Soldiers’and Seamen’s Privileged Penny Posts

The British Act of Parliament of 1795

During the early development of posts there was discontent for the financial burden imposed on soldiers and seamen in this respect. The British Act of Parliament in 1795 proclaimed a special rate for non-commissioned ranks serving in the army and navy – and their dependents.

This entitled them to send and receive letters at the rate of 1d., provided these did not exceed a half-ounce in weight, and the letter related entirely to the private concerns of the soldier or seaman. The act further stipulated that such letters had to be properly addressed and superscribed with detils of the sender, stating his entitlement to the reduced privileged rate.

The British Act of 1837

The British Act of 1837 confirmed previous enactments but additionally provided that :

…Soldiers and Sailors employed in Her Majesty’s Service or the service of the East Indies or Ceylon, the Mauritius, St. Helena or the Cape of Good Hope, sent by them are to be charged with an additional two pence sea-postage…
The laws were further clarified and amended over the years and further provided for the letters to be signed by the commanding officer of the vessel, regiment, corps or detachment to which the privildeged person belonged, together with the name of vessel, or the regiment, corps or detachment. Letters were to be returned if the instructions were not complied with. The requirements were strictly followed.

In 1854 the requirement of the additional 2d for sea-postage fell away and the privileged to any non-commissioned rank remained at 1d.

It would appear that soldiers stationd in the Botha’s and Koonap garrison posts in 1847 were attaching 1d. coin, or forwarding it together with their letters, for the commanding officers were instructed to ensure that this practice cease.

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