Military cards

Russo-Japanese War of 1904 to 1905

  • The Great Victory of Japan “Banzai” FEB 7, 1904

The Battle of Chemulpo Bay was a naval battle on 9 February 1904, off the coast of present-day Incheon, Korea. The opening stage of the war began with a pre-emptive strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the Russian Pacific Fleet spread among Port Arthur, Vladivostok, and Chemulpo Bay. Command of the Japanese Chemulpo operation was given to Rear Admiral Uryū Sotokichi. Chemulpo had strategic significance, as it was the main port for the Korean capital of Seoul, and the main invasion route used previously by Japanese forces in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894. The Japanese protected cruiser Chiyoda had been based at Chemulpo for the past 10 months.

In the early morning of 8 February, the aging  Russian gunboat Korietz spotted Chiyoda outside the Chemulpo roadstead, and mistaking it for a fellow Russian ship, loaded its guns for a salute. On closing in, the crew of Korietz realized their mistake and in the ensuing confusion the guns were discharged.  Chiyoda responded by launching a torpedo. Both sides missed, but this was the first actual exchange of fire in the Russo-Japanese War, and it is unclear which side actually opened fire first.

Korietz retreated back to Chemulpo harbour where several warships from neutral countries were present in the anchorage. Uryū reasoned that if the Russians remained anchored in the midst of the neutral ships, it was against international law to attack the Russians while they were anchored in a neutral port, whereas if the Russians came out to do battle, he had ample force to deal with them. Uryū sent a message requesting that the captains of neutral vessels remove, promising that no attack should be delivered before 16:00.

At noon, Captain Denis Bagly of HMS Talbot came to Naniwa with a letter signed by all of the neutral captains except for the captain of USS Vicksburg, declining the request to change anchorage, on the grounds that Chemulpo was a neutral port. Outgunned and outnumbered, and refusing advice from the neutral captains to surrender, at 11:00 on 9 February, Captain Vsevolod Rudnev of Varyag attempted to make a break for the open sea. Unable to break past the Japanese squadron by mid-afternoon, Korietz and the badly battered Varyag returned to Chemulpo harbour at 13:15, where both took refuge near the neutral warships. At 16:00, Korietz was scuttled by her crew by blowing up two powder-rooms. Fragments of the blown-up ship landed dangerously close to neutral vessels. Fearing a greater explosion with potential casualties, the captains of the neutral warships present urged Rudnev not to blow up Varyag in a similar manner. At 18:10, scuttled by her crew, Varyag rolled over on her port side and sank. Crewmen from Varyag were dispatched to the Russian transport Sungari, which had remained behind in the harbor during the battle, and set her on fire to prevent her from falling into Japanese hands.

The Battle of Chemulpo was a military victory for the Japanese. Russian casualties on the Varyag were heavy. Of her crew with a nominal strength of 580, 33 were killed and 97 wounded. Most serious cases among the Russian wounded were treated at the Red Cross hospital at Chemulpo. The Russian crews—except for the badly wounded—returned to Russia on neutral warships and were treated as heroes. Although severely damaged, Varyag—not blown up—was later raised by the Japanese and incorporated into the Imperial Japanese Navy as the training ship Soya.

The fourth image shows the hopelessly obsolete Matsushima and her sister ships. They were assigned to the 5th squadron of the reserve Japanese 3rd Fleet, together with the equally outdated ironclad battleship Chin’en under the command of Admiral Shichiro Kataoka. She was based out of the Takeshiki Guard District on Tsushima island for patrols of the Korea Strait in early February 1904.

Source: wikipedia

World War II

This card published by Emile Lacour is postmarked by the Base Army Post Office 5 in Algiers which supported the British North Africa Force (“BNAF”) in 1942-43. It has been passed by the censor of the same base.

The Army Postal Service (“APS”) was not involved in the initial planning stages of Operation Torch, the 1942 Anglo-American invasion of North Africa. As a result, a Base post office was not established in Algiers until a month after the invasion and through no fault of the APS the mail services to the BNAF were very poor in the initial stages. This was worsened by the fact that a convoy carrying the Christmas mails was sunk.
After consultation between the military authorities and the APS, air links with the UK were established and both air letter and airgraph services were made available. Kodak established an airgraph processing station in Algiers, which was later to process the airgraphs sent by troops engaged in the Italian Campaign.

In theatre the mails were carried along the North African coast to the front lines by sea, rail and vehicles. The road service that operated over 500 miles from Algiers to the front was described as having the “the regularity of a town collection in peacetime Britain”. A staff officer with the 6th Armoured Division commented that “As soon as the tanks pulled out of battle, there was the mail waiting for them – incredible”.

Presumably the serviceman who sent it was sold this forty year old card on his way through Marseilles to the front.

Source: Unit History: British North Africa Forces


French military authorities distributed stamped envelopes and correspondence cards free of charge to the forces.

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