Šilalė is a town in Žemaitija 30 km north of Tauragė. In World War One it was passed through by reco squadrons of 45. Kavallerie-Brigade on the very first night of the German advance into Žemaitija which started in the early hours of April 27, 1915.
During the German withdrawal from Russia at the end of 1918, Šilalė escaped further hostilities as the Red Army’s vanguards were halted a safe distance further east. Bodies of local self-administration were formed and links were soon established with the new Lithuanian central authorities, though in the second half of 1919 the populace were sometimes harassed by foraging “bermontininkai”.
In czarist times, Šilalė had had a post office (as Shileli) but none during the German occupation. A mandate as įgaliotinis to establish a Lithuanian post office, as from May 16, 1919 was given to Jonas Bielinis who stayed on as postmaster until July 20, 1920 when he was apppointed as postmaster of Švenčionėliai (when part of the Vilnius district was retaken by Lithuanians in the summer of 1920). At Šilalė he was replaced by Jonas Hermanas, at first in a temporary capacity, then as postmaster on August 16, 1920.
For stamps, Šilalė was provided with Fourth Berlin Issue followed by the Sėjėjas Issue etc., though an early quantity of Kaunas Issues or even Vilnius Issues cannot be ruled out. With time, Šilalė acquired some philatelic prominence because of residence there of an ardent collector, Stasys Biržiškis.
In the absence of a formal postmarker Šilalė made use of four different modes of provisional postal marking. There is some difficulty in working out the temporal sequence of when and how these provisionals were applied. Indeed, an inspection of available materials shows that some of them were applied concurrently. The reconstruction that follows here is hardly definitive, and the sequence may have to be amended as new evidence comes forth.
The earliest, “the first” provisional postal marking seems to be the one-liner “Šilalė” used for cancelling and for registration markings. It is regarded here as “the first” because it has been seen on a registered cover to the USA dated as early as 30 / VI – 19. Its duration is not known.
In late 1919 there appears “the second” provisional marking, an undated four-ringed provisional circular cachet without any inscription whatever. It is identifiable only by its occurrence on mail from Šilalė. Its life-span cannot be determined, as yet.
“The third” provisional with the inscription “ŠILALĖ” in a double ring appears in early January 1920 with e. g. clear dates 8. I. 20. It seems to have had only a short life.
The most frequent is “the fourth” provisional, a well-formed dated circular postmarker with the inscription “ŠILALĖ * PAŠTO SKYRIUS * “. It can be seen late on items from 1923 and 1924 but it also comes up with such early dates as September and November 1919. This being so, it is puzzling why the other provisionals, of much poorer design, were sometimes used at the same time as well.
It is worth noting that this well-formed cachet was still in use as late as 1924, although Šilalė had been provided with a standard calendar-type postmarker in 1921. Use of the standard postmarker is in evidence already on Fourth Berlin and the Sėjėjas Issues.
For registration, before receiving a standard registration cachet Šilalė made use of two non-standard cachets. The earlier one was making use of the one-liner “Šilalė” but it was soon replaced by a cachet with different lettering and was struck in red ink.
Known provisional markings:
Cancelling by one-liner cachet “Šilalė”:
30 / VI – 19 reg. cover No. 515 to USA, Berlin IV 50 x2 [formerly Matuzas]
No date singles, Berlin IV 20, 50 [colln. Liesis]
No date single, Berlin IV 40 [colln. Doniela]
Cancelling by a four-ringed cachet:
Late 1919, reg. cover No. 83 to England, arr. 5 JA 20, Berlin IV 20, 1a [colln. ?]
No date single, Berlin IV 30 [colln. Lapas]
No date pair, Berlin IV 30 [colln. Doniela]
Cancelling by “ŠILALĖ” in a double ring:
8. 1. 20 red reg. cover No. 20 to Kaunas, Berlin IV 30 [colln. Bubnys]
8. 1. 20 single, Berlin IV 30 [colln. Doniela]
16. 1. 20 single, Berlin IV 30 [colln. Bubnys]
Cancelling by “ŠILALĖ PAŠTO SKYRIUS”:
…9. 19 single, Berlin IV 30 [colln. Wilson]
6 . 11. 19 single, Berlin IV 40 [colln. Bubnys]
16. 11. 19 single, Berlin IV 10 [colln. Doniela]
18. 4. 20 reg. cover No. 1796 to USA, Berlin IV 40 x4 [formerly Matuzas]
Date unclear pair, 4a/75 [colln. Doniela]
Dates from 1924, reg. cover to Kaunas, also on Centai stamps [colln. Doniela]