During the German advance into Žemaitija and Courland which started on April 27, 1915, Kuršėnai (Kurshany, Kurschany) near Šiauliai (Schaulen) was swiftly, on April 29, entered by German cavalry (22. Kavallerie-Brigade, 3. Kavallerie-Division) which had rushed up via Kelmė all the way from Jurbarkas on river Nemunas. Šiauliai was taken on April 30. But Kuršėnai also changed hands when during a Russian counteroffensive Šiauliai was at first given up by the Germans on May 10 and then re-taken on July 21.
When the German army’s retreat from Russia at the end of 1918 was followed by the Red Army, Kuršėnai was entered by units of 39th Regiment of so-called International Division in January 1919.
During the Grenzschutz drive on Šauliai and later on Riga, Kuršėnai was taken by Detachement Schlenther on March 10, 1919. Later, during the formation of Bermondt’s Westarmee or Zapadnaja Armija, on July 26, 1919 Kuršėnai became the base for its Second Corps commanded by Virgolich / Wirgolitsch before it moved on to settle in Šiauliai and Radviliškis. This military formation, also known as “bermontininkai”, frequently clashed with Lithuanian forces and under various pressures finally left Lithuania, and so Kuršėnai, in December 1919.
The Lithuanian Pašto Valdyba’s plans to take over and enlarge the postal system embodied in the German Postgebiet Ober-Ost in 1916 – 1918, included a decision to open a post office in Kuršėnai as well. There was no P.O. there during the German occupation but one had been there in czarist times. A mandate was issued to Maksas Cigleris as early as December 15, 1918. Politico-military circumstances would have made an early opening impossible and, in the absence of any progress reports, another postmaster (įgaliotinis), Antanas Jozėnas, was appointed as from April 8, 1919. On June 10, A. Jozėnas was directed to open a post office in Pumpėnai and in turn was replaced by Jonas Nikolajevas from Panevėžys.
The earliest stamps available at Kuršėnai seem to be Fourth Berlin Issue, followed by the Sėjėjas Issue etc. No postmarker being available, early cancelling was done by handwriting, indicating date and place.
A standard calendar-type postmarker was supplied relatively soon, with authentic use visible as early as July 1919.
This fact also leads to the conclusion that stamps from Kaunas Issues cancelled with the circular Kuršėnai postmarker were provided by collectors themselves – as is obviously the case with several other post offices frequented by philatelically motivated members of the Grenzschutz and the Westarmee. In fact, there is evidence that postal staff at Kuršėnai at leat once obliged to apply the Kuršėnai postmarker to cancel the bogus stamps of the Westarmee.
Usage is also known of a single-line cachet “Kuršėnai”, as seen on an air mail stamp from late1921. By that time the Kuršėnai P.O. already did have a regular postmarker, so this one-liner may have been employed at the Kuršėnai Railway Station. In the early years railway stations, having access to communication of that kind, had the right to dispatch prepaid private telegrams and carried a small stock of stamps for that purpose.
Subject to more solid evidence, it sems advisable to correct a long-standing belief that in 1919 – 1920 the postmaster of Kuršėnai was Stasys Jazdauskas who is also known for cancelling stamps with a personal small seal-like cachet carrying the inscription “JAZDAUSKIS”. Official documentation shows that Stasys Jazdauskas, who in czarist times had been a postal official in Tiflis (Georgia in the Caucasus), was appointed postmaster of Papilė as from May 8, 1919 and was on duty there until he was placed in charge of the Central Office of the Lithuanian Field Post on December 1, 1920. In the absence of a more convincing explanation, the usual story about Stasys Jazdauskas appears to contain a confusion of Kuršėnai with Papilė (?).
In 1919, surviving registered articles from Kuršėnai are rare. Walter Norton had in his collection a registered letter to the USA bearing a manuscript black ink boxed registration etiquette inscribed “Kurschany /
Kuršėnai / N 521” dated 22.IX.19.
Known provisional cancellations:
Manuscript date and place:
25 / IV / 19 single, Berlin IV 30 [colln. Doniela]
One-liner cachet “Kuršėnai” (Railway Station ?):
no date, single, First Air 80 [colln.Lapas]
Provisional registration marking:
22. IX. 19, reg. letter to USA, as described above, N 521 [formerly Norton]
First standard postmarker:
22. VII. 19 letter to Berlin, Berlin IV 30 x2 [colln. Doniela]
25. VIII. 19 receipt on letter from Kaunas, Kaunas II 30 [colln.Lapas]
postdated … VIII. 19 on singles Kaunas II and III issues [colln. Doniela]
illegal use 20. IX. 19 on cover with bogus stamps of Zapadnaja Armija [colln. ?]