Censor Covers of North Borneo (WWII, Allied censors)


Violet Triangular Censor No 20 - Sandakan

Black Boxed Censor No. 5 - Jesselton

WWII North Borneo Allied Censor

 In general, censor marks might be applied by either one (or both) of the two opposing military alliances: the Allies on one side versus the Axis on the other. In the context of North Borneo and the rest of British Borneo, this was primarily between British and Japanese. The censorship of mail appears to have been imposed in North Borneo beginning late 1939, as the prospect of war seemed inevitable. The climax of censorship appears to be between 1939-1941.

North Borneo censor marks are interesting but information on this area is quite scarce. Censored cover appears sporadically on ebay and elsewhere, making this area quite difficult to study.

North Borneo censor marks can be roughly divided into (1) the Boxed type or (2) the Triangular type. This can be further subdivided into colour varieties - (a) Black, (b) Purple/violet, or (c) Red/carmine. The boxed type is more common than the tringular type, and in term of colours, Black > Violet > Red. The boxed censor mark reads PASSED BY | (NO) | CENSOR | NORTH BORNEO, arranged in 4 lines. The tringular censor consists of double tringles and reads | PASSED FOR | TRANSMISSION | NORTH BORNEO | (NO) |. The censor number appears in the centre of the triangle.

Black Boxed Censor No 18 - Sandakan

Black Tringular censor No 13 - Kudat

The numbering on the censor mark is altogether more interesting. Based on a quick study involving about 90 censored covers (mostly pictures of lots from Patrick Cassels' collection, Stolz collection, ebay and other auction sites) only about four towns involved in the censoring activity - Sandakan, Jesselton, Lahad Datu and Kudat. Covers from smaller towns (eg. Beaufort) may have been censored in bigger towns (e.g. Jesselton). I haven't seen censored cover from TAWAU and TENOM which might be represented by unique censor numbers.
Associated Town
  1-9, 34
(Other than the numbers above)

No 1 - 9 for boxed censor and Triangular cancel regardless of colour would appear to have been applied in JESSELTON. No 12 - 13 for boxed censor and Triangular cancel regardless of colour would appear to have been applied in KUDAT. No 29 for both boxed censor and Triangular cancel regardless of colour would appear to have been applied in LAHAD DATU. No 28 is also probably cancelled in Lahad Datu but I haven't seen a clear picture on censored covers. The rest of the numbers up to 33 (as seen so far) may have been applied in SANDAKAN, although one cover with violet tringular cancel no 34 was cancelled in JESSELTON. This is of course a very superficial study and a simple generalisation. Not all censor numbers are seen. Therefore, ommission may happen. (Note: You may share your censored covers if the number and town appear to be different from above)  

Red Boxed censor No 17 - Sandakan & NOT OPENED BY CENSOR mark

Violet Triangular cancel no 21 - Sandakan

There appears to be about 3 varieties of the tringular censor mark in terms of dimension and design:- (a) 46mm x 44mm x 44mm, (b) 48mm x 48mm x 48mm, (c) 43mm x 43mm x 43mm. Different cancellar also used i.e steel vs rubber. Similarly, the boxed censor also varies widely in terms of size and font used in the cancel. At least two censor labels are used during the censorship period, one of which is a print of the Company's coats of arms.

In summary, although censor marks were never applied for philatelic purposes, they form an important role in philately nonetheless. The different types of cancel used, the various shades of colours applied and of course the labels used, make the whole censorship mails altogether thrilling collectibles! Although there are gaps in our current knowledge in this area, in-depth studies and consensus should bridge these gaps and hopefully expand our understanding.


myNBstamps said...

good job. enjoy reading that. you should consider submitting it to SJ.

Marcel said...

Thanks! But this is obviously far from complete, and a simple generalisation overall..No 25 should be that of Tawau according to William. Other numbers are not seen yet. No 28 as I thought is that of Lahad Datu.
I start noticing that posting topic like this would float the general market value of such covers. Censored cover in other site disappeared immediately after such article...Perhaps it's not a good idea afterall...hahaha..


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