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WW2 Southern African Pioneers in the British Pioneer Corps

I am in the process of finishing an article on the soldiers from Bechuanaland, Swaziland, and Basutoland that were recruited into the British (Royal) Pioneer Corps (AAPC of APC) during WW2 1941-1949. Does anybody have airmail letter sheets, regular letters, and registration envelopes that can be attributed to these soldiers either incoming to the Middle East of going home. 

The home going air sheets rarely stand out for their strong philatelic appeal. They are mostly addressed to Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland (but other countries particularly U.K. exists) and are identified as originating from the Middle East Forces (M.E.F.), Central Mediterranean Forces (C.M.F.), or similar. They are cancelled by Egyptian Postage Prepaid, Field Post Office (F.P.O.), or Army Post Office (A.P.O.) cancellers and in addition often marked by the censor and endorsed by a commanding officer. A few typical example is shown in below mailed from a Bechuana pioneer to a home kgosi (or teacher/priest). The stamp is cancelled by a Egypt 56 cancel and with a crowned passed censor 296 cachet endorsed by the signature of a commanding officer. The information on the sender is given with the message and not on the outside of the sheet. Also shown is an example of a outgoing letter from Basutoland to the MEF. 

Can anybody provide information and/or scans of sheet and content?


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What a great subject.  Hope you can find some of this of use.  I have put everything I have up hoping that if more comes in Steve will consider a file as with Korea and Madagascar.

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Continued. (I have seen Jos referred to as Jos Maseko).

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Well, Peter! What can I say about Jamie's enthusiasm for the SAPC and the subject of the Pioneer Corps?

Yes, I am prepared to start this subject as a new Club Collective provided Peter does not feel we are treading on his toes. If I had spent years collecting this material, I would be a bit anxious if someone started calling for it to be shown here before I was ready with my display. It's a slightly tricky conflict of interests.

I am wondering if a Club Collective display on the Cape Corps  should not also be considered. As part of my Simonstown collection, I have two very early covers from the first days of the formation of the Cape Corps at Bellevue Camp (aka Ark Rock Camp) in 1915. (This was the old South African War Boer POW Camp). Bob Hill also has some CC items. Given the traditional White South African hostility towards arming 'men of colour', I think that such a display will make a good contribution towards a better understanding of our history. Yes / No?

Finally, with regards to the WW2 comment about Job Maseko being 'only an African', I am reminded of Abraham Esau, the black man viciously murdered in Calvina during the SAW for organising pro-British resistance to the occupying Boers, some of whom were local land-owners and Cape Rebels. Lord Alfred Milner, the toffee-nosed arch-imperialist South African High Commissioner, seemingly loathed Boers and blacks in equal measure. While lauding Esau's heroics in fighting for 'the fair play' that Britain represented, Milner dismissed Esau's humanity by describing him as "only a coloured man". The time span between Milner's racist statement and Maseko's denial of a VC was over 40 years, just a fraction of the time in which this attitude prevailed across generations. That said, to win a VC, the deserving action must be witnessed by an officer. It is possible that Job Maseko acted alone and that his courage was not witnessed.




I have no objections to your plans. This should also including native involvement in WWI and the SA native labor corps.

I can offer my now outdated exhibit on the HCT APCs


P.S. Steve is there anyway that I can reach you outside club pages?

Here are a few from my collection. Two from southern african pioneer forces and one very tatty cover from Basutoland to a member of the pioneer forces in the middle east.

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Hi, Happy Christmas to you.  Thanks for these!  The third cover is brilliant I have never seen a cover going to a member of the SA pioneer forces.  Jealous as you know what!

Thank you for showing these. Airletters to the Basuto bookstore is not unusual (education for repatriation - as I call it). The registration envelope contained a 10s postal order (wish that was preserved). However, the tarry cover is rather exceptional. I know about 4-5 ASLS but have never seen a cover (slightly overpaid by 0.5d). It may look tatty - by it is really a gem. 

Did you chop it a bit during the scanning - or was it the receiver? Is there any postmarks on the reverse? I am writing a larger article about these and would hope that you would allow me to use it as an illustration? See the latest issue of the SAF. 

Thanks again, Peter