German Feldpost WW1

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German Feldpost

Feldpost is the  German military mail service. Its history dates back to the 18th century in the Kingdom of Prussia during the Seven Years' War and War of the Bavarian Succession and has existed ever since in different forms and shapes.
During World War I commercial photographers often accompanied the troops into the field, taking photos of individuals and groups of soldiers, which were then made into postcards to be mailed home. Besides photographs, many other subjects are found on the cards, ranging from cartoons to patriotic propaganda cards. Nearly every member of the German aristocracy (as well as their wives and children) have been portrayed on cards, as have most of the generals and other military heroes.
Many cards contain a wealth of information with great research potential.

The processing of the mail was different as it passed in transit from the front towards Germany or conversely.
From Germany to the front:
The mail to the servicemen was gathered in Collecting Points (Postsammelstellen) which were in charge of sorting out the mail. The sorting and the  bagging was made by a field post office. In fact, every unit was connected with a field post office.
These bags were then sent towards Master Points ( Leitpunkte). These centres were located near the border but still on German territory. There is a Master Point by Army. However, several Armies can share the same Master Point. These centres  were the only ones to know  the exact positions of the units and their post office. They used a document which included all the positions of field post offices and the links which each unit had with these post offices. This document is called "Overview of the field post network" (Feldpostübersicht). This overview was constantly updated by the informations given by field post offices, but especially by the Staffs which were the only to know the  affectations  of the units. Master Points were thus in charge of sorting out the cars of mail bags coming from collecting points and to sort these bags by field post offices . When it was possible, a car could be filled with only bags intended for the same post office. The biggest Master Point for the western front  was located in warehouse close to the station of Cologne.
To there, it was the civil post office which managed the routing of the mail.
Once this sorting was made, mail bags left by train towards transfer points ( Postumschlagstellen) which were in Belgium or in  Etappen area in the course or in the end of the line. Every Army had several transfer points with which was connected to every unit.
Brought out of the German territory, mail was taken care by field post and was subjected to the chances of the war (delay at best, destruction in the worst).
Arrived in the transfer point, mail bags were brought back by the staff of every field post office and then delivered to the soldiers.

The senders had to perfectly write the address of the serviceman for whom they intended the mail. Without this, it could get lost, be delayed or returned to sender. In the addresses no place-name must be affixed next to that of the unit of the addressee.

From the front towards Germany:
The soldiers mail  was collected within their company among which an officer (then later an examiner)  examined at random certain letters or postcards. The control was made on the presence of military information hidden or not in the mail and on the compulsory attendance of the coordinates of the sender.
From there, the mail left towards the post office  which deliver the unit. In trenches, one had settled mailboxes to facilitate the collection of mail.
In the field post office, the mail was sorted out roughly, mainly by big cities.
Mail bags were then steered towards the distribution points ( Postverteilungstellen) which sorted out again the mail by Province or State. The mail of the big cities was sorted out.
The mail of a soldier belonging to an Army towards an other one belonging to another Army did not follow the same road.
At the beginning of the conflict, it was impossible to make pass in transit directly a mail between 2 Armies. Mail must be previously steered in Germany towards a collecting point (Postsammelstelle) to be redirected towards the Army of destination. It created obviously a lot of delay.
In October, 1914, was created the field post clearing offices ( Feldausgleichstellen / Heeresbriefstellen). These offices were in charge of collecting,  sorting out and making pass in transit the mail between the Armies. These centres were mostly situated in the Etappen areas.

Civilian mail and prisoners of war  mail coming from occupied zones:
In occupied areas, no private individual's mail could circulate with the exception of the mail intended for a prisoner of war in Germany or in occupied territories or interned in a neutral country. Mail of civil adminitrations as well as the economic mail were authorized. However, they had to pass in transit by Kommandantur which sent them in military postal Censor office  of the Etappen-Inspection (Postüberwachungstelle) which then sent them to the post office of the Etappen-Inspectionwhich managed their routing.
It was the same for POW  or civil prisoners who had their families in occupied territories.  

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