Indian Christmas Air Mail

Merry Christmas! I hope you are all having an enjoyable and restful day with your families. Continuing our festive theme, today we are back to India for a great little document produced in the sub-continent to celebrate Christmas in 1945. Despite the war having ended a few months previously, servicemen still remained scattered around the world. Partly this was due to the logistics of transporting so many men home for demobilisation when they were deployed across the whole world, shipping space was limited and logistically this was a massive undertaking. There was also still a need for armed forces personnel to act as security troops in occupied lands, to provide humanitarian aid to displaced peoples and to take military equipment out of service to prevent it being used by someone else. In addition the ‘war’ was still hot in many places in the far east as, with the Japanese gone and European colonial powers in disarray, there was perceived to be an opportunity for indigenous independence movements to break free from pre-war ties. All this geo-political wrangling meant that on the ground men were spending another Christmas away from their loved ones and mail communications remained a vital lifeline at the festive period. Today we are looking at a Christmas airmail sent in November of 1945 from India to a Trooper Mitchell of the Royal Tank Regiment, the message being sent on a standard Indian Army Air Mail form:

The back of the air mail indicates that it was sent by Leading Aircraftman Horn of the RAF serving in the South East Asian Air Force:

It is what is inside of the airmail that makes it interesting however and L/AM Horn has filled the interior with a massive ‘Christmas Greetings from India:

He has even stuck a couple of Indian stamps inside the envelope with a fake post mark that indicated he was stationed at Salboni in Bengal in India:

Salboni is a small village in Bengal and during the Second World War was the location of an RAF airfield and in late 1945 was the home to 356 Squadron which was involved in transport duties and 159 Squadron which flew Liberator bombers. A year earlier Christmas was celebrated at RAF Salboni alongside continuing operations however as Tony Donell recorded in his diary:


Sunday 24th December: Here we are on Christmas Eve – sun shining, birds croaking and a stand-down this afternoon. I am going to church this evening – evening service and carols. Mike is away on the big Op -should be down about 5 or 6 in the morning. Was talking to him late in the mess last night – says he hopes to go to communion after interrogation in the morning. Del has some more gen from F/O Black about postings, but nothing definite has come through yet. We all got our leave passes this morning so I shall go to Cal and keep a good look out for a recall. Slight decorations in the hut and plenty in the mess. By all accounts tomorrow should be a fulfilling day in all ways. Going to Cal by the early train on Boxing day – must get some proper kit put together.

Was talking to Mike last night about various things – among them the lack of enthusiasm for helping to get this war finished among certain people. He thinks the British race is decadent – particularly the shopkeepers! Some of the boys have gone to Khargpur as there are rumours of a fair. I think I will spend a quiet evening.

Monday 25th December: Boys came back early this morning – trip was across China to French Indo-China, 14 to 15 hours. No trouble – much! I went to church with Ted Grew last night and then went to his billet for a drink. Finished up in the mess about midnight, just happy. Got up early this morning and went to communion – thence to breakfast, which was wizard. Sat writing and drinking this morning until tiffin time. There was a running buffet from 12 until 3 in the mess, really excellent. Stuffed myself full of chicken, mince-pies and ice-cream and wandered off to the Officer’s Mess for a drink with Mike, Lou and one or two others. Have spent part of the time since then in the mess and part in the billet.

McKay, Delaveau and Clarke were doing a Maori war-dance in the mess – stripped but for a tablecloth, faces and bodies daubed black, they were dancing round a paper fire in the middle of the floor. Have not laughed so much for a long time. There’s a crowd in the mess – all sorts of silly things going on, but everyone seems happy. I’m on the first sitting of dinner tonight – going to see the ground crew boys after that. Must shave now and pay a visit to Mike, who I left in bed an hour or so ago. When I am going to pack, who knows.

Tuesday 26th December: After a good dinner yesterday evening I went across with some of the boys to see the ground crew, taking a couple of bottles of beer and some gin. They had a bar rigged up in one of the huts – Blondie, Paddy and the rest, and we had a really good time singing and mucking about. I felt quite happy but by the time I had walked back to our mess was quite normal. Called in to see Sandy – who was in bed – at 355. Found Mike and McNulty in the mess drinking – talked to them until after 2 while Mike was packing up to go to Khargpur. Woke Geoff and Co up, washed and finished packing and then walked to the station – with a heavy bag. Waited an hour and a half for the train and do not remember much from that time until arriving in Cal. But do recall having breakfast at Khargpur station. Took a taxi from Howrah to Liberator House but they could only accommodate one so Geoff went in. Dicky and I are in Elgin House until we can get into Lib. House. Tug and Reggie are at Campbells. Had lunch here after a hot bath and then went into town, looked around, booked seats for a show tonight and came back here for tea. We are having dinner at the Peiping.

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