An extremely interesting WWII Gander
« Parcel Card »
If you send the parcel today, the post office will give you a receipt with a tracking number so that you can check if the package was actually delivered. But back in the « old days », it was hard to tell if a parcel actually got to its destination.
Before modern technology, people used what were known as «parcel cards». There were basically two types. One was very official from the post office, properly known in English-speaking countries as “parcel dispatch notes”. Back in the 1800s, French was quite often the language of diplomats and the bourgeoisie, and since they were the only ones with enough money to send parcels, the term “bulletin d’expéditon” was also in common use, especially in Europe. These official cards were introduced after the establishment of the international parcel service by the Universal Postal Union on 01 October 1881. (Great Britain, India, The Netherlands and Persia, 1 April 1882).
These “approved” forms generally gave details of preferred routing, weight, size, postage paid (or to be collected), and the addresses of the sender and recipient. The recipient was supposed to sign the form, which was then returned to the “exchange office” in the country of origin. One source I read says that in Canada, these parcel cards were generally “left to rot” and were ultimately thrown out – they are consequently extremely rare. In European countries on the other hand, they were often sold to specialist collectors.
Below are shown two typical parcel dispatch notes both fairly recent, the first Canadian and the second from Italy.
There was also a second type of parcel card that was used on rarer occasions, those printed by the company who sent the package. Although the words “parcel card” were sometimes used, they were sometimes simply called post cards so that these private cards would not be confused with official cards,
If the term “parcel card” as such is not inscribed, this usage is however generally revealed by an inscription on the top of the card saying “Return card” or something like “Please acknowledge reception by retuning this card”. There are apparently very few of these around.
The example shown was returned on 21 May 1942 from CAPO 2, which means Canadian Army Post Office no 2 in Gander during World War II.
The front of this parcel card is in itself interesting. It comes from the Frontenac Brewing Co. in Montréal that no longer exists. It has no stamp but still was franked by the post office. Also, we can see that while it was not a sealed envelop with hidden contents, it was still passed by a censor on 20 May 1942, the day before it left the post office.
The reverse side shows something unusual - one would have thought that the brewery would have sent beer but that does not seem to be the case. In fact, it says “Thanks for the cigs!”. The person who replied was a private from Headquarters Company, Prince Edward Island Highlanders. CAOS means Canadian Army Overseas, which was the case of Newfoundland in the pre-1949 world.
As a side note, the PEIH is now a Reserve Force armoured reconnaissance unit (Prince Edward Island Regiment).
Several months after this parcel card was returned, on the night of 13/14 October 1942, the Newfoundland Railway ferry, S.S. Caribou, was sunk off Port-aux-Basques by the German submarine, U-69. Among the passengers that night were 9 members of the Prince Edward Island Highlanders. Six of them did not survive. I hope our chap wasn’t among them. (I though did check through the Canadian Legion death records and found nothing).