Mails carried by the British Royal Air Corps 1935

Squadron 205 of Seletar
RAF Shorts Singapore MKIII
RAF’s Singapore MK III used in the flight between Manila and Singapore through Labuan in 1935

In 1935, the British Royal Air Corps carried mails from the Philippines to Labuan and Singapore. Before we look at the mails, let’s re-examine the history of its base in Seletar, Singapore.

In 1927, four Short Southampton flying boats made the famous Far East flight which took them through Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia. The flight was undertaken to prove the ability of the RAF to reinforce the most distant corners of the Empire and left Plymouth on 17 October 1927.

Under the command of Group Captain HM Cave-Browne-Cave, they arrived in Singapore on 28 February 1928. The flight flew a total of 27,950 miles and became No 205 Squadron on 1 January 1929. It was the first RAF squadron to be permanently based in the Far East and its Southamptons being used to carry out patrols around Malaya as well as conducting various survey flights in the region including British Borneo. By April 1935, the Supermarine Southampton flying boats were replaced by Short’s Singapore MK III.

Mails carried by the British Royal Air Corps 1935

On June 29, 1935, a Short’s Singapore MKIII of the no 205 Squadron carried mails from Manila to Labuan and Singapore. It arrived Singapore on the 1st July 1935. The Philippines postal service prepared special FDC covers to commemorate the flight both for Labuan and Singapore.

The cover to Singapore has a generic design written: “By First Flight from MANILA to SINGAPORE by the British Royal Air Squadron No “205” under Command of Wing-Commander T. W. Scott”. It bears the special boxed airmail cachet in violet ink inscribed “Via Flying Boat of the British Royal Air Corps June 29, 1935”.

Manila to Singapore 1935
A special cover for the 1935 flight from Manila to Singapore via Flying Boat of thee British Royal Air Corps

A Similar cover was prepared for Labuan but had a different wording than the one destined for Singapore. The top right aspect of the cover is inscribed: “First Flight MANILA to LABUAN, Br. N. Borneo by the British Royal Air Squadron Number 205”. Most covers from this flight are addressed c/o the postmaster and in the two examples of covers here, they are addressed to Mr. W. Bruggmann.

Covers addressed to Mr. Walter Bruggmann decorate many early airmail covers from the Philippines and he is reputed as the ‘Father of Philippines Aerophilately’. As an avid stamps collector himself, Bruggmann was one of the associate editors of the Airpost Journal in 1929 and one of the principal founders and stakeholders of the first commercial airline established in the Islands: The Philippines Airways Company. He was also the President and later became the Honorary Life president of the Philippines Airmail Society. 

British Royal Air Corps mail 1935
A cover addressed to Labuan from Manila carried by the British Royal Air Corps June 29 1935 via Flying Boat

Many covers carried by the British Royal Air Corps in 1935 are addressed to the postmasters of respective destinations. There is no doubt that most of these covers are philatelic in nature and are probably collected by airmail enthusiasts from the Philippines at that time. I have yet to see a non-philatelic cover boarding the plane, which I suspect would be rare.

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