China-to-Canada cover sent to Hong Kong on the day of the Japanese Invasion: A New Discovery

By Sam Chiu

At 8 a.m. on Dec. 8, 1941, Japanese forces started the Invasion of Hong Kong with their air force bombing warships in Victoria Harbour, the planes at Kai Tak Airport and selected military installations all over the colony.

This was only hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

For many years now, I have studied and collected this topic and have put together an exhibit titled, “Detained in Hong Kong and the Ones that got away.” It primarily shows that even though the invasion started on Dec. 8, the handling of mail was blocked or delayed for up to 10 days before the invasion. It also shows what happened to some of the mail during the invasion period.

This single-frame exhibit won, on its first showing, the APS Research Award at Orapex 1999. I did not show it again for many years but re-entered it again in 2017, when it won the best single-frame honours at both the Edmonton Spring National Show and the Royal Convention in Boucherville, Que. It then qualified to be entered at the Champion-of-Champions Competition at Ameristamp Expo 2018 in Birmingham.

Already stated in the title of the exhibit, “detained covers” are the focus of the exhibit.

After the war, seven bags of mail were found, and the Hong Kong Post Office (HKPO) decided to create and to apply a boxed marking with words, “Detained in Hong Kong / By Japanese / From December 1941 to September 1945,” in three lines on all items found in these bags and were forwarded to their destination. These were the “detained covers.”

Another category of mail was where I coined the term “the U-turn covers,” about which I wrote an article published in the China Clipper in 1998. I discovered and reported there were covers that first originated from China and reached Hong Kong just before the Japanese invasion and were trapped there. After the invasion in February 1942, these covers were then sent back to Canton, China, and were not “detained.” The reason for this was Japan was selling the concept to those Asia countries they were conquering or were occupying the idea of the “Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere,” that these Asian countries were not enemies, but friends or partners in this sphere. As such, mail franked with stamps of these countries were treated as “friendly” and were released for delivery, while mail with stamps of Hong Kong and other British colonies were treated as mail from the “enemy” and these were “Detained” in Hong Kong for the rest of the war. It was said that in reality, China, in Japan’s eyes then, was regarded as “too weak” to be a full partner in this sphere.

In my exhibit, I have shown four U-turn covers, of which three were addressed to the United States. When a friend asked me to help him write-up a cover he was going to send to auction, I asked him to do me a favour and to sell it to me as I then offered him a large sum for this cover. He agreed to sell it to me. I made the offer as I do not have a U-turn cover which was addressed to Canada.

The hallmark of a U-turn cover was the return date to Canton after the cover had reached Hong Kong. The Canton receiver of Feb. 14, 1942, was very clear and on the front of the cover. Even though the cover did not have a Hong Kong receiving circular date stamp, it had three Hong Kong markings. The boxed “Not Opened by Censor”, the boxed “No service” and the boxed “Retour” markings were all applied in Hong Kong.

Only after I received the cover and examined under magnification the date of the CDS tying the stamps did it dawn on me the significance of the date: Dec. 8, 1941, was the day of the Japanese Invasion of Hong Kong. The time slot was clear; it was a “10” in Chinese, but the second word was missing, so it can also be “11” or “12” in the morning. A secondary Chungking marking use the old Chinese hours, “zud”, which was the two hours from 9 to 11 a.m. So both markings are consistent that the cover was received, and cancelled, at 11 a.m.

From what literature and references that I have found, no flight had been recorded carrying mail in and out of Hong Kong after the start of invasion that morning on Dec. 8. I asked for help from the past chairman of the Hong Kong Study Circle and Hong Kong philatelic researcher and writer, Richard Whittington, and as I expected, he solved the mystery.

Richard came to the conclusion the regular scheduled Rangoon to Chungking and then to Hong Kong China National Aviation Company’s flight was scheduled to have arrived in HK on Dec. 8 in the evening. In fact, it arrived at Kai Tak just after midnight and would have been the only flight that could have possibly carried mail on that day. Up to now, no other cover from that flight has surfaced.

So in summary, it was Dec 8, 1941, China to Canada cover, after 78 years that brought this fact to light. Even the fact the cover took another 13 more months, after it was returned to Canton, to reach its destination in March 1943 in B.C., sounded trivial.

In closing, I just like to bring out the point that in philately it is always about the people, the friendship and the comradery. It was a friend who sold me the cover and it was a friend who helped me solve the mystery. Friendship in philately at its finest.

Royal *2019* Royale great time to include Canada’s philatelic library

The Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library at the Vincent Graves Philatelic Research Foundation extends an invitation to all attendees of ROYAL *2019* ROYALE to spend a day with us!

The Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library  at the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation aims to support the work of the Greene Foundation and philately in Canada by:

  • providing a comprehensive collection of items relating to British North American and Canadian philately;
  • providing an up-to-date collection of items relating to expertizing, frauds and forgeries;
  • supporting the basic needs of the Canadian philatelic community with definitive works on important collecting areas and the most recent general catalogues.

The HSPL is noted for:

  • the best B.N.A. reference collection in the world
  • a significant collection of early Canadian philatelic journals in OCR searchable format
  • a comprehensive collection of Canadian auction catalogues*
  • historical runs of selected auction catalogues
  • research collections from important Canadian philatelists
  • historical collection of prospectus for International and Canadian stamp exhibitions

Our reference librarian, Kathy Hartley says: “Let me give you some more examples why you might want to visit our library: Be welcomed. Feel at ease. Share what you know. Hear what others have to say. Exchange information, or items. Make plans. Make bigger plans. Discuss. Collaborate. Browse the latest magazines or journals. Know what book you require and pull it off the shelf. Take it home. Ask for help. Question. Watch excitement happened. Be part of an incredible thing.”

So while attending the popular Royal *2019* Royale, take time to  spend a day with us! Book a day ahead of or following the convention and use the GO bus, with the stop conveniently located directly across the street from the hotel, to travel in to Toronto. From its terminus at either the Union or York Mills subway station, we’re just a few stops away at Summerhill.

Contact for more info. We are looking forward to your visit!!!

President’s Message — April 2019

Hello everyone. Now that the weather is improving I hope you will have time to get to your local club meeting or a stamp show. I have enjoyed shows in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver in the last few weeks . It is always enjoyable to see friends and the materials brought by the dealers who patronize these events.


Royal 2019 Royale -June 21-23, 2019-Mississauga, Ontario


The Bramalea Stamp Club, West Toronto Stamp Club and Canadian Stamp News are pleased to host The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada Royal *2019* Royale June 21-23, 2019 at the Hilton Mississauga, located at 6750 Mississauga Road in Mississsauga, Ontario. This year’s Royal has two special themes — this marks the 60th Anniversary of the Canadian Philatelic Association receiving its ROYAL designation from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The second theme, ‘It’s Your Royal,’ pays tribute to all members and the important role each one plays in enhancing our hobby for collectors of all ages and levels.


The three-day national exhibition and show is expected to draw more than 200 exhibition frames plus more than 25 professional dealers from Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain. Entry forms for the exhibiting must be received by May 1, 2019.


The three organizations have established a volunteer organizing committee with Joe Trauzzi, of the Bramalea Stamp Club, as chairman. Joe’s spouse, Wendi Trauzzi, is co-ordinating all of the special events including a special bus trip to the iconic Village of St. Jacobs and the popular St. Jacobs Farmers Market. Mike Walsh, of CSN, is overseeing the bourse and  marketing while Rodney Paige is the exhibits chair and Bob Thorne is organizing the mammoth task of setting up the frames. Garfield Portch, of the West Toronto Stamp Club, is in charge of show program while Lawrence Pinkney, also of West Toronto Stamp Club, is treasurer. Jesse Robitaille, of CSN, is assisting with social media. Stuart Keeley is serving as The RPSC’s representative.


Anyone wishing to volunteer in any capacity can email Chair Joe Trauzzi at


Joint Ventures With Other Philatelic Organizations


The RPSC is making efforts to joint venture with various philatelic organizations to better serve RPSC members, to promote other philatelic organizations and to expand the RPSC membership base. These organizations include the Vincent Greene Foundation, the American Philatelic Society and the Philatelic Specialist Society of Canada. I will highlight joint efforts from time to time in The Canadian Philatelist and in the RPSC Newsletter. I will also mention the efforts of other philatelic organizations as we must all try to cooperate and work together to keep the hobby strong. Some of us judge at exhibitions in the United States and abroad and try to promote Canadian based philately and its organizations to the many people we meet.


Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library at the Vincent Greene Foundation


If you are visiting or live in Toronto, may I suggest that you visit the Vincent Greene Foundation Philatelic Foundation at 10 Summerhill .The Harry Sutherland Philatelic Library at the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation aims to support the work of the Greene Foundation and philately in Canada by:


  • providing a comprehensive collection of items relating to British North American and Canadian philately;
  • providing an up-to-date collection of items relating to expertizing, frauds and forgeries;
  • supporting the basic needs of the Canadian philatelic community with definitive works on important collecting areas and the most recent general catalogues.

Lending policy: The HSPL does not provide an interlibrary loan service. Some material is available for circulation within Canada to members of philatelic groups. Arrangements for photocopying or scanning of items might be possible.


Hours: Monday through Thursday, and one Saturday a month.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The fourth Wednesday of the month 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

and by appointment.



Phone number

416 921-2073


Library staff:


Sheila Moll – Head Librarian

Kathy Hartley – Reference Librarian

Willow Moonbeam – Library Cataloguer


I have always found the library staff so very helpful and the philatelic collection to be the best in Canada.



New Volunteer Recognition Programme  — Keep the nominations coming!


In each edition of the RPSC newsletter , I mention the Volunteer Recognition Program. It is intended to recognize those individuals who have made a significant contribution to philately as a member of the RPSC or a member of an RPSC Chapter or Affiliate.  We have finally started to receive nominations from you our members and our affiliates!!! Keep them coming! We expect to announce the names of the nominees to date shortly.


RPSC Board Activities


Our most recent meeting of the Board was held on April 7, 2019 by teleconference . The Board and other dedicated volunteers discussed a variety of topics, including various aspects of the strategic plan. Once approved, minutes of Board meetings are posted on the RPSC website. The next Board meeting is expected to be in May 2019.


Articles Are Needed for The Canadian Philatelist


Do you wish to share your knowledge of philately with others? Please consider taking your time to write an informative and scholarly piece for the RPSC’s flagship publication, the Canadian Philatelist , also known as TCP. Please contact our new editor , Robin Harris, or a member of our talented editorial board: Gray Scrimgeour, Richard Gratton , Rob Timberg and Francois Brisse. Those wishing to submit articles for publication are encouraged to contact Robin at


If you wish to write a piece on stamp collecting for the RPSC Newsletter, please contact me at the email address below or Mike Walsh – . We are also interested in printing articles that have already appeared in the newsletters of local clubs. Please share your knowledge with your fellow collectors.


Information and Articles for the RPSC Newsletter including Chapter Listings and Chapter News


I am gratified that many of you have expressed to me and other board members that they are pleased to receive the electronic newsletter from the RPSC. We are always looking to attract new members to the RPSC and new collectors to the hobby. If you wish to write a piece on stamp collecting for the RPSC Newsletter, please contact me at the email address below or Mike Walsh –


In each edition of the newsletter, you will likely see articles from local chapters/ clubs discussing their activities. I will continue to urge all local chapters to let the RPSC newsletter help advertise club meetings . The Canadian Philatelist contains listings of chapters every two months. Our newsletter is trying to get more timely information out to our members and to collectors who may be interested in participating in chapter activities. Let the RPSC help you grow your chapters . The RPSC is interested in seeing more collectors attend RPSC chapter meetings. We hope that the newsletter will assist in this regard and will contain details of upcoming chapter meetings, including the names of speakers and locations. Even if members or other collectors cannot attend meetings, they may learn of interesting topics and be able to source presentations from those who volunteered to share information. Please send us details of upcoming meetings, locations, speakers and topics. Send us your chapter newsletters!! We are also interested in printing articles that have already appeared in the newsletters of local clubs.


Orapex 2019 May 4-5 2019


ORAPEX is the Ottawa RA Centre Philatelic EXhibition. 2019 will mark the 58th edition of this show, which is managed by volunteers drawn from the RA Stamp Club, the Amicale des philatélistes de l’Outaouais, the Ottawa Philatelic Society and related philatelic societies and organizations. ORAPEX is one of only a few national-level stamp shows held annually in Canada and is part of the American Philatelic Society’s “World Series of Philately.”


RA Centre

2451 Riverside Dr.

Ottawa, Ontario

Saturday 10-6, Sunday 10-4

Free admission and parking.


Each year, ORAPEX has a theme. For the 2019 show, the theme will be Elizabethan Era Philately. ORAPEX boasts about 40 stamp dealers in its bourse and runs an impressive series of society meetings, seminars and study groups. Bring your children to the Youth Booth to get them started on collecting! The show’s awards reception is a highlight of the weekend and a great chance for everyone to socialize after the exhibits have been judged. (Awards Reception tickets will be available at the Welcome Booth at the show.)


Postal History Society of Canada-July 18-21-Sheraton Hotel Hamilton


The PHSC Symposium is back for its third great year. If you were there for PHSC Symposium 2017 or 2018, you enjoyed many great postal historical events and camaraderie. One of our main goals in creating the Symposium is to foster new postal history research and to increase collaboration amongst our members. Once again, PHSC Symposium 2019 will give you a chance to interact and learn from experts and each other. The event will span four full days, from Thursday July 18 to Sunday July 21. Centered in Hamilton, Ontario, attendees will visit several different sites of historical interest in Hamilton and the greater Toronto and Niagara areas at which invited members will speak about a variety of postal history topics. There will also be a National-level postal history exhibition as well as a bourse with fifteen or more dealers concentrating on postal history.



Please Volunteer and Help the RPSC


In every issue, I make the same plea. We all love our hobby and dedicate as much time as we can to it in many ways. I am asking you those of you who are unaffiliated with a local club to join a club and the RPSC . To RPSC members, I appeal for your help in any way you can. Without volunteers your Society and the hobby cannot prosper .


Best Regards




Edwin G. Kroft, Q.C.