Seapost -> The Bombay Pilot

The Bombay Pilot: Sent by Launch for Delivery by Pilot.

By Mike Dovey

Bombay Pilot Mark: Sent by Launch for Delivery Aboard by Pilot

The Bombay Pilot mark "Sent by Launch for Delivery Aboard by Pilot" is hardly known to the majority of Seapost collectors. As far as is known, it was only used on mail transferred to ships of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, or P & O as we all like to call the line for short. At the time of writing (July 2008) the mark is known to be used from 1935 until 1938 although I am sure that this date will extend very quickly as more information is collected on this subject.

It is well known that all of the P&O vessels at the time docked at Bombay where many of the voyages terminated while others carried on to Singapore and Hong Kong. It therefore begs the question as to why mail would be carried to the ships at all by a launch if the ships had docked in the port at their regular berth. A supposition is that mail arriving just as the ship was sailing was taken by launch so that it caught the ship at the furthest point before actually leaving the harbour itself. While there are hundreds of paquebot covers posted from all manner of shipping at Bombay, there are very few that have received this Pilot mark. So it must be that a very small percentage of mail was perhaps treated in this manner.

1937 cover from Australia bearing the Pilot mark
Fig 1. Cover from Australia and dated 10 September 1937 to a passenger on board the P&O liner S.S MOLDAVIA (from the collection of G Ellerton)

The cover in Fig 1 was posted from Canungra in Queensland Australia to a passenger on board the S.S Moldavia and is dated 10th September 1937 while that in Fig 2 has a much more interesting history as it was probably carried to Singapore by a local steamer from Pahang where it received the paquebot cancellation. It is thought that it could have travelled down on the Mail Train on the east coast railway in Malaya but the date (a Saturday) does not tie up with the train timetables so maybe the steamer is a more logical explanation. From Singapore it was flown to Bombay where it was then transferred by launch to a passenger on the P & O ship S.S Rajputana and dated 23rd October 1937. The "511" is written in blue crayon and is probably the cabin number of the passenger.

1937 cover from Pehang bearing the Pilot mark
Fig 2. Cover from Pahang and dated 23rd October 1937 to a passenger on board the P&O liner S.S. RAJPUTANA (from the collection of G Peters)
1935 cover from England bearing the Pilot mark
Fig 3. Cover from England and dated 7th September 1935 to a passenger on board the P&O liner S.S. MOLDAVIA (from the collection of D.Mundey)

Fig 3 shows an envelope posted from England in 1935 to a passenger on the S.S. Moldavia.

There is also an envelope known posted from Calcutta to a passenger on board the P & O liner S.S. Maloja and dated 10th February 1938, addressed to go via the P & O shipping agents who were Messrs MacKinnon MacKenzie & Co at the time. So it is possible that that this mark is not a post office mark at all but a mark used by the agents themselves.

At present we have just five covers within a timespan of only 3 years which is far too small a sample for this mark. So, if anyone reading this article has information about this subject we would really appreciate it if you could contact us by email with further details, whether you are a member of the Society or not.

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