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After the (then) usual boyhood flirtation, Gervas later developed a keen interest in philately, and joined the Rhodesia Study Circle, of which he was eventually made a Life Vice-President.

"Phitately" is a very wide term. Gervas specialised in Northern Rhodesian stamps.  Well, not so much the stamps, but the postmarks, and in this very specialised field he was the expert.  He could look at a stamp with a barely recogniseable cancellation, and say with certainty where it had been cancelld, and also knew the history of that "post office".

Upon his arrival in Northern Rhodesia, he was posted to a remote District, where the letters from home reached him after a five or six week journey by sea and railway to the nearest town, and for the last 120 miles along bush paths by runner.  One of his tasks was to arrange for food to be sent to that town to feed workers employed building an airfield.  By 1939 his mail from home was delivered by air within a week - see below for more on that aspect.

He contributed the following articles (one of which provided the above anecdote) that were published in the Journal of the Rhodesia Study Circle (RSCJ) :-

1969, The squared circle postmarks of Northern Rhodesia,
    v. 19, no. 2 (66), p.29–30
1969, British Association – Victoria Falls,
    v. 19, no. 3 (67), p.6–8
1970–73, The squared circle postmarks of Northern Rhodesia:
    v. 20, no. 1 (69), p.4–7;
    v. 20, no. 3 (71), p.41–2;
    v. 21, no. 2 (74), p.23–5;
    v. 21, no. 4 (76), p.73–4;
    v. 23, no. 1 (81), p.6–8
1971, When did they open?
    v. 21, no. 4 (76), p.74–5
1971, Mwinilunga – N. Rhodesia:
    v. 21, no. 4 (76), p.75–6
1972, The romance of the inks in Northern Rhodesia:
    v. 22, no. 1 (77), p.15–16
1972, Postmarks of Sumbu:
    v. 22, no 3 (79), p.48
1972, Tales of a District Officer:
    v.22, no. 4 (80), p. 55–6 
1978, Early days in Northern Rhodesia:
    v. 28, no. 2 (102), p.98–102 (includes the word Terai)
1990, BCA overprint with N.E. Rhodesia postmarks 1893–1900:
    v. 40, no. 4 (153), p.168–70

These articles are now in the Library, see Tab on the left of your screen. 

These articles are now in the Library,  


Barotseland's first airmails

As mentioned at the top of this page, when Gervas arrived in Northern Rhodesia in 1930, he was posted to the Banguelo Swamps, and one of his duties was to buy maize and dried fish to be sent to the neighbouring District to feed the labourers building an airfield at Mpika.

In 1939, Gervas was now stationed in Mankoya. in Barotseland, in the West of Northern Rhodesia.  He travelled to Mankoya from Livingstone, up the Zambesi by barge to Mongu, the administrative capital of Barotseland, and then he walked the 140 miles to Mankoya. One of his tasks in Mankoya was the creation of the first road through his district; another was the creation of a "proper" airfield.

During that year, Gervas spent some time in Mongu, working on "The Balovale Dispute".

Mail was delivered by barge up the Zambesi from Livingstone, and that part of the journey took several weeks.

In 1939, however, it became possible to fly from "the line of rail" - Livingstone or Lusaka - to Mumbwa, then to Mankoya and on to Mongu.

The opemning of the airmail service was described in an article in the March 1939 issue of "The Philatelic Chronicle".  This article was re-printed in 1951 in the Rhodesian Study Circle Journal Vols. 11 & 12, and reprinted by the RSC in 1981.  The article may be found here as text, or a .PDF may be downloaded from the Library.

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