We have looked at French ‘invasion currency’ notes on this blog before, but tonight we are turning to one of the notes issued by the occupying authorities in Germany following its invasion in 1945. This note is of a similar size and style to those issued in France, but in German and for Deutschmarks rather than Francs. Here we have a note for 1 Mark:Other notes covered denominations of ½, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1000 Marks. The rear of the notes has a large ‘M’ in a complicated pattern to deter forgeries:These notes were printed in both the US from September 1944 to June 1948 and the USSR during approximately the same period. The US notes have a hidden ‘F’ mark to indicate the country of printing. 532,000,000 German notes were printed by The Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company in the US in the various denominations. The first digits of the notes serial numbers indicate which occupation zone they were intended for (‘1’ for the US, ‘0’ for British, ‘00’ for the French) although of course these notes got all muddled up with use, along with those manufactured in the Soviet Union. Whilst the Western Allies kept a tight lid on the number of notes they issued, the Soviets were more indiscriminate with the inevitable result that the influx of currency fuelled inflation.
A directive to allied troops in 1945 read “US forces and other Allied forces will use Allied Military marks and Reichsmark currency or coins in their possession. AM marks and Reichsmak currency and coin now in circulation will be legal tender without distinction and be interchangeable at the rate of one AM mark for one Reichsmark. German military currency and Reichkreditkassenscheine will not be legal tender in Germany.”
For a fascinating account of the difficulties faced in Germany in the immediate post war era due to currency please take a look at this article here.
In 1943 the British forces in the Mediterranean issued a set of bank notes for British troops to use, in anticipation of the upcoming invasion of Tripolitania. These notes were issued in 6d, 1/-, 2/6, 10/- and £1 denominations and were lithographed onto paper with a security thread included. Tonight we are taking a look at the one shilling note:As can be seen these notes lack any serial number, but the letter code does change so this presumably refers to a printing run. The Lion over a crown is a typical symbol for the British Army in this period. The design consists of a large number of intricate lines to help reduce fraud. Turning to the rear of the note, the design is again made up of different coloured lines and hatching, with the denomination of the note in the centre:ME Griffin was stationed in the Mediterranean and remembers the notes:
An Intelligence Officer took me to one of the ships moored in a bay off Athens. He said to me, “This ship has got Red Cross supplies on board — but there are also 85 sealed boxes of money for the Greek Government under cover.” This was to replace the money the Germans had printed which was useless now. In fact the Greek civilians were using gold sovereigns issued by the British Government, and we were paid with notes issued by the British military authority for 5 shillings, half crowns and 1 shilling. The civilians would also accept these notes but they would charge you 5 shillings for a tin of corned beef!
Last year I picked up a small archive of paperwork relating to the various misdemeanours of on Lawrence McHugh of Oldham who has left a collection of documents relating to his frequent appearances before the magistrates bench in Oldham in the 1940s. Mr McHugh seems to have been something of a petty criminal and chancer, who despite frequent fines and short spells in prison still kept returning with new petty crimes. Tonight we are considering a couple of documents from that archive that relate to peculiarly wartime crimes.
The first of these two summons dates from 1944 when Lawrence McHugh was summoned to court on a charge of leaving his employer, The Chamber Colliery Company, without permission:British Industry was suffering a labour shortage by the middle of the war and the government realised they needed to restrict the movement of labour to prevent people moving away in unpopular industries. In 1941 an Essential Work order was introduced as explained by the July 1943 issue of Labor Review:
The Essential Work (General Provisions) Order was adopted on March 15, 1941. Its purpose is to prevent loss in production through unnecessary turnover of labor or absenteeism. Employees in a schedules enterprise may not leave their employment except under special conditions, employers may not dismiss them except for serious misconduct, and the employees receive guaranteed time-rate minimum wages. At the beginning of May 1943, essential-work orders covered approximately 8,000,000 men and women.
In 1943 the powers of this act were extended further and were enforceable by law, and it was this that Lawrence McHugh had fallen foul of.
The second summons dates to after the war, in 1949, but relates to the continuation of wartime rationing:Reading between the lines of the summons it appears that Mr McHugh was involved in black market ration book dealings. There was a flourishing trade in unwanted, forged and stolen ration books and coupons throughout the war and until rationing was finally abandoned in 1954. Sometimes this was nothing more sinister than an informal arrangement between friends as recalled by AW Morgan:
Our neighbour managed to get meat from a butcher in exchange for surplus eggs and my mother exchanged some of my “sweet” coupons for “sugar” coupons from another neighbour and thereby was able to build up a stock for jam making when fruit was plentiful.
At the other extreme were large and organised criminal rackets.
Merry Christmas! Exactly a year ago today we looked at a Christmas airgraph here, tonight we have two more examples, however these are visually more elaborate than the last one. Whilst the last example was sent to a soldier overseas form England, these examples are sent the other way form a serviceman in the Middle East back to the UK. The first is from Christmas 1943 and was sent by Private Rowland Mann of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps to a relative (his brother) in Hunslet, Leeds:As can be seen the design is fairly simple with the army’s crest in the centre and a simple pre-printed message wishing the recipient greeting and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
The following year’s design is more striking with the silhouette of a camel and this year he has added a message to the airgraph:The amount of space saved is graphically illustrated by this contemporary poster which indicates that 1600 letters weigh 50lbs, 1600 airgraphs 5oz:
Alphabetilately has more information on the airgraph system:
The original forms were 11 x 8¼ inches. These were microfilmed onto 100-foot rolls of 16-millimetre film, which was sufficient for approximately 1600 forms. The film plus aluminium container weighed 5½ ounces and measured 4 x 4 x 1 inches. The equivalent quantity of ordinary letters would have weighed approximately 35 pounds and filled two mailbags.
Two copies of each film were made, one to be sent, the other to be held until it was certain that all letters on the film had been delivered.
Films and forms were official documents, classified as confidential and were normally destroyed as confidential waste but one or two reels of film have surfaced over the years.
The end product of the service, a letter delivered to the addressee, was a photographic print, 5⅛ x 4¼ inches, approximately one quarter the size of the original, in a crude brown envelope measuring about 3¾ by 4¾ inches.
For more information on the entire operation please look here.