By Hallvard Slettebø, Norway
On St. George's Day 23 April 1943 the Scouts of Malta were awarded the Bronze Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry of the Boy Scouts Association of the British Commonwealth and Empire "in recognition of their courage, heroic endurance and devotion to duty in the war for freedom". The Official History of the Boy Scouts Movement 1939-1945 records "The Scouts of Malta endured a heavier ordeal than any others. They were employed as coast-watchers, messengers, telephone operators; they manned Air Raid Precaution centres, worked in the censor's office, in the hospitals, and those who were old enough in the Volunteer Defence Force. One of their more important duties was that of acting as Telephone orderlies when convoys were unloaded... The bravery of the Scouts during the frequent air-raids became a by-word among the population. Their headquarters was destroyed together with all the records... All of them must be a shining example to Scouts everywhere as long as the Movement endures". The unique award was presented to the Scouts by the Chief Scout (and Governor) of Malta, Lord Govt V.C. at the Palace Square in Valletta.
From a Scout philatelist's point of view, the most interesting passage of the above, is "worked in the censor's office". It is yet to be confirmed, but apparently the Scouts sealed the covers after they were released by the censor. The Scouts then applied individually numbered handstamps that tied the sealing label to the cover. To back this up here is an illustration of a cover from Valletta dated 21 July 1942 with a yellow Boy Scout label beneath the censorship label. The censorship label was carefully lifted to show ‘the Boy Scouts are carrying on’ label, which has been seen in both yellow and green. It is thought that some of the labels used in Malta were actually prepared by the Boy Scouts Association in London as they have be found with their handstamp on the back.
Final confirmation comes in correspondence from the Information Officer, Malta with the Secretary to Government, The Palace dated 22nd January 1942 (NAM LGO 443/1942) shows that at the time some six Boy Scouts, all under 19 years of age, were engaged who received 1s6d a day wage, the bonus envisaged in Circular No.4 of the 20th January 1942. It concerned Scouts C.Aquilina (15), J.Aquilina (15), R.Attard (15), R.Farrugia (16), Shearman and A.Zammit (18). Later Scout J.Libreri replaced R.Farrugia who had been conscripted like A.Zammit. The Censorship of mail ceased in Malta in September 1945.
The numerical handstamps fall into two main types although there are variations of several of the numbers:
For several covers the re-sealing label overlaps the other censorship mark with the numeral handstamp tying the label. This indicates that numeral handstamp was used after the other censorship mark and that there were two possible levels of censorship, or at least that the two handstamps were not applied simultaneously.
|Earliest use||Latest use||Number in circle
|Earliest use||Latest use|
|1 - type 1||21 DE 40||13 JA 45||1 - type 1||23 JA 40||12 MY 41|
|1 - type 2||22 AU 41||21 NO 44||1 - type 2||22 MY 43||07 JY 43|
|2 - type 1||20 JU 41||03 NO 41||2||26 AP 40||?? ?? 42|
|2 - type 2||27 AU 41||04 JA 45|
|3 - type 1||22 AP 40||15 DE 44||3 - type 1||06 FE 40||23 OC 43|
|3 - type 2||25 JA 44||08 JA 45||3 - type 2||04 AP 43|
|4||21 JA 42||25 SP 44||4 - type 1||06 MR 40||25 OC 44|
|4 - type 2||14 MY 41||13 JA 42|
|5 - type 1||31 JA 41||20 SP 41||5||26 JA 40||09 DE 40|
|5 - type 2||31 JY 42||22 MR 43|
|6 (or 9)||12 AP 41||12 AU 42||6 (or 9)||26 FE 40||?? JU 44|
|7||04 JA 41||20 NO 41||7||05 MR 40||14 JU 41|
|8 - type 1||05 MR 41||15 NO 41||8||21 FE 40||30 NO 40|
|8 - type 2||16 JA 42||13 JY 44|
|10||10 OC 41||20 JA 45||10 - type 1||15 FE 40||12 DE 44|
|10 - type 2 - blue
10 - type 2 - green
|25 NO 40||16 DE 44|
|11||01 FE 41||09 OC 44||11||18 AP 40||30 JU 44|
|12||12 JY 40||28 AP 41||12||?? FE 40||10 JU 45|
|13||19 NO 41||?? JY 42|
It appears that the CS-F-x handstamps were used mainly on Forces mail and the CS-FC-x on Civilian mail, but not always.
More than one type exist for several of the handstamps. Some of the duplicate numbers seem to have been used sequencially, and some are used simultaneously.
Many thanks to Steinar Halvorsen who inspired me to start on this article, and for the images and information that he supplied.
If you have more information about the Scouts of Malta and their work in the Censor's Office, please send me an e-mail.