First Occupation Issues - Part I

page O1.1

Offices Abroad


I had always intended to deal with occupation issues separately, largely to fit in with the Bexley Philatelic Society competition structure that initiated these displays, but also because these issues are rather tedious (usually overprints) and often expensive, so grouping them together will lessen the impact of any gaps. While preparing the first occupation display, I reached two further conclusions. First that the issues fall naturally into three periods:

Guinness Book of Stamps

This list is based on an entry in Mackay’s Guinness Book of Stamps: that is organised by date and leads logically to an event-driven (that usually means conflict-based) approach. The second and more important conclusion is that there is a grey area between occupation issues and Offices Abroad (OAs). These are similarly mundane and sometimes obscure and expensive. Mackay’s definitions of the two categories do not bring clarity, but Linns online glossary is more helpful. Occupation issues are described as “released for use in territory occupied by a foreign power”, while offices are maintained “usually because of the unreliability of the local postal system”, but the distinction breaks down in Crete at the turn of the twentieth century, where Britain, France, Italy and Russia stationed troops in various sectors but both Gibbons and Scott define Britain and Russia as occupation issues but France and Italy (plus Austria) as Offices Abroad, with, incidentally, the British using the Austrian Offices.

The intention is therefore to deal with both categories in this display.


Seven Weeks’ War, 1866

Holstein SG51 Sc15 Schleswig SG21 Sc8
Holstein Schleswig
World's First Occupation Stamp
1864 SG51 Sc15
1864 SG21 Sc8

Mackay suggests that the first occupation issues arise from disputes between Prussia and Austria over Holstein and Schleswig in 1864 that led to the Seven Weeks’ War in 1866. Stamps were issued by the German Federal Commissioners for Holstein 1864 and then by Austria. Joint stamps were at first issued for Schleswig, and Prussian stamps from 1865.



Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71

Alsace Lorraine SG1 Sc8
Alsace and Lorraine
1870 SG1 Sc8

These stamps, issued by the North German Confederation, were used generally in occupied France during this conflict, but are particularly associated with Alsace and Lorraine. Mackay notes the diplomatic use of French on the stamps. Germany invaded these areas and issued occupation stamps again in 1940.




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page written July 2013