was the multitude of postal markers on it. On the front it showed a small round cancel “Amsterdam / 4 MRT 93 / 12-6 V”, a numeral marker (#5 (Amsterdam)), a “D.v.O” marker and a “NED.INDIË / FRANSCHE PAKKETB.“ marker. On the back (Figure 2) one notices a Batavia marker, two Weltevreden and two Padang markers, plus a Fort de Kock, Meester Cornelis and V marker.

Since the letter had a Ned-Indië Pakketb. marker on it, it meant to be transported on a French mail boat. Gerard van Welie was nice enough to track the progress of the letter. The letter went by train via Paris to Marseille (France) or via Paris, and Modane (Italy) to Napels (Italy). Often the route via Napels was avoided because on the occurrence of another cholera epidemic such as had happened quite regularly before, from 1883 to 1887. Since there are no train markers on the cover we won’t know for sure its overland route, but most likely it was via Marseille.

Figure 1: 1893 Amsterdam to Fort de Kock (front).
Figure 2: 1893 Amsterdam to Fort de Kock (back).

In Marseille it was put on board the s.s. Yarra of the Messageries Maritimes (see Figure 3). The Yarra left Marseille on March 5, 1893 on its way to Yokohama (Japan). Unfortunately, in the Suez Canal it was involved in a collision with the British steamer Lycia (Figure 4). Thus, the Yarra would be delayed (it turned out be a six day delay) but moving the mail in a timely fashion was crucial. Accordingly, the mail was transported from the Yarra onto the British pacquet boat Sutlej (Figure 5) of the P. & O. line.

Figure 3: The s.s. Yarra in the Suez Canal.
Figure 4: South Wales Daily News, March 13, 1893.

The Sutlej (with the Yarra mail onboard) arrived on time in Singapore to transport the mail onto the French pacquetboat Godavéry (Figure 6), of the Messageries Maritimes which left Singapore on April 5, arriving in Batavia on Friday April 7, 1893, as was expected in a newspaper announcement (Figure 7).

Figure 5: P. & O’s s.s Sutlej.
Figure 6: s.s. Godavéry of Messageries Maritimes.

I already mentioned the “D v. O.” marker (Figure 8) on the front of the cover. D v. O stood for “Departement van Oorlog” (The War Department [Ministry of Defense]). This marker was applied in Batavia on mail to the military. Since the letter was addressed to a First Lieutenant of the Infantry the D v. O marker makes sense. That the location of military personnel was often not known with certainty had probably something to do with it being handled separately from the regular mail.

Figure 7: Newspaper article mentioning that according to the agent of the Messageries Maritimes, the French mail of March 5 would not be on board of the Godavéry. However, the report mentions that it would be more likely that both the French and English mail (of March 10) would be on board. (Java Bode, April 4, 1893).

Upon arrival in Batavia on April 7 (Figure 9) the letter caused a dilemma. It was addressed to a Schietschool (Rifle practice school) in Fort de Kock, Java. However, Fort de Kock is on the island of Sumatra, but Weltevreden too had a Schietschool. Since Weltevreden was basically ‘next door’ to Batavia the letter was forwarded there the same day (Figure 10). Notice that “1893” is upside down and backwards! The “V” marker (Figure 11) was also applied in Weltevreden. It was a marker indicating that the letter was delivered in the morning (V = Voormiddag [morning]). Such marker was only used in Weltevreden.

Since 1st Lieutenant van der Schoot could not be located in Weltevreden the letter was sent to Fort de Kock, Sumatra. This meant a boat ride (575 miles) through the Sunda Strait into the Indian Ocean to Padang, the closest port to Fort de Kock. The letter arrived in Padang on April 16, 1893 (Figure 12), from where it was sent on to Fort de Kock where it arrived on April 17 (Figure 13).

Figure 8-11: (left to right) D v. O. Departement van Oorlog” marker; Batavia April 7, 1893; Weltevreden April 7, 1893; V marker, indicating morning delivery.

Mr. van der Schoot could not be located there either, but somebody must have realized that the Infantry Schietschool on Java was located in Meester Cornelis and not in Weltevreden. The Artillery was located in Weltevreden and one would expect the Schietschool to be part of that, but no, the Infantry had its own Schietschool. So back into mail stream the letter went and on April 19 it had made its way back to Padang (Figure 14). It is interesting to note that different markers were used on the two days the letter crossed Padang (compare Figure 12 to Figure 14).

Checking the Bulterman and ZWP publications I noticed that the Padang markers in Figures 12 and 14 had last known dates of April 14, 1893. Since both markers shown here have later dates this date should be updated to April 19 (ZWP has updated their Website since). The letter arrived in Weltevreden once more on April 26 (Figure 15). Curiously, the year part of the marker (1893) was still upside down and backwards! You would think that somebody would have noticed this error between April 7 and April 26; nearly three(!) weeks. Finally, the letter must have gotten to Mr. van der Schoot in Meester Cornelis on April 28, 1893 (Figure 16).

Figure 12-15: (left to right) Padang April 16, 1893; Fort de Kock April 17, 1893; Padang, April 19, 1893; Weltevreden, April 26, 1893.
Figure 16: Meester Cornelis, April 28, 1893.

This envelop, with four postmarks on the front and another eight on the back is a treasure for somebody collecting postal history. As usual, with help from others and getting to know my way around digitized archives, I was able to find some interesting background information about this cover.


References used for this article:

  • van Welie, Gerard (personal contact)
  • La Post Maritime Francaise, Tome V. Salles, Raymond
  • The P&O Lines to the Far East, Volume 2, Kirk, R.
  • Delpher.nl: Java Bode, Various dates of April 1893
  • Poststempels Nederlands-Indië, 1864-1950, Bulterman, P.R., Davo Deventer 1981
  • Studiegroep ZWP
Netherlands Philately magazine and the ASNP
This article was originally published in Netherlands Philately, 42/5, pages 109-113, 2020; published here with kind permission of the editor of NP magazine.

Eén gedachte over “Amsterdam to Fort de Kock, Dutch East Indies, per French Pacquet Boat in 1893

  1. Hello Mr. Kremer!
    I’m the greatgranddaughter of Maja and Clemens Eickemeyer, you wrote about in one of your publications 🙂 It was very impressive for me to actually read their postcards online because of you. Rudi, their son was my grandfather and my mother is also called Maja after his mother. Thank you very much for your research and publication!
    I would be very pleased if you could send the original scans to me by email.
    Kind regards, Lucie

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