Friday, October 14, 2011

Mysterious Green Labels on WWI Official Mail to the International Red Cross Prisoners-of-War Agency from the Luxembourg Red Cross Society





Mail to the Red Cross Prisoners-of-War Agency in Geneva

Registered letter from the Luxembourg Government Information Office [the “Renseignements” or “Amtliche Auskunftsstelle”], Luxembourg Red Cross Society, to the Agence des Prisonniers de Guerre of the Comité International de la Croix Rouge (the “AIPG”), in Geneva, Switzerland, with Luxembourg-Ville IV cds, August 17, 1915, and Trier censorship, backstamped at Geneva, August 21, 1915. 

The 12½c, 15c, and 37½c GD William IV official stamps pay 40c UPU postage for a 20-40g letter plus the 25c registry fee.

But what additional meaning does the mysterious green label provide?  Was it applied by the AIPG in Geneva?  For what purpose?  Without answers to these questions, the cover’s postal history will remain incomplete.

The label is perforated on the left hand side.  The number ‘38,’ the letter “B,” and the name ‘Melle Ch. Lachenae’ have been added in manuscript.

The International Prisoners of War Agency

Wikipedia tells us that the AIPG was a service of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and was founded in 1914. During World War I, the AIPG established an office in Geneva at the Rath museum for a finding prisoners and displaced people of all nationalities (even though there was no convention protecting civilians at the time). It allowed them to contact their families and send mail and parcels, bypassing barriers between warring countries.



AIPG at the Rath Museum

The images below show the AIPG’s typing and file rooms, which employed about 100 persons around 1918.  Notice the extensive card files in the second image. During the war, according to Wikipedia, the war the Agency prepared 4,805,000 index cards and dispatched 1,854,914 parcels and consignments of collective relief.






Another Example




Here the green label appears with the letters ‘E F/E’ added in typescript.  This triple-weight (40-60 g) cover was posted on May 19, 1915.  The 5c Arms and 50c GD William IV officials correctly pay the 55c postage.

Surely those of you familiar with the International Red Cross can explain the use of these distinctive green labels!

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