Alytus is a major town in southern Lithuania 65 km south of Kaunas. Because of its fortifications and strategic importance Alytus played an important part both in the battles of 1915 and in the postwar confrontation between the withdrawing German forces and the advancing Red Army.
In World War One, Alytus was captured after the fall of Kaunas, by XXI Reserve-Korps on August 26, 1915. During the German retreat from the East at the end of 1918, Alytus was held against the Bolsheviks by volunteer Grenzschutz (Brigade Olita) units, later taken over by Lithuanian regulars.
In the czarist period, Alytus had two post offices: one in the town (Olita) and one in its railway station (Olita vokzal). During the German occupation, in Alytus there was a branch (Olita) of the civilian Postgebiet Ob.-Ost structure and a stationary Feldpoststation 208. In the postwar period, Grenzschutz troops in the Alytus area were served, depending on the situation, by three Frw. Feldpost facilities: 208, 728, 3007.
A mandate as įgaliotinis to establish a Lithuanian post office was issued in advance to Juozas Bražinskas as early as December 25, 1918 but the actual opening date is not known. It was some time in January 1919. As of June 4, 1919 Juozas Bražinskas was replaced by Antanas Šarka who in 1921 was promoted to deputy postmaster of Šiauliai.
As one of the earliest Lithuanian post offices, Alytus was provided with the very first stock of Lithuanian stamps (10 and 15 of First Vilnius and 20 and 30 of Second Vilnius), possibly supplemented by more values of Second Vilnius issue and certainly followed by First and Second Kaunas, Fourth Berlin, the Sėjėjas Issues etc.
In the absence of a regular postmarker, cancelling was done in manuscript, showing place and date.
Manuscript notation was also used to confirm incoming registered mail.
By ca. mid-1919 Alytus was supplied with a circular seal-type cachet which for a while also functioned as a canceller. So far, this mode of cancelling has been recorded only on stamps of Fourth Berlin Issue.
Some time in 1919 Alytus was provided with a standard calendar-type postmarker inscribed “ALYTA” which for some unknown reason seems to have been set aside and was put to use later, in 1922 and 1923.
A standard postmarker of a smaller size with the correct inscription “ALYTUS” was supplied in late 1919 or early 1920. It also carried index “a”. Within a year or so another standard postmarker was received, of a different design but again with index “a”.
[For a more detailed account of postal history of Alytus during the immediate post-WWI period, including the Grenzschutz, see an article /in Lithuanian/ by Vytautas Doniela, “Paštai Alytuje 1919 metais” in the Journal of the Lithuania Philatelic Society /Chicago/, No. 235 (2006)]
Known provisional markings:
Cancelling in manuscript:
17 / II / 19 cover to Germany, Vilnius II 20, 30, Kaunas I 10, 15 [colln. Brazdeikis]
3 / III / 19 cover to Germany, Vilnius I 10, Vilnius II 20, 30 [colln. Doniela]
9 / III / 19 cover to Germany, Vilnius II 30 x2, Kaunas I 15 [colln. Doniela]
9 / III / 19 single, Kaunas I 15 [colln. Jankauskas]
17 / III / 19 cover to Kaunas, Kaunas I 10 [colln. Ušpuras]
4 / IV / 19 cover to USA (to pay), Kaunas II 50 [colln. Lapas]
No date single, Vilnius II 30 [colln. Jankauskas]
Receipt marking in MS on registered mail:
31 / V / 19 on reg. cover from Marijampolė [colln. Doniela]
Cancelling by P.O. seal:
No date, cover to Kaunas, Berlin IV 30 [colln. ?]
No date single, Berlin IV 30 [formerly Norton]
No date singles, Berlin IV 10, 30 [colln. Doniela]
Cancelling by standard “ALYTA”:
22. IX. 22 reg. cover No. 580 to Canada [colln. Bubnys]
2. X. 22 (?) cover to Anykščiai, to pay [colln. Lapas]