Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ philately specialist Phil Ives with the postcard sent on the world’s first official airmail flight.

Postcard from world’s first official airmail flight in India lands at Tamworth stamps auction

A POSTCARD sent on the world’s first official airmail flight is due to land at auction in Staffordshire.

Dating back to 1911, the postcard featuring a panoramic view of Dijon took to the skies in what was also the first-ever flight in India.

Addressed to an AE Sauballe Esq in Purulia, West Bengal, the sender apparently anticipated the postcard’s future value, writing on the back: “Please keep this for my collection.”

On February 18, 1911, French pilot Henri Pequet flew approximately 6,000 items of mail five miles from Allahabad to Naini on a Humber-Sommer biplane.

A few decades previously, mail had been carried by hot air balloons but Pequet’s 13-minute journey proved the possibilities of aerial mail by plane and paved the way for the world’s first regular airmail service in the UK that September, tying in with the coronation of King George V.

Uncovered as part of a family collection during a valuation at The Lichfield Auction Centre, the postcard carried by Pequet’s plane is estimated to make £200 to £300.

It goes under the hammer with Richard Winterton Auctioneers at The Tamworth Auction Rooms on Wednesday, July 26, starting at 9.30am.

Each item of mail on the flight was hand-stamped with a special frank dated 1911 featuring an aeroplane design, reading ‘First Aerial Post U.P. Exhibition Allahabad’.
Each item of mail on the flight was hand-stamped with a special frank dated 1911 featuring an aeroplane design, reading ‘First Aerial Post U.P. Exhibition Allahabad’.

“In 1903 the Wright brothers famously made the first powered flight and so air travel was born,” said philately specialist Phil Ives, pictured above with the postcard.

“Early pioneers and promoters attempted to commercialise this travel revolution by arranging air shows.

“One such show was arranged by Walter Windham in Allahabad, Northern India, in February 1911.

“The show was organised in response to a plea to Windham for help in raising funds for a church mission.

“Windham conceived the notion that if official sanction could be granted for a postal delivery that incorporated a section of the journey covered by air, then a premium could be paid for the privilege, the premium being a donation to the church mission.

“The main event of the show was the flight made by Henri Pequet and as such was the first flight by powered plane in India.

“The flight was a success and so airmail services were born.”

The sender apparently anticipated the postcard’s future value, writing on the back: “Please keep this for my collection.”
The sender apparently anticipated the postcard’s future value, writing on the back: “Please keep this for my collection.”

Each item of mail on the flight was hand-stamped with a special cachet – a decorative frank – designed by Windham and featuring the outline of an aeroplane.

Usually in magenta – as is this example – but occasionally also found in black, the cachet is dated 1911 and reads ‘First Aerial Post U.P. Exhibition Allahabad’.

A few months on from the Indian flight, Windham was the architect of a regular airmail service in the UK between Hendon in London and Windsor, Berkshire, starting on September 9 as part of the coronation celebrations for King George V.

“Airmail covers are attractive to collectors and Indian stamps and postal history are popular, so we expect a lot of interest when it is offered as part of a family collection in our next stamp sale on July 26,” added Mr Ives.

The auction catalogue will be online a week before the sale at The Tamworth Auction Rooms via our Auction Dates page.

Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ philately specialist Phil Ives with the postcard sent on the world’s first official airmail flight.
Free valuation appointments at Tamworth and Fradley may be booked with Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ philately specialist Phil Ives.

Viewing in person at Richard Winterton Auctioneers in Church Street takes place the day before the auction on Tuesday, July 25, from 10am-4pm.

Stamps specialist Phil Ives will be offering free valuations at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Fradley Park, on Wednesday, July 19, and at The Tamworth Auction Rooms on Thursday, July 20, from 10am-2pm both days.

To book, telephone 01827 217746 or email tamworth@richardwinterton.co.uk.

Appointments at Tamworth may also be booked for valuations of toys, militaria, watches and jewellery or items can be left securely for valuation 9am-5pm Tuesday to Friday.

Professional probate services and insurance valuations are available too, as are free home visits for large collections or to discuss full or partial house clearances.

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