Scout 'Postmen'
Keith Larson

During the siege of Mafeking, Lord Baden-Powell found that young boys proved to be valuable and courageous runners, conveying messages under conditions of great danger to themselves.

Their story is too well known to be repeated here.  Since that time at least three other similar cases became known and were postally documented, in which Scouts played an important part in the delivery of mail.

In 1918, on gaining independence, the young state of Czechoslovakia had many difficulties to face, one of them being the organization of a reliable postal service.  Scouts stepped in to help their country.  Their selfless service is commemorated on the revolutionary issue of stamps, which bear the inscription: "Czech Scout Post-In the service of the National Authority."  A small number of the two values later overprinted to commemorate the arrival of the first President, T.G. Masaryk, and are very rare.

More recent history gives us two examples of what Scouts could and really did achieve in the service of their country, true to their laws.  During the war of independence from Pakistan, young boys of the Bangladesh Boy Scout Association volunteered to carry the mail from the Bangladesh Mukti Fouz (Liberation Army) field post offices.  Another more heroic case was in Warsaw, during the uprising of 1944.  Serve their country well they did, many of them at the cost of their young lives.

August 1944 saw the beginning of the uprising against Hitler's forces of occupation in Poland's capital.  Much has been said elsewhere about the purpose, usefulness, and timing of this struggle and it is not the intent of this article to enter into an argument on which history has yet to make a decision.  The fact remains that the Poles fought a brave if, in the end, unsuccessful battle, and the Germans were certainly taken aback by the good organization of the Home Army.

As soon as a district was clear of the enemy, Polish military authorities immediately began to organize a semi-civilian administration.  They were perhaps most successful with the post, run by former postal officials with the help of teenage Scouts, some of them only a mere 9 years old.  Certainly, they were too young to realize the dangers involved but old enough to feel the responsibility and importance of their job.

During the first few days they delivered the mail-mostly military messages, but also short civilian letters and cards to relatives- during the night, working their way through dark streets, gardens and backyards, from one sector of the city to another, through enemy-occupied territory.  Later this became impossible and the brave "postmen" had to take to subterranean passages-sewers, drains, etc. until the Germans finally destroyed this means by blowing them up or filling the canals with flaming gasoline and oil.

Few philatelic souvenirs of their heroism have survived, for the almost total destruction of Warsaw which followed the fighting left little. but it is known that some General Government stamps were overprinted with the Polish eagle and the wording "Insurgents' post Warsaw August 1944," others by handstamp.  Most mail did not have any stamps, for there was no charge for delivery, but all letters and cards to be conveyed bore a censor's mark and a date stamp.  The inscriptions of these postmarks tell their own story:

Warsaw on fire
A.K. on Barricades (Armia Krajowa - Home Army)

In addition to these overprinted stamps, two definitive issues were brought out at a later date, but very few genuine covers with stamps of the first issue exist, none with the second.  Before the latter could be issued, the gallant fighters had to give in to the overwhelming strength of a bitter enemy.

If you collect Scouting stamps, some of these issues should be included in the collection, for they clearly show that Scouting is not merely and organization which makes them into men, at an early age if necessary.

Reprinted from Thematic Review (defunct) August 1957
SOSSI Journal, Volume 42, Number 5, May 1993
Modifications by Keith Larson