Postal Service




Gander Parcel Card

by R.G. Pelley

If you send the parcel today, the post office will give you a receipt and a parcel number so that you can check if the package was actually received. But back in the « old days », it was hard to tell if a parcel actually got to its destination.

Before modern technology, people used what were known as «parcel cards». There were basically two types. One was very official from the post office, properly known in English-speaking countries as “dispatch notes”, showing details of preferred routing, weight, size, postage paid (or to be collected), and  the addresses of the sender and recipient. The recipient was supposed to sign the form, which was then returned to the “exchange office” in the country of origin.  One source I read says that in Canada, these parcel cards were generally “left to rot” and were ultimately thrown out – they are consequently extremely rare.  In European countries they were often sold to specialist collectors.

There was also a second type of parcel card that was used on rare occasions, those printed by the company who sent the package.  So that these private cards would not be confused with official cards, they were often simply called post cards. The “parcel card” usage is generally revealed by an inscription on the top of the card saying something like “Please acknowledge reception by retuning this card”. There are apparently very few of these around. 

The example shown was returned from CAPO 2, which means Canadian Army Post Office no 2 in Gander during World War II.

The front of this parcel card is in itself interesting. It comes from the Frontenac Brewing Co. in Montréal that no longer exists. It has no stamp but still was franked by the post office. Also, we can see that while it was not a sealed envelope, it was still passed by a censor on 20 May 1942, the day before it left the post office.

front card

The reverse side shows something unusual - one would have thought that the brewery would have sent beer but that does not seem to be the case.  In fact, it says “Thanks for the cigs”! The person who replied was a private from Headquarters Company, Prince Edward Island Highlanders.  I have been told that CAOS means Canadian Army Overseas, which was the case of Newfoundland in the pre-1949 world.

card back

As a side note, the PEIH is now a Reserve Force armoured reconnaissance unit (Prince Edward Island Regiment). 

Several months after this parcel card was returned, on the night of 13/14 October 1942, the Newfoundland Railway ferry, S.S. Caribou, was sunk off Port-aux-Basques by the German submarine, U-69. Among the passengers that night were 9 members of the Prince Edward Highland Highlanders. Six of them did not survive.  We hope our chap wasn’t among them.  (we did check through the Canadian Legion death records and found nothing).  

researched by R G Pelley  

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