Interesting Letters from Cocos Islands (Keeling)

Cocos islands were administered under the Straits Settlements administration since its annexation in 1886. After the fall of Singapore in 1942, the islands were administered from Ceylon and in November 1955, under the Cocos Islands Act, the islands were transferred to Australia. Queen Elizabeth II visited the islands on the 5th April 1954 as part of her 7-month Commonwealth tour.

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The philatelic history of these islands is interesting not least because of its geographical location in the Indian Ocean somewhere midway between Australia and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Although the islands had been administered under the Straits Settlements since 1886, it was not until 1933 that the first postal agency was established on the islands. Needless to say the facility was withdrawn after only 4 years because of a “lack of business”. Prior to this, the “Tin Can” and “Barrel” mails were in operation since 1909 in cooperation with the Orient Line Steamers.

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H.M. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the Cocos Islands, April 1954.

A series of interesting letters sent from Cocos Islands appeared in eBay recently. The first two were sent to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II visit to the Cocos Islands on the 5th of April 1954.

Interestingly as we see in the letter below, all mail sent to the post office in the weekend would be postmarked 5 APR 54 to coincide with the Royal visit instead of 4 APR when the plane carrying the mails actually leave the islands. After her coronation on the 2nd of June 1953, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Phillip, embarked on a 7-month Commonwealth tour between 24 November 1953 – 10 May 1954.

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The letter below is even more interesting (thus the high realization price). It was written by the same sender explaining in great detail about what actually happened to mails sent during the Royal visit. According to this letter, mails sent during the royal visit were sent to Singapore in a special bag unpostmarked. The postmarking was only done in Singapore GPO.

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The Malaya Study Group (MSG) exists for collectors of the stamps, postal stationery and postal history of the states of Peninsular Malaysia which until 1963 formed the Federation of Malaya, including the Straits Settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore, the Federated Malay States – Negri Sembilan and Sungei Ujong, Pahang, Perak and Selangor and the Unfederated States – Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Trengganu. To join the society, please visit the Malaya Study Group website.

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