Update: new provisional manuscript cancel has been reported by Martin Bechstedt
Joniškis is a town 40 km north of Šiauliai. Situated as it is on communication links to Riga, it was significant militarily in both 1915 and 1919. In World War One, during cavalry encounters in the two battles for Šiauliai, Joniškis changed hands more than once – it was taken and held for several days on April 30, 1915 by German cavalry, then reclaimed by the Russians, then conclusively taken by 6. Kavallerie-Division on July 20.
During the German withdrawal from Russia at the end of 1918, units of the Red Army came to Joniškis in the first half of January 1919 but were pushed out on March 19 by the Grenzschutz (1. Garde-Reserve-Division) advancing in the direction of Jelgava (Mitava, Mitau) and Riga. After the formation of the Russo-German Westarmee, the well-installed Joniškis railway station was an an essential link in its supply lines. The last few months of 1919 witnessed increasing conflicts between the aggressive “bermontininkai” and Lithuanians. Joniškis was finally cleared on November 27 by the Pasvalio rinktinė.
Joniškis had had a post office in czarist times (Janishki) and, for a very brief period with no surviving evidence, a branch (Janischki) within Postgebiet Ob.-Ost from November 11, 1918 to December 26, 1918. A stationary Feldpoststation 264 was in residence from early March 1916 to probably November 1918. During the short Soviet rule a post office was also planned or set up but there is no tangible record of its activity.
A mandate, as įgaliotinis, to establish a Lithuanian post office was issued, as from April 10, 1919 to Vladas Kazys Varanka sent up from Kaunas, who in fact opened it on ca. April 16, 1919. As of June 18, he went back to Kaunas for another appointment and was replaced by Christopas Zingbergas who in turn, on October 10, was succeeded as postmaster by Pranas Kerelis who stayed there for many years to come. Other early appointees in 1919 were Skablauskas and Šukys. In the last few months of 1919 the Joniškis post office worked under considerable harassement by “bermontininkai”.
An early postmaster Pranas Kerelis much later reminisced that, to start with, Joniškis “had no stamps”. However, cancels (e.g. 21. IV. 19) show that within a few days Joniškis was selling Third Kaunas Issue. Later, the stock included Fourth Berlin and Sėjėjas Issues etc.
No provisional cancelling has been reported, and this may be due to the circumstance that the first appointed postmaster, Vladas Varanka, brought with him from Kaunas a regular postmarker. If this supposition is correct, Joniškis was a rare if not the first early Lithuanian post office which possessed a standard postmarker right from its beginning. (It is likely that Vladas Varanka also brought with him the plain-looking Third Kaunas Issue as well, which Pranas Kerelis may not have considered as proper “stamps”.)
(Addendum) Herr Martin Bechstedt reports that he possesses a Third Kaunas 10 sk. stamp which was cancelled in manuscript and carries a regular JONIŠKIS postmark as well. The date 19.IV.19 fits in well with an early claim that the Joniškis P.O. was opened ca. April 16, 1919 and had a regular postmarker to start with.)
While Joniškis seems to have had a standard calendar-type postmarker right to start with, it did not have a registration cachet. For at least several months it resorted to a hand-drawn box-like imitation where the place-name and country were at least sometimes spelled in German (Jonischkis, Littauen) for the benefit of destinations to which German troops addressed their mail.
Known provisional markings:
19.IV.19 single, Kaunas III 10sk [colln. M. Bechstedt]
Provisional registration in manuscript:
32 31 V. 19 reg. cover to Germany (returned), Third Kaunas 10 x4, 15, Second Kaunas 60 [colln. Lapas]