Prisoner of War Franks


World War II Prisoner of War Franks   

by John Hillson, FRPSL, FCPS

You might find in a dealers stock at the back of the book a funny looking red label; if you are lucky it might be used on piece, and if you are really, really lucky, the dealer will have no idea what it is worth.

These labels were issued to to stick on parcels sent to Prisoners of War interned in Canada  to stop abuse of the system. Because surface mail was free to Prisoners of War, in the beginning there was no weight limit on parcels. To prevent this, with effect from 1st February 1940, these labels, authorised by the Post Office Dept. for use in Canada only, were to be stuck on all parcels originating in Canada addressed to an internee in Canada, both free, and where postage had been fully prepaid (e.g. airmail). The weight was restricted to 20 pounds maximum.

The first were issued by the Department of the Secretary of State and were inscribed “CANADA/INTERNMENT OPERATIONS/POSTAGE/FREE” in 4 lines. Printed singly and imperforate the first printing in February 1940 was of 2000 labels as was the second printing of February1941. (fig 1 below shows the 1st Issue 2nd printing)

The second issue, of which there were four printings were issued by the Department of National Defence and read “CANADA/PRISONEROF WAR MAIL / POSTAGE / FREE” again in four lines. With an army code inscription at the top these were printed in strips of 5 each, apart from the first printing which again was printed singly. (fig 2 below)

The second and fourth printings were rouletted between, while the third printing was perforated 12 ½ between, only 1000 being printed of that printing as against 5000 of the other three. (Fig 3 below)

The dates of printing were May 1943, November 1944,  July 1945 and the last, the easiest one to find, March 1946.

It is believed all the franks were the work of the King’s Printer. They were discontinued and ceased to be valid on 31st January 1947.

All are either rare or scarce. Not only because of the low quantities printed, but because most were junked on receipt of the parcel, the contents of which would be much more interesting than the wrapper.




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Last updated on 31 December, 2018  
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