The S.M.S. Hansa was the last ship of the Victoria-Louise class and was designed for a crew of 477. It was one of five cruisers II. class (armoured deck cruiser) of the Imperial Navy.
For the cruiser II. class N the keel was stretched in April 1896 by the AG Vulcan in Stettin. Barely two years later, the newbuilding was ready for launch on the 12th of March in 1898. The ship was christened with the latinised name of the Hanseatic League by the then Mayor of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Johann Georg Mönckeberg. After its completion, the Hansa was transferred from the shipyard to Kiel at the beginning of 1899, where it was put into service on the 20th of April after its final outfitting. The subsequent test runs lasted until the 11th of August. During one of these voyages, the Hansa ran aground in the Great Belt on June the 6th, but could be towed free by the coastal armoured ships Ägir and Odin. It suffered only minor damage.
After its entry into service, the S.M.S. Hansa was detached to serve in the East Asia Squadron and was also used in this context during the Boxer Rebellion.
The ship first visited Nagasaki in October 1900 and underwent an overhaul in Hong Kong from the 30th of December 1900 on. On March the 5th, 1901 the cruiser was back in Tsingtau and at the end of the month it received the order to represent the German Reich at the celebrations for the foundation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Via Hong Kong, Batavia and Fremantle the Hansa finally reached Melbourne on May the 1st, where the small cruiser Cormoran had been ordered too. Ships from other countries were also present and together they escorted the British heir to the throne to Sydney on May the 18th, where the festivities took place.
The Commonwealth of Australia was founded on January the 1st in 1901 in Centennial Park in Sydney. In March, elections for the new Bundestag took place and in May, Melbourne was the centre of the celebrations, where the first House of Representatives was opened in the (royal) exhibition building. A contemporary text describes the celebrations extensively and reports, among other things, that "public buildings, ships in the bay and arches of streets were illuminated with fairy lights. Large provisional arches were also erected by Chinese and German municipalities, the dairy industry, councils and the state government".
After a brief meeting with the survey ship Möwe after the celebrations, the Hansa returned via Sydney, MATUPI and Manila to Tsingtau, where it arrived again on June the 19th.
The Hansa served during the war in Kiel as a residential ship for torpedo boat crews. On the 6th of December in 1919 the ship was finally removed from the list of warships and in 1920 it was scrapped in Audorf near Rendsburg.
All this is well documented and the standard work of the Navy Mail and Ship's Post of Pohlmann/Kessing describes the various stays under MSP 188.8.131.52. Only the stay in Matupi, German-New Guinea was not documented so far.
The following three postcards close exactly this gap in knowledge and reveal a historical and philatelic secret: All three cards come from the same sender on board the S.M.S Hansa and are all addressed to Hubert Schmitz in Barop near Dortmund (today the statistical district 61 and at the same time a southwestern district of the independent city of Dortmund). They were sent as postage-free field mail.
The first postcard shows the Hansa in full splendour and was written on April the 5th, 1901 in Hong Kong. This corresponds exactly with the data in the manual (5.4.-10.4.), although the poorly legible MSP stamp 46 seems to show rather the 4.4. The date of arrival in Barop on the 9th of May 1901 is clearly visible.
The front page of the first postcard from Hong Kong to Barop, 1901.
The back page of the first postcard from Hong Kong to Barop, 1901.
The second postcard was probably acquired during the shore leave in Batavia (today: Jakarta) and was also written there. The date 14.4.1901 is noted, but the manual for Batavia gives the period 16.4.-22.4. The hotel Wisse in Batavia is depicted on a "Briefkaart uit Nederlandsch-Indië". The postcard reached its destination Barop only 2 days after number 1, on 11.5.1901.
Front side of the second postcard from Batavia (Jakarta) to Barop, 1901.
Back side of the second postcard from Batavia (Jakarta) to Barop, 1901.
The third and last card is the most important one. A multi-picture lithograph by "C. Jacobsen's Kunstanstalt, Altenburg, S.-A." is dated by the scribe with Matupie [sic] the 3.6.1901. In the text it says: "Dear Hubert! hereby inform you that we have arrived here on the 1st and tomorrow the 4th from here to Manila I am still alive and well and hope the same...". This corresponds exactly with the entries in the manual. However, the MSP 46 was not knocked off until 19.6.01, when the Hansa had already reached Tsingtau again, and the postcard did not arrive in Barop until 30 July 1901.
Front side of the third postcard from Matupie (Matipu) to Barop, 1901.
Back side of the third postcard from Matupie (Matipu) to Barop, 1901.
Conclusion: It becomes clear from the small correspondence that the S.M.S. Hansa was anchored in Matupi, the crew had shore leave (purchase of the viewcarte) and the data adopted in the manual are consistent. The sender of the cards probably delivered the last one to the on-board post office not until the ship arrived in Tsingtau. Maybe he had fallen ill, he had forgotten to send the cards or simply because the card would not have been carried on before anyway. Thus, a small white spot on the large map of German colonial philately seems to disappear with these postcards.
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