Saturday, September 08, 2012

Sikkim Postal History: Those early years - ii


I had been collecting stamps since last six years but it was only after i got into the postal history of Sikkim, the name philately had a new meaning to me. I looked for more information and talked with many of my acquaintances across India, USA and Germany in regards with early days of Sikkim Postal History. More i went deeper, more information was coming out and towards my surprise the first picture of Sikkim’s Postal History went much ahead to 1861.

An envelope carried by a runner from Yatung to Rawalpindi through Sikkim in 1861

Nick Rhodes on his “Notes on Postal History of Sikkim (1888-1947)” mentions of a rare philatelic postal envelope that was send from Yatong on March 5th 1861 presumably carried by a military runner. The mail had reached Darjeeling (via Sikkim) that had its cancellation B68 and dispatched with red Darjeeling Dispatch mark on March 9th.  The envelope also had a postal mark of Meerut and Rawalpindi. Though no mail services were reported during this ‘Sikkim Expedition’ nevertheless the cover deserves a mention. Brig. DS Virk in his book “Sikkim – Tibet 1903-1908” does talk about about different post offices in Sikkim set up by Sikkim Field Force that did survived even after the military expedition had ceased.  The book also writes about the Post Offices set for the Tibet Frontier Commission.
Sikkim Postal units took off during the Young Husband‘s Expedition in 1903-1904 made more famous as 1903 Tibet-Frontier Mission. Numerous postal stationeries are available with the collectors.  The year 1904 saw an opening of base Post Office at Siliguri and the same year the British Troops also entered Tibet. Mail runners were employed between India and Lhasa.
I would like to mention a name of Captain Cecil Mainprise, a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, commanding a Field Hospital No. 21 at Sikkim on Colonel Sir Francis Younghusband's expedition to Tibet. Fifty letters he had written to his home during his Mission is beautifully placed in a blog “Field Force to Lhasa 1903-04”. In one of his letter written to his sister Delia, Captian Mainprise mentions about Mr Bragg, Director of Indian Post Offices had came to Gnatong to inspect the Post Office arrangements. This suggests that the 1889 Post Office established at Gnatong was still there at 1904. In another letter dating 1903 he even mentions his address as D 21 British Field Hospital Sikkim.
The book “Notes on tour of Darjeeling and Sikkim” published in 1916 written by Lieut. Col. WJ Bhuchanan mentions about his visit to different places of Sikkim. He writes about Gnatong’s glory temporally revived after the Tibet Expedition of 1903. The best thing about Gnatong then was a Dak Bungalow among the 40 houses along with a Telegraph Office.  Bhuchanan brings up an interesting note about the Gnatong Cemetery had a grave of Major A Bean, Superintendent of Field Post Offices who had died in 1904.
It is in this book I first found information about the Rhenock Post Office that was a ten minute walk from the famed DT Prodan Cottage, a popular local Thicadar near 29 mile post. So to my information this is the earliest mention that the Rhenock Post Office was there in 1916.