Rear area postal service

Mining companies' mail

VALENCIENNES was the headquarters of the Mining Administration (Bergverwaltung). Located at 104 rue de Famars, the Bergverwaltung supervised mining operations in the North of France (Nord and Pas-de-Calais).

Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Bergverwaltung Valenciennes

Map of mines in the Nord and Pas-de-Calais departments in January 1916, taken from "Die industrie im besetzten Frankreich, 1916". The black line represents the front line at that time. The dotted line is the range limit of Anglo-French artillery.

ANZIN (6th Army) to PERUWELZ (General Government of Belgium, district of TOURNAI), 16th January 1916. Letter weighing 20 g franked at 10 Pf/10 c (rate of 15/12/1914). This letter shows the signature of the examiner, Lieutenant Weigelin.

ANZIN (6th Army) to PERUWELZ (General Government of Belgium, Arrondissement of TOURNAI), 3rd October 1915. Letter franked at 10 Pf/10 c (rate of 15/12/1914) and examined by the Bergverwaltung of VALENCIENNES (stamp "Geprüft", "Bergverwaltung Etappeninspektion 6." and signature of the controller von Oheimb). A new control was carried out by the Imperial Commissioner for the district of TOURNAI (Kaiserliche Zivilkomissar bei dem Kreischef Tournai).

Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Bergverwaltung Valenciennes

ANZIN (6th Army) to PERUWELZ (General Government of Belgium), 9th July 1916.

Letter up to 40 g franked at 20 Pf/20 c (tariff of 15/12/1914).

Military postal control of the 6th Army and passage through BRUSSELS (Roulette cancellation of the Caisse d'Epargne).

To date, there is no convincing explanation for this diversion via BRUSSELS. Several authors attribute it to the creation of the new 1st Army and the change of Lines of Communication area between the 6th and 1st Armies. This explanation is not plausible according to certain primary sources preserved in the MUNICH military archives.

When the 1st Army was formed in July 1916, it did indeed use the 2nd Army's Lines of Communication Inspectorate. At the end of August 1916, talks began to find a location for the Inspectorate of the 1st Army. Several locations were considered, including CAMBRAI, DENAIN and MAUBEUGE.

However, in a directive dated 9 September (Bildung der Etappeninspektion 1. 1.9.1916. A.O.K. 6 Ic Nr. 65276), the Intendant General decided that the 6th Army's Lines of Communication Inspectorate would be transferred to TOURNAI and that the 1st Army would take over VALENCIENNES as its Headquarters. This change was to take effect on 1st October 1916.

It is therefore not possible that the formation of the 1st Army and its Lines of Communication Inspectorate before 1st October 1916 had any effect on the examination and transport of mine mail.

It should be noted that this mail was always examined by the Bergverwaltung, as the letters sometimes bore the signatures or initials of their examiners. We know the signatures of Lieutenant von Oheimb, who signed "v Oh" or "v O", and Lieutenant Weizelin (or Weigelin), who signed with his full name or with a capital "W".

October 1916 - 18 April 1917: The Bergverwaltung within the 1st Army.

Although already in the 1st Army's Lines of Communication area from 1 October, the Bergverwaltung was not officially attached to its Inspectorate until 4 October rather than 1 October (the date of the change of L. of C. area).

A new "Bergverwaltung" stamp was introduced, which is known to have been used for a short period from 10 to 30 October 1916.

VALENCIENNES to MONCHECOURT (1st Army). Letter controlled by the Bergverwaltung and the 1st Army. The Bergverwaltung applied its unit stamp "Bergverwaltung Valenciennes Deutsche Feldpost 292" in addition to its control stamp, which is rather unusual.

This is the only known case of this type of use.

Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes


Postal control by the Bergverwaltung (stamp "Deutsche Bergverwaltung") and military control by the Postüberwachungsstelle 39 (stamp "Geprüft P.Ü.St.").

19 April 1917 - End of September 1918: The Bergverwaltung within the 2nd Army.

Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes

ANZIN (2nd Army) to PERUWELZ, 1st October 1917. Administrative control (stamp "Deutsche Bergverwaltung") and military postal control (stamp "Geprüft P.Ü.St").

ANZIN (2nd Army) to QUIEVRECHAIN (2nd Army). Letter controlled by the Bergverwaltung of VALENCIENNES (stamp "Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr. 1 Deutsche Feldpost 45"). This mark appeared in January 1918.

Here is what the book "Völkerrecht im Weltkrieg 1914-1918" published in 1927 tells us: "The German mining administration in the coalfields of northern France was a department of the Lines of Communication Inspectorate (6 et seq.) until the autumn of 1916, then an independent administration under the authority of the Intendant General of the Army [Generalintendant des Feldheeres], later a representative of the Quartermaster General [Beauftragter des Generalquartiermeisters] and finally (1918) directly subordinate to the Quartermaster General [Generalquartiermeister].

The mining administration for the coalfields of northern France had its official headquarters in Valenciennes and was initially called "Bergverwaltung Valenciennes", then "Militär Bergverwaltung 1".

A similar administration, called "Militärbergverwaltung 2", with its official headquarters in Mons, existed for the Belgian mines in the Mons district.

In the autumn of 1917, these two administrations were merged to form the "Militär Bergwerksdirektion" in Valenciennes, in order to regulate personnel matters, material supplies, etc. in a uniform manner. The Militär Bergwerksdirektion, with its two mining administrations, was budgeted by the Prussian War Ministry.

The administration did not have purely military functions; its task was rather to supervise the mines. [...] The operation and administration of French mines, on the other hand, were always managed by the French mining administrations themselves, with their own staff and on their own account. "

Control of the mail by this Administration was based essentially on accounting control of the quantities of coal to be delivered by the mines.

October 1914 - End of September 1916: The Bergverwaltung within the 6th Army.

The mining administration moved to Valenciennes in October 1914.

We know of no mail that was examined by the mining administration before 9 September 1915. Before that date, we do not know how mining company mail was examined or even whether it could circulate. In fact, civilian mail (except prisoner of war mail) was prohibited. However, on 29 May (Order VI No. 19061), the 6th Army Lines of Communication Inspectorate exceptionally authorised commercial mail. Another order of 13 September 1915 (No. 31207/1669) specified the following: "Letters from commercial and industrial firms in the Lines of Communication area may be forwarded only if they concern orders, etc., in which the Army has a definite interest. When submitting such letters to the Inspectorate, Lines of Communication Commanders should always indicate whether there is such an interest and whether they are in favour of sending them".

Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr 1
Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr 1

The postmark "Deutsche Bergverwaltung" (without Valenciennes) was known until 17 October 1917.

Thereafter, "Deustche Bergverwaltung 1" was renamed "Militär-Bergverwaltung 1". We do not know the date of this change, but it is identified as "Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr. 1" on 1 January 1918 in the directory of the Kommandantur no. 158 (VALENCIENNES).

The Bergverwaltung examination stamp was changed to "Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr. 1 Deutsche Feldpost 45" and is known from 31 January to 5 February 1918, but must also have been used after February 1918.

On 16 January 1917, the Ministry of War published Order No. 54. This decree stipulated that from 15 February 1917: "All information relating to theatres of operations, attachment to armies, army groups or army detachments, army corps, divisions and brigades is prohibited in addresses". This decree mainly affected troops and military services at the front; L. of C. troops or services were not immediately affected.

On 10 May 1917, the Director of the Army Post Office suggested replacing the location of certain services, such as bank supervision offices, with a number.

On 24 May 1917, the Generalquartiermeister issued a decree ordering, among other things, the change of name of the Mining Administrations. The VALENCIENNES Mining Administration was renamed "Deutsche Bergverwaltung 1 Deutsche Feldpost 45".

This decree had no immediate effect, as the "Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes" stamp was known until 20 June 1917. The word "Valenciennes" were probably removed at the end of June.

Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes

The "Bergverwaltung" cachet was replaced fairly quickly at the beginning of November by the "Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes" cachet. We know of one letter bearing this postmark and that of the Postüberwachungsstelle 1. dated 8 November 1916.

Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Bergverwaltung Valenciennes

Following the movement of German troops behind the Siegfried Line and the British attacks around Arras, the Supreme Command decided on 12th April 1917 to reorganise the north of the front and disband the 1st Army. On 19th April 1917, the Lines of Communication Inspector Franke published a notice announcing that the Kommandantur districts of CAMBRAI, VALENCIENNES, ARTRES, SOLESMES, LE QUESNOY and BAVAY were to be attached to the 2nd Army's L. of C.

Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Bergverwaltung Valenciennes

LOURCHES to LILLE (6th Army). Letter examined by the Bergverwaltung (initialled 'v Oh'). Postal control carried out on 13th July 1916 by the 6th Army postal control centre (stamp "Zulässig Postüberwachungsstelle 6. Armee").

Bergverwaltung Valenciennes
Bergverwaltung Valenciennes

ANZIN (1st Army) to PERUWELZ (Belgian General Government, district of ATH), 10 October 1916.

Letter up to 40 g franked at 20 Pf/25 c. Following the departure of the 6th Army, the examination stamp "Bergverwaltung Etappeninspektion 6." was replaced by "Bergverwaltung".

Like the letter above, the "Bergverwaltung Etappeninspektion 6." cachet was certainly not a control stamp, but a service stamp used to censor mining company mail.

Its relationship to the "Geprüft" postmark on mail is very random. Nevertheless, we know the postmark "Bergverwaltung Etappeninspektion 6" until mid-May 1916. In fact, from that date onwards, except for three letters dated 8, 12 and 18 August 1916, we can see that mail from the mining companies no longer bore this stamp, but only that of the 6th Army's postal control centre. In addition, mail bound for the territory of the Belgian General Government now systematically passed through the main post office in Brussels (Brussels 1), where frankings were cancelled by a roulette stamp, as they were considered to be insufficiently or not at all cancelled.

Recently, another control stamp was discovered that is very similar to the previous one, but with a slightly different wording. This stamp is labelled "Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr. 1 Feldpoststation 45".

Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr 1
Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr 1

ANZIN to ANICHE (2nd Army).

Administrative control (stamp "Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr. 1 Feldpoststation 45"). This is the only letter known to date with this mark, which uses the term "Feldpoststation" instead of "Feldpost".

Unfortunately, this letter is undated, but in the archives of the Mining History Centre of LEWARDE there is a letter with the same postmark dated 9 March 1918.

The control stamps "Deutsche Bergverwaltung Nr. 1 Deutsche Feldpost 45" and "Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr. 1 Feldpoststation 45" certainly lived side by side for a short time.

Finally, it seems that from April/May 1918, the Bergverwaltung was served by Feldpoststation no. 34, which was also located in VALENCIENNES. It was probably at this time that the "45" was removed from the postmark.

Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr 1
Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr 1

DOUCHY to ANICHE (2nd Army). Administrative control (stamp "Militär-Bergverwaltung Nr. 1 Deutsche Feldpost..."). In April/May 1918, the Bergverwaltung of VALENCIENNES ceased to be served by Feldpoststation 45. The "45" was therefore removed from the postmark.

Focus on the period October 1916 - June 1917.

To conclude this section, it is interesting to dwell on a period that is complicated to analyse. From the beginning of the 1st Army period and for several months afterwards, mail from the mines was routed to PERUWELZ via TOURNAI.

In addition to the control stamps applied by the Bergverwaltung and then by the 1st Army's postal control centre on departure, this mail also bore the control stamps of the TOURNAI Civil Commissariat and the 6th Army's postal control centre on arrival.

ANZIN (1st Army) to PERUWELZ, 8th November 1916. In November 1916, a new control stamp was introduced by the Bergverwaltung ("Deutsche Bergverwaltung Valenciennes" stamp).

Double military control:

1st Army: "Zulässig Postüberwachungsstelle 1. Armee".

6th Army "Zulässig Postüberwachungsstelle 6. Armee" + "Postüberwachungsstelle Geprüft Tourmai".

Before the change of Lines of Communication area between the 1st and 6th armies, the TOURNAI military district was made up of the Belgian districts of TOURNAI and ATH.

When TOURNAI became the caital town of L. of C. area for the 6th Army, the ATH military district was formed, comprising the district of ATH and the communes of the Tournai district which, like Peruwelz, had not been included in the L. of C. area.

The district chief moved to ATH, while the civil commissioner remained in TOURNAI as the representative of the president of the civil administration of the province of Hainaut.

Therefore, mail from the mine to PERUWELZ was no longer to be checked by the civil commissioner in TOURNAI, but by the civil commissioner in ATH. Moreover, this mail was not to be forwarded to TOURNAI, but directly from the Bergverwaltung or the 1st Army's postal control centre to ATH.

There is no definitive explanation, but in my opinion it must have been a misdirection.

In fact, there are letters to PERUWELZ which were directed via ATH and checked on the spot by the civilian commissioner and, during the same period, letters which were directed to TOURNAI.

Letter from ANZIN to PERUWELZ (16 December 1916). Control by the Mining Administration.

Military postal control of the 1st Army and, on arrival, control by the civilian commissioner of ATH.

ANZIN (1st Army) to PERUWELZ, 14th November 1916. This letter arrived at TOURNAI where it was marked "Irrläufer bei Etappe 6. (missent to the L. of. C. of the 6th Army).

ANZIN (2nd Army) to PERUWELZ (Belgian General Government, district of ATH), June 1917. Letter examined by the Bergverwaltung of VALENCIENNES and sent by mistake to Postüberwachungsstelle n° 40 (6th Army) instead of Postüberwachungsstelle n° 39 (2nd Army). When it arrived in TOURNAI, it was returned to VALENCIENNES (marked "Irrläufer b. P.Ü.St 40"). After a military postal check (stamp "Geprüft P.Ü.St."), it was directed to ATH.

We do not know why so few letters from this period bear the wording "Irrläufer". Nor do we know why sometimes the 6th Army agreed to examine certain letters to PERUWELZ and other times not, as in the case of this letter.

From June 1917, we find letters which more systematically bear the stamp of the civil commissioner of ATH.

In addition, we know of at least 3 letters from the mining company of ANZIN sent via Tournai with the words "Irrläufer b. Etappe 6." or "Irrläufer b. P.Ü.". St. 40." (missent to Lines of Communication 6 or missent to Postüberwachungsstelle 40).

Late September 1918 - 12 October 1918: The Bergverwaltung within the 17th Army.

The 2nd Army left VALENCIENNES at the beginning of October 1918. VALENCIENNES was included in the Lines of Communication area and then in the 17th Army's area of operations. The destruction of the mining installations could begin.

On 9th October, the directors and other French executives of the mining companies were sent to LIEGE with their families and their main archives.

On 12 October, Bergverwaltung 1 and Bergwerksdirektion ceased their activities in VALENCIENNES, the former moving to LIEGE and the latter to MONS. Unfortunately, no letters from this period are known to exist.