A Short Introduction To The Philately Of Palestine

Indian Field Post in Palestine
and the Occupied Enemy Territories

Indian troops serve in the Near East theatre throughout the war. The first battalions of the Indian Expeditionary Forces (IEF) arrive in Egypt in November 1914. By 2.12.1914 six infantry brigades and the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade (comprising 21,000 troops in 27 battalions) are serving in the defence of the Suez Canal. They form 10 Division, 11 Division, Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, and Bikaner Camel Corps.

On 1.06.1915 these divisions get disbanded in favour of Canal Defences. In February 1916 the brigades are dissolved and by June 1917 Indian most battalions have left the area or joined British divisions.

According to Firebrace, Indian Field Post Offices used a total of 16 discernible types of datestamps, but mainly it is type IFPO1. The headquarter of 10 Division at Suez used F.P.O. / No. 311 (30.01.1915–06.1915), 11 Division (at Suez and Ismailia) used F.P.O. / No. 310 (1.12.1914–06.1915).

The Brigades

Indian FPOs

  • 20 Indian Brigade
    • 17.11.1915 joined 10 Indian Division from 7 Meerut Division
    • –.02.1916 Suez Canal Defences
    • –.06.1917 becomes Palestine Line of Command troops
    • –.10.1917 Gaza
    • 1.03.1918 becomes G.H.Q troops, Jericho
    • 24.12.1918 Jerusalem, then Ramallah
    • 17.01.1919 disbanded
  • F.P.O. / No. 14
    (31.12.1915–25.01.1917)
  • F.P.O. / No. 28
    (31.03.1917–21.02.1919)
  • 22 Indian Brigade
    • –.11.1914 joined 11 Indian Division
    • –.12.1914 transferred to 10 Indian Division
    • 15.01.1915 Suez Canal Defences
    • –.12.1915 disbanded
  • F.P.O. / No. 30
    (2.01.1915–30.12.1915)
  • 28 Indian Brigade, Frontier Force
    • –.11.1914 joined 10 Indian Division
    • 15.01.1915 Suez Canal Defences
    • 23.07.1915 shipped to Aden
    • –.09.1915 Suez Canal Defences, Ismailia
    • 28.11.1915 leaves for Basra
  • F.P.O. / No. 29
    (3.11.1914–.07.1915)
  • 29 Indian Brigade
    • –.11.1914 joined 10 Indian Division
    • 15.01.1915 Suez Canal Defences, Kantara
    • 25.04.1915 leaves to join 29 Division at Mudros, then Imbros and Suva
    • –.12.1915 rejoined 10 Indian Division, Sinai
    • –.04.1916 joined IX Corps Suez Canal Defences
    • 21.06.1917 disbanded
  • F.P.O. / No. 34
    (5.12.1914–9.02.1916)
  • 30 Indian Brigade
    • –.11.1914 joined 10 Indian Division
    • –.12.1914 transferred to 11 Indian Division
    • 15.01.1915 Suez Canal Defences, Port Tewfiq
    • 31.03.1915 leaves for Basra
  • F.P.O. / No. 32
    (23.11.1914–3.03.1915)
  • 31 Indian Brigade
    • –.11.1914 joined 11 Indian Division
    • 15.01.1915 Suez Canal Defences, Moascar
    • –.02.1916 disbanded
  • F.P.O. / No. 31
    (1.02.1915–3.01.1916)
  • 32 Imperial Service Brigade
    • –.11.1914 joined 11 Indian Division
    • 15.01.1915 Suez Canal Defences, Moascar
    • –.01.1916 disbanded
  • no Indian FPO datestamps known
  • 49 Indian Brigade
    • 15.04.1917 formed from three battalions of 29 Indian Brigade
    • 17.04.1917 Gaza
    • 26.06.1917 Suez Canal Defences
    • –.01.1918 disbanded
  • no Indian FPO datestamps known

In early 1918 two new divisions arrive in the Near East theatre: 3 Lahore Division and 7 Meerut Division. The former finally becomes part of Troops In Palestine in October 1921, the latter gets disbanded in January 1920.

3 Lahore Division

7 Meerut Division

Landed in Egypt 14.04.1918 and joined XXI Corps in July 1918 near Ludd. Transferred to XX Corps in October 1918 (HQ at Sarona), becomes Line Of Command troops in January 1919 and G.H.Q troops in April. From May it forms part of Northforce (HQ at Bir Salem) and is joined temporarily (11.1919–04.1920) by 11 Cavalry Brigade (Damascus, Jenin, Tiberias). On 15.01.1920 the division reverts to G.H.Q. troops and its HQ moves to the Ramleh area in April. In February 1921 it is joined by 10 Cavalry Brigade and becomes Troops In Palestine 3 Lahore Division in October 1921.

  • 7 Ferozepore Brigade
    • –.10.1918 Haifa
    • 11.11.1918 Tiberias
    • –.11.1918 Nazareth
    • –.05.1919 Haifa
    • –.02.1921 disbanded
  • 8 Jullundur Brigade
    • –.10.1918 Ludd
    • –.05.1919 Jerusalem
    • 28.06.1919 Bir Salem
    • 20.02.1920 Jerusalem
    • –.02.1920 becomes 8 Infantry Brigade South Palestine Brigade
    • –.07.1922 disbanded
  • 9 Sirhind Brigade
    • –.10.1918 Hableh
    • –.11.1918 Damascus
    • 26.11.1919 Bir Salem
    • 5.02.1920 Sarafand
    • –.03.1921 disbanded

Landed in Egypt 12.01.1918, joined XX Corps on 1.04.1918 near Sarafand. The troops moved thus: 9.04.1918 Jaffa, 21.09.1918 Nablus, 29.09.1919 Haifa, 4.10.1918 Tyre, 8.10.1918 Beirut, 28.10.1918 Tripoli. On 3.05.1919 the HQ moves to Beirut, where the division forms part of Northforce. The HQ moves to Ain Sofar on 25.06.191 and back to Beirut on 27.11.1919. The division leaves for Egypt in December 1919 where it gets disbanded the following month.

  • 19 Dehra Dun Brigade
    • 14.10.1918 Tripoli
    • 4.12.1918 Beirut
    • 3.01.1919 Mersine
    • 11.02.1919 Adana
    • –.01.1920 disbanded
  • 21 Bareilly Brigade
    • –.12.1918 Tripoli
    • 8.01.1919 Beirut
    • 2.04.1919 Mejdeliya
    • 3.06.1919 Tripoli
    • 25.06.1919 Baalbek
    • 27.11.1919 Beirut
  • 28 Indian Brigade F.F.
    • 4.12.1918 Jerablus
    • 24.12.1918 Aintab
    • 1.02.1919 Homs
    • 26.02.1919 Jerablus
    • 03/06.1919 Urfa
    • 12.11.1919 Rayak
    • 27.11.1919 Beirut

Divisional headquarters used postmark F.P.O. / No. 79 (3.07.1918–01.1922). The datestamps of the brigades were:
  • 7: F.P.O. / No. 328 (20.05.1918–28.02.1921)
  • 8: F.P.O. / No. 68 (22.07.1918–3.03.1921)
  • 9: F.P.O. / No. 54 (6.07.1918–18.01.1921)
Divisional headquarters used postmark F.P.O. / No. 12 (3.04.1918–3.01.1920). The datestamps of the brigades were:
  • 19: F.P.O. / No. 310 (25.04.1919–5.07.1919)
  • 21: F.P.O. / No. 331 (3.05.1918–5.11.1919)
  • 28: F.P.O. / No. 325 (29.04.1918–.11.1919)
190705_IFPO310 (26K)
Firebace lists the last known date of IFPO 310 as 20.06.1919; this postcard card gives a new late date: 5.07.1919. The text corroborates that it was sent from Adana.
Information and Image coutesy of Bob Bradford.

In April 1918 Indian troops also serve in the EEF as part of British brigades and divisions: 10 Irish Division, 53 Division, 60 Division, and 75 Division. They are served by Indian FPOs.
Indian battalions also served in Turkey and Russia as part of 27 Division (80, 81, 82, and 39 Brigade) and 28 Division (83, 84, 85, and 242 Brigade). Indian FPO datestamps used there are: F.P.O. / No. 33, 81, 400, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, 415.

Indian Battalions Serving in British Brigades

Indian FPOs

  • 10 Irish Division
    • 24.04.1918 Indian battalions replace Irish troops
    • 19.11.1918 Cairo
    • –.08.1921 becomes Field Troops Egypt 10 Division
  • 29 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 14
    (19.05.1918–14.01.1919)
  • 30 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 4
    (21.06.1918–10.04.1920)
  • 31 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 18
    (20.08.1918–10.18)
  • 53 Division
    • 26.05.1918 first Indian battalions join
    • 27.10.1918 Egypt
    • 03/04.1919 Indian battalions leave
  • 158 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 3
    (23.07.1918–26.01.1919)
  • 159 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 17
    (12.06.1918–29.11.1918)
  • 160 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 116
    (31.08.1918–28.01.1919)
  • 60 Division
    • 4.06.1918 first Indian battalions join
    • 8.11.1918 Egypt
    • 31.05.1919 disbanded
  • 179 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 397
    (20.09.1918–24.01.1919)
  • 180 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 117
    (31.07.1918–19.04.1919)
  • 181 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 395
    (20.07.1918–20.05.1919)
  • 75 Division
    • –.06.1917 first Indian battalions join
    • 2.12.1918 Egypt
    • –.10.1919 232 Brigade disbanded
    • –.03.1920 233 Brigade disbanded
    • 1.04.1920 remainder transferred to 10 Irish Division
    • –.05.1921 last Indian battalion leaves 234 Brigade
  • 232 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 20
    (5.03.1918–30.07.1919)
  • 233 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 5
    (25.05.1918–13.02.1919)
  • 234 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 40
    (13.07.1918–12.03.1921)

Indian cavalry served in the EEF as part of British mounted brigades and divisions: 1 Mounted Division (later 4 Cavalry Division) and 2 Mounted Division (later 5 Cavalry Division). The first Indian troops join in May 1918 and most left by July 1920. These battalions were also served by Indian FPOs.

Indian Cavalry Battalions Serving in British Mounted Brigades

Indian FPOs

  • 1 Mounted Division
    • 24.04.1918 formed from Yeomanry Mounted Division at Deir el-Belah
    • 29.03.1918 first Indian battalions join
    • –.05.1918 Jordan Valley
    • –.07.1918 becomes 4 Cavalry Division
  • 6 Mounted Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 19
    (21.06.1918–10.04.1920)
  • For the HQ, 8 Mounted Brigade, and 22 Mounted Brigade no Indian FPO datestamps are known.
  • 2 Mounted Division
    • 6.05.1918 formed in Palestine
    • –.03.1918 first Indian battalions join
    • –.07.1918 Jordan Valley
    • –.07.1918 becomes 5 Cavalry Division
  • 5 Mounted Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 7
    (8.05.1918–07.1918)
  • 7 Mounted Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 15
    (1.05.1918–07.1918)
  • Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 97
    (6.05.1918–07.1918)
  • 4 Cavalry Division
    • 23.07.1918 formed from 1 Mounted Division
    • 17.09.1918 Ramleh and Yebna
    • 28.09.1918 Dera'a
    • –.11.1918 Beirut, Homs, Damascus
    • 9.05.1919 joins Northforce
    • 9.06.1919 Homs
    • 4.12.1919 Haifa and Sarona
    • –.01.1920 becomes G.H.Q. troops
    • –.01.1921 disbanded
  • HQ: F.P.O. / No. 20
    (14.01.1920–23.06.1920)
  • 10 Mounted Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 19
    (07.1918–01.1922)
  • 11 Mounted Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 39
    (26.11.1918–3.07.1920)
  • 12 Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 49
    (4.09.1918–31.051920)
  • 5 Cavalry Division
    • 23.07.1918 formed from 2 Mounted Division
    • –.09.1918 Sarona, Nazareth, Haifa
    • –.10.1918 Damascus, Rayak, Homs, Aleppo
    • 6.05.1919 joins Northforce
    • 25.11.1919 HQ moves to Beirut
    • 1.12.1919 becomes G.H.Q. troops, Tel el-Kebir
    • –.03.1921 disbanded
  • HQ: F.P.O. / No. 17
    (20.03.1919–11.1919)
  • 13 Mounted Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 7
    (07.1918–8.12.1919)
  • 14 Mounted Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 15
    (07.1918–10.04.1919)
  • 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 97
    (07.1918–05.1919)

Stationary Indian Field Post Offices

The Indian FPO system included also a number of stationary offices and four base offices.

Datestamp Location Known Dates
Indian Base Office E
BASE OFFICE / G Port Said, Egypt 6.12.1914–.04.1915
BASE OFFICE / G Alexandria, Egypt 17.04.1915–8.01.1916
BASE OFFICE /
DELY / G
Port Said, Egypt (17.02.1915)
BASE OFFICE E / I.E.F. Alexandria, Egypt 14.08.1916–19.10.1916
INDIAN BASE OFFICE-E / E.E.F. Alexandria, Egypt 15.05.1918–23.09.1920
INDIAN BASE OFFICE-E / REG / E.E.F. Alexandria, Egypt 17.09.1918–23.02.1920
INDIAN BASE OFFICE.E / E.E.F. Alexandria, Egypt (8.04.1920)
Indian Base Office H
BASE OFFICE / H Port Said 16.02.1915–04.1915
BASE OFFICE / H Alexandria 17.04.1915–03.1916
BASE OFFICE / H / INS Alexandria (24.12.1915)
Indian Chief Sorting Office
C.S. OFFICE / I. E. F. Port Tewfik –.04.1915–26.05.1916
Indian Railway Mail Service
R.M.S / I. E. F. Egypt 22.04.1915–13.07.1915
R.M.S / I. E. F. Ludd 26.03.1918–9.04.1921
Stationary Indian FPOs
F.P.O. / No. 30 el-Arish, Egypt 5.08.1917–26.12.1918
F.P.O. / No. 30 Cilicia 18.08.1919–11.1919
F.P.O. / No. 31 Palestine 29.04.1919–18.02.1921
F.P.O. / No. 66 Jaffa 5.01.1918–18.01.1919
F.P.O. / No. 83 Ludd (Railhead) 27.04.1918–28.02.1921
F.P.O. / No. 97 Rafa area (4.11.1917)
F.P.O. / No. 97 Amanus (Aintab), Syria 28.05.1919–25.07.1919
F.P.O. / No. 310 Rafa 22.03.1917–22.11.1917
F.P.O. / No. 312 Jerusalem area 10.06.1918–20.11.1919
F.P.O. / No. 331 Gaza area 24.09.1917–1.11.1917
F.P.O. / No. 362 Deir el-Belah 2.07.1917–20.08.1918
F.P.O. / No. 383 Semakh 5.01.1919–.09.1919
F.P.O. / No. 383 Haifa 2.09.1919–7.06.1921
F.P.O. / No. 384 Tripoli 16.09.1919–13.10.1919
F.P.O. / No. 385 Belemdick and Bozanti, Cilicia (08/11.1919)
F.P.O. / No. 396 Palestine 11.09.1918–12.1918
F.P.O. / No. 396 Beirut, Lebanon 7.04.1919–3.01.1920
F.P.O. / No. 398 Palestine (16.12.1918)
F.P.O. / No. 398 Rayak, Lebanon (1.11.1919)
Other Stationary Indian FPOs in the Near East
  • Egypt: F.P.O. / No. 16, 18, 28, 29, 31, 33, 35, 42, 50, 66, 69, 70, 99, 116, 310, 311, 312, 313, 326, 331, 332, and 362
    Note: F.P.O. / No. 313 is listed by Sacher in his chapter on Jerusalem, but was situated in Ismailia throughout.
  • Turkey and the Aegean: F.P.O. / No. 33, 65, 66, 325, 400, and 409
  • Persia: F.P.O. / No. 76, 88, 110, 120, and 123

By January 1922 all Indian FPOs had been dissolved or left the area, except for two offices serving remaining Indian troops:

  • The former 3 Lahore Division serving in Troops In Palestine: F.P.O. / No. 79 (01.1922-22.03.1922)
  • The former 10 Cavalry Brigade serving in North Palestine Brigade: F.P.O. / No. 19 (01.1922-4.03.1922)
The last Indian troops leave Palestine in 1923.

190717_IFPO68 (31K) 180701_IFPO5 (20K)
Picture postcard (showing Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem) sent from Jerusalem (?) to Bethlehem. It is dated "15th. July, 1919" and says "I am here staying at St. George's, Jerusalem". Both sender and addressee are apparently travelling in the Holy Land.
The card does not bear any stamps, but there are two postmarks: On the frontside there's the Indian FPO mark F.P.O. / No. 68 / 17JL.19 (Fireb. type IFPO1), assigned to 8 Jullundur Brigade (part of 3 Lahore Division). The brigade can be located at Bir Salem from 28.06.1919 until it moved to Jerusalem on 20.02.1920. Sacher registers this mark (K34) at Jerusalem for the later period 6.07.1920–15.01.1921.
On the picture side we find the second postmark: O E T A   E E F / JERUSALEM / A / 18 JY 19 (Sacher A8).
Letter sent "on active service" from Palestine to Cairo.
Postmark: Indian F.P.O. / No. 5 / 1 JL.18 (Fireb. type IFPO1). This mark was assigned to Indian troops serving in 233 Brigade, 75 Division, at the time situated in the Jaffa area.
Censor mark: PASSED / BY / CENSOR / No. / 1120 (Fireb. type CM7) in red with officer's signature.
Arrival mark on reverse: CAIRO / B / -2.VII.18 7 AM.
201211_RMSIEF (30K) 200121_RMSIEF (15K)
201008_IFPO383 (27K)
Postcard to England with four overprinted Indian stamps.
Three strikes of postmark R.M.S. / I.E.F. / 11 DEC 1920,
the datestamp of an Indian stationary PO at Ludd: Railway Mail Service.

Image: Ebay.

Very clear strike of the R.M.S. / I.E.F. postmark, here on piece and dated 21.01.1921. Below: F.P.O. / No. 383 / 8 OC 20 cancelling two half-Anna stamps overprinted with "I.E.F."

Image: Ebay.

200104_IFPO70 (21K) 180920_IFPO328R (20K)
Letter from Palestine to Indona marked "on field service" with additional handstamp POSTAGE - FREE / E.E.F. (Fireb. PFC18). Postmark: F.P.O. 70 / + / 14 JAN 20 (Fireb. type IFPO9).

Image: Ebay.

Reverse of a letter from Palestine to India with three overprinted Indian stamps. Two strikes of postmark F.P.O. / No. 328 / 18 SE 20, the datestamp of 7 Ferozepore Brigade (3 Lahore Division) at Haifa.

Image: Ebay.

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[Created 26.02.2005, last revised 17.07.2010]
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