Update: Audrius Brazdeikis reports cachet “Wilna” used on a third type of Ob.-Ost registration etiquettes
In World War One, Vilnius was taken by the German Tenth Army, led by Gen. Hermann von Eichhorn, on August 18, 1915. A civilian post office WILNA, within the system of Postgebiet Ob.-Ost was opened on January 16, 1916 and was closed down on December 26, 1918. During the German retreat from the East, the overall closure of Ob.-Ost post offices had been announced in advance, but only short notices were given for specific hand-overs.
As the Ob.- Ost postal authorities refused to donate or sell any remaining stamp stocks, Lithuania’s hard-pressed Pašto Valdyba hurriedly arranged for the printing of its own issues. The first Vilnius Issue consisting of two values, 10 skatikų and 15 skatikų, was printed overnight either into the 26th or the 27th December and placed directly on sale at the Vilnius P.O. At this stage, these two values apparently were meant to correspond to the current Ob.-Ost rates of 10 Pfennig for postcards and 15 Pfennig for letters.
Before the end of December 1918 more stamps were printed, producing the Second Vilnius Issue distinguished by thicker numerals. The first values so printed were 20 skatikų and 30 skatikų. It was these first-printed values of the Second Vilnius Issue together with the 10 sk. and 15 sk. of the First Vilnius Issue that were immediately allocated to a few re-opened major post offices such as Kaunas and Gardinas (Grodno), and entrusted to some other appointed postmasters (Lith. įgaliotinis). After the values of 20 and 30, the next values to be printed within the Second Vilnius Issue were 40, 50, 10 and 15 skatikų. It must be emphasised that the only Lithuanian stamps sold at the Vilnius P.O. were the First and the Second Vilnius Issues.
The Lithuanian post office in Vilnius opened, in formal terms, on December 27, 1918, though most likely Lithuanian postal representatives met their German counterparts the day before to discuss the procedures of the take-over. This seems to explain why for some sources the first day of the Vilnius Lithuanian P.O. appears to be December 26, 1918.
For a while there was some confusion about the Lithuanian postal rates, as is evident from inconsistencies in early franking. The initial choice of values of 10 and 15 suggested a continuation of the current Ob.-Ost rates, but soon different tariffs were announced which were confirmed retrospectively (yet still having the status of a “project”) as effective from January 1, 1919. They were:
Postcards: domestic 20 sk., foreign 30 sk.
Letters to 15g and for each next 15g: domestic 30 sk., foreign 50 sk.
As the departing German postmen declined to leave behind any such official equipment as postmarkers and the like, for the cancelling of stamps the incoming Lithuanians had to make do with a leftover – a plain Gothic one-liner “Wilna”. This makeshift cachet had been used by the Ob-Ost WILNA P.O. when in June – July 1918 it had run out of its own registration etiquettes and had to resort to obsolete Cyrillic etiquettes from the czarist “Kovna” P.O. and from a nearby quiescent Feldpost 3006. At that time this one-liner “Wilna” was used to delete and overprint the etiquettes so acquired.
During the brief existence of the Lithuanian Vilnius P.O. this Gothic one-liner “Wilna” constituted the only method of cancelling Lithuanian stamps. Its ink varied from black to shades of violet. In more recent times, the one-liner has also been forged.
For more details and unresolved questions associated with the history of the Vilnius P.O. in December 1918 – January 1919, including the exact duration of its activity, see an article /in Lith./ by Vytautas Doniela,“Vilniaus paštas 1918-19“ in Journal of the “Lithuania” Philatelic Society, No.233 (2004).
The following Register is a work-in-progress and lists known items posted at the Lithuanian Post Office of Vilnius in Dec. 1918 – Jan. 1919 cancelled with the Gothic one-liner “Wilna”. A fuller list would easily be at least twice as long. Whenever feasible, the item’s date is recorded in square brackets, for although cancelling by the cachet was not accompanied by a date, in some cases, especially on postcards, some dating was traditionally written in by the sender.
Apart from the cachet’s forerunners on Ob.-Ost registration etiquettes in mid-1918, the Register is arranged as follows:
- Items franked with stamps of First Vilnius Issue
- Items with mixed franking of stamps of both First and Second Issue
- Items franked with stamps of Second Vilnius Issue
- Some forgeries
1. Cachet “Wilna” used on Ob.-Ost registration etiquettes
“Wilna” on etiquettes of czarist “Kovna” :
541 26. 6. 18 to Obernzell [colln. Doniela]
542 26. 6. 18 [formerly Hahne]
557 26. 6. 18 [formerly Hahne]
“Wilna” on etiquettes of Feldpost 3006:
783 1. 7. 18 [colln. ? ]
830 5. 7. 18 to Berlin [colln. Hahne]
913 5. 7. 18 to Berlin [colln. Doniela]
“Wilna” on Ob.-Ost. Kowno etiquettes:
663 10. 7. 18 [colln. Brazdeikis ]
[27. XII. 18] 10 x2 card to Kaunas “Vienybė” by Jonas Basanavičius [colln. Bubnys]
[28. XII. 18] 15 x2 card to Tilsit, Kopp [colln. ?]
[28. XII. 18] 10 x2 card to Kowno, Olnewski [formerly Zygas]
[ ? ] 10, 15 cover to Koenigsberg, Wolpe [formerly Hahne]
[ ? ] 15 cover to Kowno, Tauropol [colln. ?]
[ ? ] 15 x2 small greetings letter, local [colln. Doniela]
[ ? ] 15 x2 cover to Kowno Pl. Wislutis [colln. Bubnys]
[ ? ] 15 x2 cover to Poniewiecz Sopocko [colln.Bubnys]
[ ? ] 10 x2, 15 x2 cover to Leipzig, Holtze [formerly Žygas]
[ ? ] 10, 15 cover to Kowno, AOK 10 [formerly Hahne]
[ ? ] 10 x2, 15 x2 cover to Halle, Hegent [colln. Bubnys]
[ ? ] 10 x2, 15 x2 cover to Magdeburg, Balcke, [colln. ?]
[ ? ] 10 x2, 15 x2 cover to Walldauen (Germany) [colln. J. Norton]
[31.12.18] First 10, Second 20 card to Tilsit, Kramer [colln. Lapas]
[2. 1. 19] First 10, Second 20 card to Berlin, Keidanski [colln. Lapas]
[ ? ] First 10, 15, Second 20, 30 cover to Berlin, Scholtz [colln. Doniela]
[ ? ] First 15 x2 Second 20 cover to Berlin Simon Walk [colln. Bubnys]
[ ? ] First 15 x2, Second 20, cover to Magdeburg, Balcke [colln. ?]
[ ? ] 30 cover to Brzostowica Wielka [colln. Lapas]
[ ? ] 20, 30, cover to Leipzig, Ulanperl [colln. Bubnys]
[ ? ] 20, 30 open window cover, by Rachmilewitz [colln. Lapas]
[4. 1. 19] 30 card to Suwalki, Trocki [colln. Lapas]
Card, forged cachet “Wilna”, with Second 20, Ob.Ost 5
inspected by V. Bubnys and declared a forgery:
[10. 1. 19] card to Muenchen, Massen, Vilnius I 10 x3