German Occupations


WWI – Government In Exile On the 13th October 1914, as a result of the German invasion of Belgium, the Belgian Government was evacuated by sea and arrived at Le Havre that same evening. They were accommodated at the Hotel de Sainte Adresse, in a suburb of Le Havre and on the 18th October a Belgian Post Office was opened within Sainte-Adresse, using a loaned French CDS canceller. The canceller actually used from the 18th to the 26th October is known to have a broken outer ring above the 'LE' of LE HAVRE. Other cancellers were subsequently used but this is the difficult one.


WW1 - The German “Etape” (Staging) territories in Belgium


The invasion of the German troops in Belgium started on August 4 1914 but was stopped on the edges of the River Yzer on 31 October 1914. This front was then stabilized until 28 September 1918, the beginning of the eventually victorious offensive of the Belgian army. For this long period of immobility, the 4th German Army held the bank of the Yzer. The supporting territory behind and supporting the front line, known as Etape included the two provinces of Flanders, except for the coastal area that was occupied by the Marine Corps. Ghent was the chief town of this Etape. The remainder of the country, where there were only occupation troops, formed the General Government of Belgium. This General Government was reduced in 1916 and 1917 to include in the staging areas of the German Armies on the French front because of the retreat after the battle of the Somme in September 1916 and also because of the subsequent arrival of enormous reinforcements of men and material, requiring larger staging areas.

Insofar as the military needs allowed it, the Army organized a mail service for the use of the civilian population. This mail service was rudimentary. The Belgian post offices having been closed, the mail was deposited or withdrawn in office of the area commander located in the important areas. Only open letters and postcards were accepted; registration was not allowed; mail was not distributed and insufficiently franked mail was excluded. This civilian service was independent of the military post reserved for the exclusive use of the German troops.

Accepted by hand, the mail was franked and dispatched to the chief town of the zone where the army headquarters corps censured it and cancelled the stamps. Mail was then forwarded it to the area commander in the destination area, or to Brussels if it were intended for the General Government or for abroad. The correspondences originating outside the zone followed this procedure in reverse. It was generally impossible to write from one zone to another.

In the areas close to the battlefield, practically devoid of inhabitants, and in the coastal zone held by the Marine Corps, there was no mail service organized for the population. The town of Bruges, which was in this zone, had been attached at the stage of the 4th Army in Ghent. But in the territories where the post office did not function, mail was permitted where it emanated either from the Belgian local authorities or of the organizations created by the Germans to exploit the resources of the country (factories, mines, etc). Local commanders dealt with this exceptional mail authorising its transmission. The forced civil workers providing labour to support the front enjoyed a special mail service, arranged by the local German post office.


Postal Markings


Within the Etape the stamps were cancelled with a variety of hand-stamps, censor marks were applied and sometimes the mail was rejected and a return cachet applied.


Typical cancellations:

Typical censor mark: 

Typical return cachets:



1-10-1914 issued PSC1, German Occupation General Government stationery card with "Belgien" 5 Centimes overprint on 5Pf green Germania imprint stamp. Postkarte on right of vertical line. Cancelled with 1 BRUSSEL 1 BRUXELLES  19-20 17.VIII 1915 Double-ring 1 C Machine to Waereghem. Militarishe Überwachungsstelle Ctr. Brüssel. Oval, Postprüfungsstelle/ 21. 8. 15. A/Etappen-Inspektion Gent Box.


General Government Area


The Germans were well prepared for the invasion and on 1 October 1914 German Stamps from the 1905-11 Germania series of 9 stamps surcharged “Belgien” with values in "Centimes” or “Francs”were issued progressively. Limited postal stationery was similarly provided but this was limited to post and letter cards. The bridged double circle cancellations with German place names replaced the existing Belgian ones although in some areas such as Brussels existing machine cancellation remained in use as in the post card above.


Registered ANTWERPEN – 3 Bridged double-ring to  Doisburg,

75c on 60Pf  OC6, Militarishe Überwachungsstelle ANTWERPEN Freigegeben


In 1916 the overprint was changed with values indicated by "Cent.” or “F”.



Registered BRÜSSEL 1 d Barred double-ring to Pforzheim,

3c on 3Pf  OC11, 5c on 5Pf  OC12, 8c on 7,5Pf OC13, 10c on 10Pf  OC14,

15c on 15Pf  OC15, 25c on 20Pf  OC18, 40c on 30Pf  OC19 [106 Cent],

Militarishe Überwachungsstelle Gepruft Brüssel. Oval Censor.


It should never be forgotten that the Germans were avid philatelists and had complete control of all the hand-stamps so there are many items that fall into the "philatelic" area.




At the start of the war the Third Reich introduced censorship of the mail and several offices were opened to carry out this policy. Each office was allocated a letter-code depending on the country of origin or destination of the mail. The office in Köln (Cologne) was allocated the code letter “c” and dealt with mail to and originating from Belgium, Luxembourg and the north of France. The Berlin office code letter “b” dealt with airmail to Scandinavia, the Americas and prisoners of war. The allocation of censor office does not appear to have been rigid. Other offices were in Königsberg, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Vienna, Copenhagen, Lyon, Oslo, Paris and Bordeaux. A sub-office functioned in Brussels.


Three covers all addressed to the same address in Germany. The circled Ac and Ac are manual or mechanical marks of passage with the A standing for Abwehr (Army) and the c or b Cologne or Berlin.

A VILVOORDE A 7 I 17-18 1941 Single-ring to Denmark, AV cachet.

Censorship re-sealing tape and censor mark on reverse.