Study of a Rare Hong Kong Cancellation on Chinese Stamps

by Albert Cheung

Decently I was sorting out my collection of Hong Kong cancellations on Imperial Chinese stamps. Amongst them are many Western Branch cancellations. I remember acquiring all of them in a single collection some years back. As there were so many of them I did not pay any particular attention to them at the time. However, since then, I have not acquired a single extra copy and so decided to do further research into them.

To my utter surprise, it is listed in Webb as a rare cancellation. Western Branch Post Office was established near Canton and Macao Wharf on 5th July 1898 but probably closed in 1899 because of low business volume. It re-opened at the same location on 1 July 1906. It was re-named Sheung Wan Post Office on 1 May 1914.

The cancellation of this study is Webb Type C: a double-lined c.d.s. with diameters of 14.5 and 24.5mm. This is a rather easy cancellation to identify because ( 1) it is much smaller than other double-lined Hong Kong cancels in use at the time, and (2), it is the only double-lined Hong Kong cancel in use at that time with an index letter.

What makes this particular collection more interesting is two-fold:

  1. An index letter 'B' cancellation (Diag.l) used on 2 Nov. 1906. Although this is only a partial cancellation, the correct date can be deduced from the accompanying full Chinese cancel. According to Webb, only index letters A, E and F existed, which makes this a new finding.
  2. Cancellations with index letters A, E and F (Diag. 2 to 4) are all dated between March 1908 and April 1908. According to Webb, Type C cancels were in use between Sept. 1906 and Dec. 1906 only. In 1907, the single-lined Type D c.d.s. was introduced. So, for a brief period in 1908, for some unknown reason, this group of 'retired' Type C cancels was again put back into use.

As this particular post office was situated near the Canton and Macao Wharf, it is only logical that many of the letters coming from Canton would have their transit markings applied in this office. However, I do not have a letter bearing this cancellation nor have I seen any other copies besides those in my collection. I can only presume that they are relatively scarce. I hope my fellow collectors can double check their own collections and see if further light can be shed on the subject.