Squadron 420 “Snowy Owl” (RCAF) of Bomber Command: A Postal history connection

March 14, 2018

As a collector of postal history I search for interesting mailings during World War II. I’m especially interested in both world wars because I have relatives including my father who served.

7c BCATP Airmail-Military-RAFMarsdon-30c rate-1943

Airmail to a Canadian serviceman in England

Recently I obtained an interesting mailing, or cover, as we collectors call them (see scan above). The mail was to a Canadian serving overseas with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as part of the Allied Bomber Command. What I like to do is research the individual service members to see what history lies behind the mail. The cover was postmarked September 6, 1943 from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

The serviceman and address on the cover read,
P/O Len B. Greenhalgh (the P/O stands for Pilot Officer)
CAN – J-25735Royal Canadian Air Force
Overseas
(the Overseas is stroked out by pen and redirected to “RAF Long Marston”)

The sender and address on the reverse is,
Mr & Mrs Greenhalgh (likely his parents)
Ste 410 Pringle Apts 3
Saskatoon, Sask
Canada

Postage on the envelope consists of four 7c War Issue airmail stamps plus two 1c War Issue King George VI regular issue stamps. Total postage is 30 cents. The airmail rate from Canada to England at this time was 30 cents per 1/2 ounce so it was properly paid. Mailings from this period are frequently damaged as this one is, but still interesting.

Bomber Command sustained heavy casualties during the war so my first thought was did Pilot Officer Greenhalgh survive. There are several sources for finding those who were killed in the service of Canada and the Commonwealth (I’ve listed them at the bottom). A search showed he wasn’t killed.

Next I did a genealogical search using Ancestry and found several hits on Leonard Greenhalgh, an entry in a high school yearbook, a couple of entries in the Voters List database and finally a newspaper article from the Lethbridge Herald of March 13, 1944 titled “RCAF Makes Up Half of Force Raiding Le Mans”.

From these searches and sources I learned,
– Leonard Greenhalgh went to high school at City Park Collegiate Institute in Saskatoon. The yearbook of 1943 contained an Roll of Honor listing him as a member of the Air Force. It also gave his age of 23 years.
– the newspaper article from March 13, 1944 reported on the bombing of rail yards in France. It quoted Leonard Greenhalgh from the Snowy Owl Squadron saying the raid had gone well and they suffered no losses on this occasion.
– the Voters Lists showed him in Saskatoon in 1949 listed as a custom officer, and in Burnaby in 1962 listed as a business manager.

Using this information and good old Google, I located information on Squadron 420 nicknamed the “Snowy Owl” squadron as being part of No. 5 Group of Bomber Command. I knew he was part of the squadron in 1943. I also found out the squadron was flying Handley Page Halifax III bombers at the time. I even found a website containing logbook entries showing the raid on Le Mans taking place on March 7, 1944. These raids on rail yards were precursors to the Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944. The intent being to hinder the Germans sending up reinforcements via rail during or after D-Day.

handley-halifax bomber

Halifax bomber in flight. Photo: RCAF

Squadron 420 (Snowy Owl) was based at Tholthorpe, England about 12 miles northwest of York. They were there from December 12, 1943 until June 1945 when their mission in England ended. Later they returned to Canada and prepared to be part of a Canadian contribution to the war against Japan, but Japan surrendered before they were deployed. Much more can be read about the squadron but I focused on the time Leonard Greenhalgh would have been part of it.

Now I have another connection to the history of the Second World War, another appreciation of the sacrifice those young Canadian men made.

Further Reading
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Books of Remembrance

Canada at War

Bomber Command Museum, Nanton, Alberta

Squadron 420 Snowy Owl Blog

RCAF Squadron 420, Snowy Owl

RCAF History – World War II

Advertisements

Give me a new home. Stamps for pets.

April 21, 2010

Golden retriever stamp/USPS

Next time you’re looking for a pet rescue one from a shelter.

Many cats and dogs are available for adoption at your local animal shelter. These aren’t rejects, just animals looking for a forever home.

New stamps for April 30, 2010/USPS

Ellen DeGeneres is teaming with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to publize the need for homes for these animals. The USPS is issuing a set of stamps on April 30, 2010 to give this a high profile.

All the animals pictured are real rescued pets that have been given new homes. Ellen had Postmaster-General John Potter on her show recently to announce the program and the new stamps.


Where the Wild Things Are

October 19, 2009

WildThingStampUS2006Maurice Sendak is an Jewish-American writer and illustrator born June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. He both wrote and illustrated the book. It was published in 1963 and became an immediate hit. The story received the Caldecott prize for Most Distinguished American Picture book for children in 1964.  Sendak’s books are somewhat controversial because of his drawings and subject matter, but the kids eat it up.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is now a major motion picture. In 1966 the United States Postal Service issued a set of stamps for the best children’s books. His story was one of the stamps.

Sendak’s “Little Bear” stories are now a TV series and appear on Treehouse TV here in Canada.  Sendak is still living and is now 81. He helped write the screenplay for this movie.


APS StampShow 2008 – The Big One

August 8, 2008

I confess. One of my passions is collecting postal history and stamps. I have been enamoured by this since the age of 8, over 50 years now.

Postal stamps and covers (envelopes) with stamps affixed are my addiction. Communication via the mail has always fascinated. Even in this age of e-mail, regular mail (so-called snail mail) continues to provide a useful service. There is nothing like receiving a letter from a friend or relative you can hold in your hands and read. It is much more personal.

Next Tuesday I am flying to Boston to attend the annual convention and philatelic exhibition of the American Philatelic Society. This year it is being held August 14-17 in Hartford, Connecticut. I am using the event as an excuse to visit with a good friend of mine who lives in Boston. Yes he is also a collector. We are going to the show together and plan to have way too much fun!

The American Philatelic Society was founded in 1886 and now serves over 44,000 collectors in more than 110 countries. It is the largest nonprofit society for stamp collectors in the world. The society is headquartered in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

The show itself moves to a different city every year. Last year it was held in Portland, Oregon. Some highlights of the event include:

  • 155 plus dealers
  • Postal Administrations from 5 different countries
  • Fifty plus national specialty societies
  • Over 150 seminars and meetings
  • More than 900 frames of competitive exhibits (a frame holds sixteen 8 1/2 x 11″ pages).
  • Philatelic rarities will be on display.
  • Admission is Free and the public is always welcome.

For those seeking more information on the great hobby of stamp collecting or the American Philatelic Society please checkout their excellent website at,

www.stamps.org


The Highway Post Office Service: On the Buses

February 19, 2008

2c1g_3_virginia21.jpg 

Above: Souvenir cover from first Highway route. 

February 10, 1941 the first Highway Post Office service began between Washington, D.C. and Harrisonburg, Virginia. Special buses were used for this service. They were configured to allow clerks to sort the mail in transit. There was a Railway Post Office service, but rail travel was rapidly declining so the Highway service was started to replace that service.

fdr_hwypofirstltr.jpg

Above: President Roosevelt mailing the first letter (National Postal Museum)

The expansion of the service was delayed by World War II. In 1946 a second route was created. The buses became a common site on American highways during the 1950s and 1960s. Each route served about 25 post offices.

1941bus.jpg

Above: 1941 White Post Office bus (National Postal Museum) 

In the 1970s the Post Office Department reorganized and began taking mail to regional sorting plants where it was processed using high-speed machinery. As a result the buses were phased out. The last run took place June 30, 1974. The service had been in existence for 33 years.

Further Reading:

www.sossi.org/articles/highway.htm

www.postalmuseum.si.edu


Inverted “Jenny” Sold for $970,000

November 16, 2007

jennysingle.jpgOne of the rarest and most popular U.S. stamps was sold at auction November 14, 2007 for a whooping $850,000 plus 15% buyers premium for total of $970,000!!

This was one of the famous 24c U.S airmail stamps issued in 1918. Yes that’s right the face value was 24c which was actually quite expensive in those days.

There was only ever one sheet of 100 of these stamps, the inverted error, sold to the public. The post office did find some others but they were defaced and then shredded to prevent profiteering.

I won’t go into the complete story because a book and many articles have been written which detail its fascinating history.

It was sold by the auction firm of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. of New York City on behalf of the owner. In 2005 they also sold a plate block of four of the same stamp for a record of $2,970,000 for a U.S philatelic item. How much higher can these go? Only time will tell. Read more at the Robert Siegel Auction website:

http://www.siegelauctions.com/2007/946a/s946a.htm

The sale catalogue (sale #946A) has wonderful write-ups on the history or the invert error by Scott R. Trepel (“The Allure of the Inverted Jenny”) and a great introduction by Joe R. Kirker ((“…and my heart stood still”). The catalogue can be downloaded in PDF format.


Airmail Speeds the Mail, snail mail that is!

September 24, 2007

Last night I was working on an exhibit that I have entered in an airmail philatelic exhibition coming up in October.  I thought I would try to explain the fascination with the collection of airmail material to non-collectors.

First of all a definition.  Simply put “Airmail” or “Air Mail” is mail that is carried to its destination by aircraft.  Obviously this is faster than by truck or train.  It was one of the great innovations of mail delivery which was made possible by the invention of the airplane.

Until recently airmail was a premium service of the post office and the user paid more for it.  Special airmail postage stamps were issued to indicated payment for this service. These stamps were only allowed to be used on airmail, not for other mail.  Later on that changed.

The first regular airmail flights in the U.S. began between New York City and Washington, D.C. in 1918. The planes were operated by Army pilots.  Later the government contracted the routes out to private contractors.  Some famous aviators who carried mail were Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart.

Early commercial airline routes were really paid for by the carriage of mail.  There were not enough passengers to pay for the airlines expenses.  Even today mail is a lucrative cargo for airlines.  Passengers do take precedence today though.  If weight is an issue the first thing off the plane is not passengers or their baggage, but mail bags. 

Today in Canada and the United States airmail has been abolished as a separate service. All first class (lettermail) mail is delivered by the speediest method of  transportation.  International letters are charged a premium for airmail service, but it is still technically not an airmail service. Both countries charge substantially more for international lettermail than domestic lettermail.

Collectors have always been fascinated with mail and aviation.  So much so that specialist societies exist dedicated to the pursuit of airmail stamps and covers (envelopes).  One such society is the American Air Mail Society.  For the first time ever the American Philatelic Society (APS) is hosting an exhibition that is entirely airmail related.  It is called Aerophilately 2007 and has been given “World Series of Philately” status.  This means that it has national level judging and standards. The grand award winner is entitled to compete against the award winners of all the other WSP shows.  It is being held October 19-21, 2007 at the APS headquarters in Bellefonte, PA.  Coincidently, Bellefonte was one of the mail refueling stations along the first trans-continental airmail route in the United States. 

My exhibit is entered in this exhibition and I am very proud to have mine displayed alongside some of the greatest airmail collections of our time.

 

Above: Early airmail pilot “Wild Bill” Hopson.

Here are some facts about early airmail:

– messages were carried prior to airplanes by homing pigeons.

– first mail to be carried by an air vehicle was January 7, 1785 on a balloon flight from England to France.

– first official airmail delivery in the U.S. took place August 17, 1859 via balloon from Lafayette, Indiana to New York City. Weather forced him to land and the mail was carried by train to its final destination.

– first official airmail flight was February 18, 1911 in India.  6,500 letters were carried a distance of 13 km (7.8 miles).

– first international airmail delivery flown by Theodoro Fels from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay on September 2, 1917.

– Scheduled airmail flights begin between New York City and Washington. DC May 15, 1918

-first airmail flight in Canada was June 24, 1918 from Montreal to Toronto.

– first woman to fly airmail: Katherine Stinson from Calgary to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 9, 1918.

– regularly scheduled transcontinental U.S airmail flights begin in 1924.

– In 1927 regular international airmail flights begin.

– Trans-Pacific airmail begins in 1935.

– In 1939, Canada implements regular trans-Canada and trans-Atlantic airmail.

So remember when you mail that letter that today it flies to overseas destinations in hours.  Before air transport it went by train or ship and took days or weeks to arrive. Of course now it is possible to send an e-mail letter to someone anywhere in the world and it will arrive in seconds.  The only thing about an e-mail is that it doesn’t have a colorful airmail stamp on it that I can collect.


%d bloggers like this: