Saturday, February 13, 2010

Indian Information - Three Million Airgraphs A Month

Today, I am going to introduce another series in my blog :-) Sometime back last year, I had found a magazine or publication you can say on eBay which sounded me very interesting. It was an original publication but none bid on it. Despite putting it on my watch list, I forgot but later got it once seller agreed on re-opening it for me to bid. The price was higher still I bought it just out of curiosity.

The publication was "Indian Information". This publication was fortnightly issued by J. Natarajan, Principal Information Officer, Government of India. It was printed in India by Madan Gopal Mitter at Lal Chand & Sons, 76, Lower Circular Road, Calcutta. The same publication was reprinted with color cover and distributed by British Information Services, Washington, D.C. (USA) to save shipping space.

Its main aim was to provide a condensed record of the main peace and war activities of the Government of India, together with some outstanding facts about the British Government's war activities. The publication stated that it did not intend to compete with the Press; it existed for their convenience and was not intended for general circulation among the public.

It was meant for all those person and institutions whose general role was to inform the public, e.g., the public administrator, whether he be governmental (Central or Provincial), municipal, commercial, educational or institutional, the editor, the publisher, the journalist and the publicist.

It is very tough to get hands on reprinted publications forget about original ones. Remember even reprinted versions are official ones only. I don't see any difference in reprinted or original versions in terms of matter though original will always command more price when it comes to valuations. But, both are now days rare to find. It is indeed a WWII collectors treasure especially those who are interested in WWII literature given that this is official publication. Most of these are now available in libraries and museum only world wide. Well, I was fortunate enough to get hold of some editions :-) at very reasonable price.

Since it is publication thus it is difficult to cover completely in one post. So, I have decided to selectively publish articles from this publication here. The publication really gives good insight of war activities and related situation in India and other nations.

As part of that, today I am presenting an article from Vol. 13, No. 120, August 15, 1943 dated edition front cover of which is shown above. This article is about Airgraph Service in India, from its inception to war time situation including difficulties that Postal Department was facing at that time. A very interesting article touching even stamp theft cases those times and reason behind them. It also provides information why certain changes were done in Postal system to overcome theft problem which is still in existence today.

It took me a while but I have typed complete article as it is from publication. In fact, I have also provided enlarged image of the Director General of Posts and Telegraphs Department of India those days.

Mr. W. H. Shoobert In Expansion Of The Service

The fact that the Indian post office handles three million airgrphs a month- a million and a half inward and an equal number of outward airgraphs - was enclosed by Mr. W. H. Shoobert, Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, in a broadcast talk on "The Airgraph Service" from the Delhi Station of All India Radio on July 19. Mr. Shoobert gave a brief history of the service and its extension to India in 1942 and explained its particular advantages to the general public for overseas correspondence.

Here is the full text of Mr. Shoobert's Talk:

I have been asked to speak tonight about Airgraphs for a particular reason which I will explain presently. First, however, may perhaps recall, to those who are interested in this most useful device for wartime correspondence, a little of its brief history.

An airgraph service between the United Kingdon and our Army in the Middle East was introduced two years ago as a means of solving the problem of making the best possible use of the capacity available for mails on the direct air route - capacity which was very limited, indeed, owing to the heavy demands for other purposes connected with the war. The service from India to the United Kingdom became available in February, 1942.

A Thousand An Hour
As most of you know, letters on airgraph forms received at post offices throughout India are sent to the Airgraph Section in the Bombay General Post Office, where all outward airgraphs are collected, numbered, sorted, made up into bundles and transferred to the Kodak Studios. At the Studios each letter is photographed upon a tiny negative about half an inch square - and the rate at which the airgraphs forms pass through the special machine installed for the purpose is about 1000 an hour.

The rolls of films are developed in the Studios, carefully examined for faults, and packed in containers which are returned to the General Post Office for transmission by air to their destination. On arrival they are enlarged and a photographic reproduction of each original letter about 5 inches by 4 inches is printed and delivered to the addressee in a special type of envelope with a cut0out panel through which the address on the airgraph enlargement shows out.

A Great Future
Some of you may not know that while one pound weight of ordinary air or surface mail would on an average comprises only about thirty letters, one pound weight of airgraph film including the spool and container carries about three thousand airgraphs. Three thousand communications to the pound - instead of thirty - a hundred times gain in capacity!

That is the great future of the service - and it has a considerable advantage over all other forms of correspondence - for if an airgraph in spite of the careful examination to which it is subjected in the Studios is found on enlargement to be indecipherable for any reason (except, of course, just bad writing), or if owing to any accident a batch of films is lost in transit, a report is telegraphed from the place of receipt, and the original message is traced, re-photographed and transmitted a second time.

Another special convenience of this method of communication is that it can be utilised for advising remittances in code by approved Banks - and I may perhaps add a further great advantage in it which must appeal to the busy man - that is that limited space on an airgraph form furnishes him with an excellent excuse for writing only the briefest of letters to his devoted relations. Did I hear the opinion expressed that it is pity the noting of some Secretariat Departments is not confined to airgraph forms?

Service From India
It is an interesting fact that the airgraph service from India to the United Kingdom was available some months before that from the United Kingdom to India. As I have mentioned, the former started in February, 1942, but it was not until June 11 of that year that the first inward airgraphs arrived from England via Cairo, where they were enlarged and printed, because no enlarging apparatus was then available in India. The result was that for some time the inward service took considerably longer in transit than the outward, but in September 1942 Messrs. Kodak were able to install enlarging machinery in India and the first direct airgraph from the United Kingdom was received at the end of that month.

In addition to the service to the United Kingdom, airgraphs were introduced for Eire in April 1942, for Canada in October 1942 and for Newfoundland in April 1943. On the 10th of the current month a new direct airgraph service will also be available to and from New Zealand, the Fiji Islands, Tonga Islands and New Hebrides.

A Blessing
That a large number of people regard the airgraph as a blessing can be gauged from the fact that while in February 1942, the month of its introduction, 98,593 outwards airgraphs were flown from India, during the four weeks which have just passed more than a million and a half airgraphs left these shores - a very large proportion of which written by men in Fighting Forces. In the first full month for which the inward airgraph mail was available 255,300 of them were brought to India, but by April 1943 inward receipts also had risen to almost a million and a half monthly.

The average time taken by airgraphs in transit during the last two months has been nine days. Normally, about three days are occupied in enlarging and processing airgraphs received, but when consignments are very heavy this standard cannot, of course, be maintained. For communications with the countries for which it is available the airgraph is therefore incomparably quicker than the ordinary air mail which, owing to the load difficulty, still has to be carried for large part of its journey by surface route.

Theft Of Stamps
Each month, then, airgraphs in millions are being dispatched from India and safely delivered at their destinations, but it is of certain very disquieting cases, in which airgraph forms, duly stamped by those who wrote them, have never reached our Airgraph Section in Bombay, that I wish particularly to speak tonight.

Some publicity has already been given to the detection of thefts of undefaced stamps from airgraph forms in Karachi and Calcutta, and it is not unlikely that reports which have been current may have effected the confidence of some who have been using this method of correspondence. That those responsible for the administration of the Postal Services in India have been gravely disturbed by the disclosure of organised pilfering is an understatement of our feelings. The discovery that a group of minor officials of the Department were involved in this particularly contemptible form of postal crime was even more upsetting. But now that the crime has been detected and a number of arrests have been made it is only fair to inform the public of measures which have been taken to obviate the recurrence of this kind of thing in future.

Checks And Safeguards
I must explain that there are, of course, a number of ordinary departmental checks prescribed to prevent the theft of stamps by an occasional dishonest officer, and supervising officers are continually reminded of their responsibilities in this respect but it is the business of the determined thief to circumvent checks and safeguards and unfortunately the present extraordinary economic conditions and the fact that stamps have, in many places, been passing as currency have rendered both temptation and opportunity to commit crimes of this nature more obvious.

A dishonest private servant or orderly on a comparatively low pay must obviously find in the eight-anna stamp affixed to an airgraph, entrusted to him for posting, an easy means of supplementing his salary just as a minor postal official may find in it a ready temptation to conceal and pilfer an occasional article when opportunity offers. That such a danger might exist became particularly evident when the shortage of small coin was first felt in various parts of India. For that reason, in 1942, a Postal Notice was issued announcing that the postage stamps affixed to the airgraph forms, handed over by members of the public to postal officials for onward transmission, would be defaced in their presence.

We have recently made further announcements earnestly requesting the public, in their own interests, to see that this instruction is strictly followed, and advising them, as far as possible, to hand in personally at the Post Office counter their airgraphs or any mail letters bearing stamps of eight annas or more in value. Alternatively, it is wise to send a reliable servant to do so. This should not be very much trouble. After all, telegrams are booked in much the same way.

Embossed Forms
I have also to tell you that for some months we have been exploring the possibility of producing an airgraph form with the stamp embossed or printed upon it. There were certain difficulties, but it is hoped that forms embossed with three-anna stamps for the use of troops and eight-anna stamps for the use of the general public will be available for sale at post offices in a short time, and this should prove an effective solution of the problem with which we have had to deal.

You may ask whether any provision will be made for exchanging embossed forms which have become spoiled in any way. The reply is "yes". It is proposed to refund the value of such forms at post offices with a deduction of one anna for the cost thereof. I would here remind you that, for ordinary air mail, envelopes with 14-anna stamps printed on them can be purchased at all big post offices.

We may trust with confidence that the measures which have been taken will ensure that incidents such as those which occurred in Calcutta and Karachi will not happen again. Our regret that they have happened is none the less bitter. I hope that the information which I have given will reassures the listeners that the Posts and Telegraphs Department, under difficulties which are at the present time extreme, is fully mindful of its duty to the public and watchful of the public interests.

In conclusion, I would once more appeal to those who use foreign air mail to help protect their own interests by getting the stamps defaced by the postal staff in their own presence whenever possible.


Ramanathan said...

Very interesting to read the transcript of AIR broadcast of W.H.Shoobert address regarding airgraphs, theft of stamps.

I'll contact you offline about this material.


Jagan said...

Beautiful Blog. Spent hours going through the fantastic material here.

I have read the complete run of "India Information" at one of the libraries in the US. Apparently it was published by the Indian Embassy in the US and thus some of the American lIbraries hold copies of it. On ebay, I have managed to buy two issues till date. No doubt I probably crossed paths with you on some of these auctions!

tony and y'not!! said...

Extremely interesting. Appreciate your collection of such authentic material and the research alongsides. Being an avid military history/aviation buff , you have widened my horizon and enhanced my knowledge base!Do go through--

tony and y'not!! said...

Extremely interesting. Appreciate your collection of such authentic material and the research alongsides. Being an avid military history/aviation buff , you have widened my horizon and enhanced my knowledge base!Do go through--

tony and y'not!! said...

Being an avid follower of military history and an aviation enthusiast, I find your Blog of immense interest ---Compliments for not only this wonderful collection of the W W memorabilia , but also for the information and write-ups!!

Anonymous said...

Being an avid follower of military history and an aviation enthusiast, I find your Blog of immense interest ---Compliments for not only this wonderful collection of the W W memorabilia , but also for the information and write-ups!!

Related Posts with Thumbnails