BULLETIN 130  -  March 2004

Via the Congo – In Transit

by Ph Lindekens

 This article looks at a small part of Belgian Congo philately and concerns letters that are not from the Congo, not to the Congo but have been routed via the Congo on the way to their final destination.

 Some bordering countries of the Belgian Congo, chose to route their mail via our colony to minimise time in transit, as the communication network (rail, boat and airmail services) of the Congo was more highly developed than their own.

 Some mail also bears a ‘Boma transit mark’ because to get to its destination it was necessary to use a paquebot of the “Compagnie Belge Maritime du Congo” (CBMC) calling at Boma. In some cases other shipping companies or ports of departure were used and the mail for Anvers transferred to them by ‘coasters’.

 I am going to illustrate this with some scarce covers (seen or bought) from between 1886 to 1918. It is not easy to find such covers because they are filed away in dealer’s boxes, not as Congo material but under their country of origin. However and fortunately modern day computer technology helps in sourcing such material on auction websites.


After 1918, there are 2 two particular periods when mail ‘in transit’ passed through the Belgian Congo:

·        1928-1936:

Société Diamang / Dundo / Angola - mixed franking Angola + Belgian Congo airmail stamps for the flight from Tshikapa to Europe. 

·        1941-1946:

- transit via Léopodville for the airmail service to Europe and the USA from bordering colonies such as Angola, North Rhodesia, French Equatorial Africa. 

The ‘opposite aspect’ is that of ‘frontier covers’ such as letters written in the Belgian Congo and directed across the frontier to speed up their journey:

·        from Uele to the Nile / Sudan through the Lado enclave

·        from the North-East frontier to Fort Portal/Uganda and Mombasa / Indian Ocean

·        from Katanga to Brokenhill/Rhodesia and by train to Capetown

·        from Katanga to Texeira de Sousa / Angola and by train to Benguela

 I have seen the following:

·        covers from Middle French Congo via the river Congo

·        covers in transit at Boma via CBMC paquebots


Wonderful cover written at Cabinda/Angola, franked with Angolan stamps, but not cancelled at Cabinda. Brought by coaster to Banana where stamps have been cancelled on July 31th, 1887 (for an incoming foreign letter with un-cancelled stamps it should bear a straight line postmark “BANANA” on both the stamps and on the cover). Destination New York; transit at Liverpool. (Internet auction)

From Funchal to Accra/Gold Coast and then by Belgian paquebot to Boma. By coaster to Loanda and after that by German or Portuguese paquebot (?)  to  Namibia (South West German Africa) to Otjimbingwe (which port ? Walvis Bay ?) (postal auction 2003)

 Picture postcard bearing SG84, 20 reis Lilac tied by octagonal Loanda datestamp (April 25th, 1908). Addressed to the Director of Kouango, French Congo routed via Boma (May 2nd, 1908) with Brazzaville Congo Français transit (May 6th, 1908). (Congo River route)(Internet auction 2004)



Picture postcard from Brazzaville (May 18th, 1905) to Anvers / Belgium; routed via Matadi (May 20th) (Congo River route), by coaster to Loanda (May 23th ) to take a Portuguese boat to Lisboa and then by train to Anvers. (Lindekens Collection) 

 Picture postcard from Freetown / Sierra Leone (December 31st, 1908) to St Thome. Routed via Boma ( January 26th, 1909) and probably brought by coaster to Loanda to take the Portuguese boat to St Thome Island / West Africa.  (Lindekens Collection) 

 Picture Postcard from Cap Lopez / Gabon ( November 13th, 1913) to Swakopmund ( ?) in German South West Africa. Routed via Boma (November 19th) and Loanda (Nov 25th )(Lindekens Collection) 

Curious cover, probably transferred by hand. From French Equatorial Africa to Paris. Routed via Matadi for franking and registration, on October 8th 1917 during WWI.

Backstamped in violet  «AFRIQUE EQUATORIAL FRANCAISE  / TRANSIT MATADI» - post cancel or private (???)  (Lindekens Collection)

 I am lacking in both knowledge and sufficient reference books about maritime postal mail to provide full travel details. During this period Belgian, English, German and Portuguese shipping lines provided services for passengers, merchandise and mail to and around Africa. Good luck to anybody who can explain the postal routes used with so few postmarks on such covers.

Boma and the Belgian Congo can be seen as a transit point for African mail en route to its final destination.

 Imperial Airways Revisited

 by Emile Hoorens

In Bulletin 124 there was an article concerning the first flights of Imperial Airways written by N. Clowes. He said he had never seen letters from the Congo taking the plane in Mwanza. I have two copies as shown on the following pages :