1938 Spanish Submarine Post

9/03/2017     Spain & Colonies

Issuing stamps in order to raise revenue by governments in financial distress is no modern phenomenon and the magnificent Submarine Post issue of 1938 falls into just that category. By early 1938, the Republican Government of Spain was in desperate need of foreign currency with which to buy both food and armaments and so it resorted to the idea of producing stamps for a unique attempt at blockade running. By August 1938 the Island of 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 was impossible. As a morale boosting exercise 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. This initial mailing was intended to promote global philatelic media interest and thus income from the sale of high volume printings.

The submarine C-4 left Barcelona at 8 p.m. on 12th August 1938, arriving Mahon, Menorca at 1 p.m. on the 13th. The submarine submerged twice, once to miss an Italian fighter aircraft and then again to miss the Nationalist patrol boats just outside the harbour of Mahon. The return journey was uneventful, leaving Mahon at 10 p.m. on the 17th and arriving in 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. 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. 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.

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 and highly sought after.

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