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British New Guinea

FIRST STAMPS Queensland from 1885 onwards.



1901, sterling.

New Guinea lies to the north of Australia. The western part was annexed by the Dutch in 1828 (see under Asia). Britain and Germany established protectorates over the eastern part in 1884.

Was visited by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 16th century. In 1606 Torres explored the southern coast and the strait between the island and Australia. Visits by Dutch, French and British explorers took place in the following two centuries. The East India Company annexed the island in 1793, but the Dutch claim to the area west of 1410E was upheld in 1828.

Many surveys of the eastern area were carried out by the British in the middle of the 19th century; the last of these, by John Moresby in 1873, pointed out the danger to Queensland if the island was occupied by a foreign power. With popular support, the area in question was annexed by Queensland on 4 April 1883. Although this move was not ratified by the British government, when Germany proclaimed a protectorate over the northern coast and several other island groups in November 1884, the annexed area in the south was made the protectorate of British New Guinea by proclamation in 1888.

The boundaries were set by a commission in 1885. The government of the British area was managed by Queensland on behalf of that colony, New South Wales and Victoria. In 1902, this responsibility was transferred to the Government of Australia. Federal control was regulated by the Papua Act of 15 November 1905, which came into effect the following year when the name was changed to the Territory of Papua.

Postal History
When a protectorate was proclaimed outright on 4 September 1888, POs were opened at Port Moresby and Samarai, but there is evidence that postal arrangements, possibly only for official mail, existed immediately after the arrival of the Special Commission in 1884.

From 1886 a monthly steamer service was under contract to carry mails and supplies to and from the protectorate. This sailed from Sydney or Cooktown and may have stopped on the return journey at Thursday Island to collect other southbound mail.

First cancellations for stamps were barred ovals with the letters NG or BNG, accompanied by a dated stamp. The island joined the UPU in 1892 and by 1905 there were eight POs in operation.

Territory of Papua


1901, sterling.

FIRST STAMPS Queensland and British New Guinea.

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED BNG stamps overprinted - 8 November 1906.

Created by the Papua Act of 1905, this territory was administered by the Federal Government of Australia. It changed its name from British New Guinea on 1 September 1906.

Used as a base for operations against German New Guinea (q.v.) during World War I, but continued to use its own stamps even when the occupied German territory was using overprinted Australian adhesives.

In January 1942 the Japanese invaded the north-west and landed in the mandated territory of New Guinea. The Government of Australia suspended civil government throughout the island on 14 February 1942 and it came under military control. Civil administration recommenced in October 1945 and the territory was then administered as Papua New Guinea.

Postal History
First stamps were quickly produced by overprinting existing issue of British New Guinea. The new definitive issue began to appear in 1907.

Postmarks were gradually changed and the new Papua type included letters which indicated the district in which the PO was situated (W.D. is Western, C.D. is Central and so on).

Internal air connections began in 1928 with flights from Port Moresby to Salamaua. Because of the terrain, this provided great advantages and was used increasingly during the 1930s. By 1938 there was a regular service on a weekly basis to Australia to connect with the London flight.

By the outbreak of the Japanese War in 1941 there were 31 POs on the mainland.

New Guinea & Bismarck Archipelago to 1925
Click map for larger view

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