The submarines set of stamps- The Submarine Post

The first, the most valuable and one of the beautiful set of stamps is by no doubt Spain`s "The Submarine Post".
By early 1938, faced with defeat, the Republican Government was in desperate need of foreign currency with which to buy both food and munitions. Faith in the Republican peseta was diminishing as the Nationalists advanced. It therefore became necessary to resort to a number of new ideas to raise the much needed currency.

One of these was by issuing stamps and thus the AFO (Official Philatelic Agency) under Don Arturo Fernandez Noguera came into being. In August 1938 Sr. Noguera had the idea of a special submarine post between the besieged island of Menorca and the mainland.

A set of six stamps were issued on the 11th August 1938. Printed photogravure by a small company - Oliva de Vilanova of Barcelona.

The following values and designs were printed:
1p blue- Submarine D1 (20.000 printed)
2p red/brown- Submarine A1 (15.000 printed)
4p orange/red- Submarine B2 (12.000 printed)
6p indigo/blue- Submarine A1 (10.000 printed)
10p mauve- Submarine B2 (10.000 printed)
15p grey/green- Submarine D1 (8.000 printed)
The stamps have `REPUBLICA ESPANOLA` at the top and `CORREO SUBMARINO` at the base.

In addition there was a miniature sheet, 12.500 printed, of three stamps:
4p black and carmine- Submarine B2
6p black and blue- Submarine A1
15p black and dark green- Submarine D1

All are found imperf. and with overprint `MUESTRA` (Specimen). The stamps are also found on carton paper, imperf.
The set of stamps and the miniature sheet were sold in the AFO at double face value. A Barcelona newspaper dated 26th November 1938 gave notice that the plates had been destroyed in the presence of postal employees, the press and various eminent stamp dealers. This was also reported in the then `Daily Worker` for 23rd December of that year.
In addition to the straightforward stamps there were various proofs and essays. The Galvez 1960 Proofs and Essays catalogue shows details of three projected designs of which it states there are six colors of each - brown, blue, ultramarine, mauve, green and dark orange. I must state here that I have never seen them nor can I find any Spanish dealer or collector who has either.

The designs are as follows:
1p Isaac Peral and his submarine of 1886.
4p The submarine constructed by Monturiol in 1850 for gathering sponges.
10p A submarine with periscope symbolizing the `Submarine Post`.

The Post
Tomas Oros Gimeno was appointed postmaster of the Submarine post and all of the principal covers taken from Barcelona on the outward journey to Menorca are signed on the back `El Ambulante Submarino/Tomas Oros` and a certificate was included in all covers.

In August 1938 Menorca was totally cut off from Republican Spain, the other islands of the Balearic Group, being in Nationalist hands. There was a blockade by sea and by air and transporting mail to and from the island impossible. So it was decided to run the blockade by using the submarine C-4. 300 special covers were addressed to some of the leading dealers and philatelic writers throughout the world and 100 addressed to leading Republicans. These latter covers feature a special map, together with a large `PRIMER/CORREO/SUBMARINO/BARCELONA-MAHON` in the bottom left hand corner in dark red.

The submarine C-4 left Barcelona at 8 p.m. on 12th August 1938, arriving Mahon, Menorca at 1 p.m. on the 13th. An American correspondent, Werner Kell, took passage in the C-4. In an article entitled `Stamp World` which he wrote for the Saturday Evening Post of 11th March 1939 he described the voyage. It seems that the submarine submerged twice, once to miss an Italian fighter aircraft and then again to miss the Nationalist patrol boats just outside the harbor of Mahon. The return journey - the submarine left Mahon at 10 p.m. on the 17th and arrived Barcelona 10.30 p.m. on the 18th.

Each cover of the first 300 was registered and given a number from `R1` to `R300`. 150 covers carried the full set of stamps and the other 150 the miniature sheets. The other cover (i.e. from the 100) was printed in dark red on white or buff (it seems that there were not enough of the one color) and carries, so it seems, stamps only. I have not seen a miniature sheet on one of these covers. 25 only had the complete set and the rest one or more values (up to 5). These covers vary in size slightly but are approximately 235 x 181mm.

These covers have orphans charity stamps on the back cancelled by the Mahon postmark. These special postmarks were 45 x 35mm and always in black (those in purple are forgeries). They have `CORREO SUBMARINO/BARCELONA` and `CORREO SUBMARINO/MAHON`. These two marks have different ornaments either side and both have secret identification marks. On the Barcelona mark the `3` of `1938` is broken at the top and on the Mahon postmark the `1` of `1938` is broken half way down.

There was also a maximum card, 141 x 39mm, showing a submarine one side with the inscription `Postal Maximum conmemorativa del Primer Correo Submarino, de Barcelona a Mahon`. On the back `TARGETA POSTAL` and numbered from 001 to 100. There is also the inscription `Tiraje garantizado, 100 ejemplares numeradas` (Guaranteed print, 100 numbered examples). The stamps are cancelled with the Barcelona postmark with the Mahon postmark on the reverse.

From an eye-witness who lived in Mahon during the civil war I learnt that when the submarine C-4 arrived in the port stamps up to the 10p value were offered for sale on the jetty and many people bought them, stuck them on envelopes and had them cancelled by the special postmark.

The Submarine C-4
The submarine was launched at Cartagena on 6th July 1929 and became part of the Republican fleet in 1936. She spent a long period under repair at Bordeaux, France where she took refuge when the fall of Santander was imminent.
After repairs she assumed a vigilance role and carried out several visits between Cartagena, Barcelona and Mahon. On one of these runs she carried the `Submarine Post`. A front from Cartagena to Santurce, Viscaya has a mark in violet, 43x35 mm of the Control Committee. Dated 11th February, 1937.

The C-4 together with the rest of the Republican fleet sailed from Cartagena on 3rd March, 1939 to take refuge at the French Naval base of Bizerta, Tunis, where she stayed until the Nationalist Navy took possession on 2nd April of the same year. On 27th April, 1946 when taking part in combined exercises with several destroyers, she was rammed by the destroyer `Lepanto` when trying to surface. She was lost with all her complement of 44.

The submarine post was not very successful and failed to attract the much needed foreign currency. Most of the leading catalogues refused to list the stamps for many years - however they are now included in most listings. Senor Noguera finished up a disillusioned man. The AFO was over zealous in its endeavors to raise foreign money and failed.

A Guide to the Postal History of the
Spanish Civil War 1936 to 1939
Edited by Ronald G. Shelley

Image Country Year Description
Spain 50th anni' to the issue of Correo Submarino, Filatelic exposition, 13-14 August 1988, Mahon
Spain 50th anni' to the issue of Correo Submarino- Mahon- Barcelona by S-74 "Tramontana", souvenir sheet
Spain 50th anni' to the issue of Correo Submarino- Barcelona- Cartagena by S-74 "Tramontana", 8 Feb' 1988
Spain 50th anni' to the issue of Correo Submarino- Mahon- Barcelona by S-74 "Tramontana", 5 Feb' 1988
Spain 1938 Correo submarino.Spainish submarines (set of 6 stamps)
Spain 1938 Correo submarino (set of 3 stamps)
Spain 1938 Correo submarino (souvenir sheet of 3 stamps)
Spain 1938 Correo submarino.Spainish submarines (set of 6 stamps+ss)
Home  |   About  |   index  |   History  |   Articles  |   Wish List  |   Bibilo  |   Contact  |   Search
בניית אתרים - ITdesigns    עיצוב ומיתוג - Hadas-Studio All rights reserved to