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RUHLEBEN P.O.W. CAMP
On 4 August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. At
that time some 7 000 civilian British subjects were either living in or
visiting Germany, and in November all the males between the ages of 17 and 55
were interned as prisoners-of-war. They were from the beginning gathered in Ruhleben
(map), then a village 10 km west of the
centre of Berlin, near Spandau. By spring 1915 4 400 men were kept at
this former horse racecourse.
The monotony resulted in the invention of all kinds of organisations or
enterprises, and on 19
July 1915 Albert Kamps started the Ruhleben Express Delivery, RXD, and
issued the first postage stamp. Albert's brother was in charge of the production. A lot of different postal stationery was also made
(also to private order of camp organisations).
There were 25 letter boxes in the camp. Roughly 6 000 pieces of mail of all kinds (much of it postal stationery)
were handled each month. Postal rates for letters and cards up to 50 grams was
1/3 d and 1/2 d above 50 grams. The currency is English pence (d).
In October 1915 a Berlin stamp magazine published an article about this camp
German philatelists then made complaints – of the use of postage stamps – to the authorities, who on 3 April 1916
closed the RXD. Kamps was sentenced to solitary confinement, although
his post had been approved by the Commandant. The remaining stock of stamps
and postal stationery was confiscated. (Billig's Vol. 18: most of the issue
was destroyed.) RXD was replaced by a stamp-less postal
service that never became very popular. Following the armistice of 11
November 1918 most of the restrictions on the movements of the prisoners
were abolished and the release started.
The used stamps are mostly cancelled with open three-line
stamps. A special postmark/cancellation is shown
here (at bottom). The first issues (#1–4 and Postage Due #1) were
withdrawn on 31 October, but remained valid until 31 December 1915. The
Michel private posts catalogue of 1999 valued the Ruhleben stamps at 20–40 DM (10–20 Euros)
unused and 40–60 DM (20–30 Euros) used. All the Ruhleben
postage stamps were hand-made, with rubber stamp dies, on pre-gummed paper.
Due to wear two dies, A and B (since about 10 Sept.), were used for
all of the five stamps (and the stationery) of the first issues. In A the
base line of 'p' in 'postage' at left is even with the top of 'one', but in B
it is even with the bottom of 'one' and the distance between 'postage' and
'third' is now smaller.
In addition '1/3' stands lower in A while it is higher up in B.
In B there is a constant flaw (an arc) in the frame line to the left
LIST OF STAMPS
For images and forgery descriptions: click on an underlined # link.
19 July 1915. Dies A and B. Perf. 11½.
1/3 d black, (3 000 printed,
not including #2, 4, distribution A/B unknown).
(This the first stamp page opens in a new
tab or window
with links to the next pages.)
1 August 1915, #3: 14 August. #1 surcharged. Dies A and B. Perf. 11½.
1/2 d on 1/3 d black, surch. in red, (800 printed).
1/2 d on 1/3 d green, surch. in black (colour of #1
changed, A/B), (200 printed).
1 d on 1/3 d black, surch. in red, (500 printed).
23 October 1915, #5: March 1916. Perf. 11½.
(The first colour is that of the frame.)
1/4 d green and black. (In
total 7 200 printed of #5–13, O1 and D2.)
1/3 d black and rose.
Essays or colour trials of the 1/3 d (28
1/2 d green and blue.
3/4 d blue and black.
1 d carmine and violet. This newspaper
subscription receipt was sold at Robert
Murray's, Edinburgh UK, auction on 19 January 2004 as lot no. 328, estimate
£15. (Scan R. Murray.)
1 1/2 d violet and black.
2 d black and violet.
2 1/2 d blue and red.
3 d carmine and black.
23 October 1915. Official stamp, with star. Perf. 11½.
No value indicated, violet, ovpt. green. (A proof of an earlier official
19 July 1915, #D2: 23 October. Postage due stamps. Perf. 11½.
1/3 d black,
ovpt. in green on #1, dies A and B, (200 printed).
1/2 d red and green,
ovpt. in green on #7 in other colours.
July 1915. Postcard. Dies A and B.
1/3 d black, (die B: 6 000 printed).
Forgery description (same as for the stamp).
(All the stamps are genuine.)
Presented by Kamps. The 1/4 d
issued in March 1916 is not included.
Compiled by some German
dealer(?). Includes all stamps and one 1/3 d essay.
Compiled by dealer N.
Strandberg, Turku, Finland; in 1920's? #5 to 13 and O1.
These six sets were created by Percy M. Green for himself.
As prisoner he worked in the RXD. He emigrated to the USA after WW1 and died
in 1981 at the age of 89. Facts and picture by the courtesy of KM (USA), grandson
of Mr. Green.
Essays or colour trials are known for the 1/3 d value of the final
issue. 28 different are shown here. Only
few varieties or errors are recorded. Forgeries exist of all values, but not of
the 1/3 d die A types. They are illustrated here, within a black frame, and
described together with the corresponding genuine stamp (click the
catalogue's # links above). For better comparison there are frequently more than
one image in the description of a certain stamp.
The F1 is perforated 10½ while all the genuine are 11½. It is not
known used. The F1 resembles the originals so closely (appearance,
production method, colours, paper*, gum, sheet size (mostly 5x2)) that F1 is
some kind of post-war** printings from a die prepared by RXD but not put in
use – the layout positions differ. But no facts are available. Some
F1's carry either of the following back-stamps:
No expertising marks noted on the back of genuine stamps, but many of the
preserved unused ones are pasted to pieces of cardboard. Two
F1 postal stationery
forgeries (all unused) are known: #1.B postcard and #7 envelope.
*Exactly the same wove paper, but on the genuine copies so far seen by me the
paper's mesh is vertical, while it is horizontal on the F1's. (Thus the
stamps also curl differently.)
**Source: Bachenheimer. – Or could it have been improper use of confiscated stock
devices? Note that F1 type forgeries also exist for the invalidated #1–4 and
Of the crude forgery F2 I have only seen used copies, usually tied to
with all four F2 stamps, #6–9. Other denominations not recorded. The production
method seems to be some primitive kind of typography. The colours do not
match, but the perforation is correct. The covers
are postmarked with varying dates, which often are impossible (too early,
too late): 15.10.15,
21.12.16, 10.1.17, 17.3.17, 24.11.17 etc.
In November 2004 this cover was sold on auction
for US$40 (est. $60). It is an F2 forgery.
Frank Bachenheimer. The Ruhleben P.O.W.
Camp 1914–1918. The Germany Philatelic Society, USA 1980. (This is the main
philatelic work on the subject.)
Berliner Briefmarken-Zeitung, 30 October 1915, pp. 436–8.
Berliner Briefmarken-Zeitung, 12 February 1916, pp. 51–2.
Billig's Philatelic Handbook, Vol. 18, pp. 108–9.
Billig's Specialized Catalogues, Vol. 6, New York 1950, p. 121. (This is a
revised edition of E. F. Hurt's and L. N. & M. William's catalogue of local
Werner M. Bohne. Germany Philatelic Society Reference Manual of Forgeries.
Israel Cohen. The Ruhleben Prison Camp. Methuen & Co., UK 1917.
J. W. Gerard. My Four Years in Germany. Doran Co., New York 1917.
Herman Herst, Jr. The Ruhleben Express Delivery of World War I. In American
Philatelic Congress Book 1961, pp. 61–70.
J. D. Ketchum. Ruhleben: A Prison Camp Society. Oxford Univ., Toronto 1965.
Hans Meier zu Eissen. Die Deutschen Privatpost-Anstalten, V. ?
Fred Melville. The Ruhleben Prisoners Stamps 1915–16. In Stamp Collecting,
20 September 1920.
Horst Müller. Michel Spezial-Katalog der deutschen Privatpostmarken. München
1999. P. 41. (For some reason RXD is not included, like the WW2 POW camp
stamps, in the Michel Deutschland Spezial.)
J. Powell & F. Gribble. The History of Ruhleben. Collins, UK 1919.
Geoffrey Pyke. To Ruhleben – and Back. Houghton Mifflin, UK 1916. (Modern
The Ruhleben Camp, subsequently The Ruhleben Camp Magazine. Camp periodical.
David Springbett in UK is reported to own the finest collection of R.
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