Military Postage Stamps of India - China Expeditionary Force (C.E.F)

The 'China Expeditionary Force' (C.E.F) was created at the behest of the British government in India in 1900. This force consisting of two brigades was sent to Peking, China during the Boxer uprising. Since regular exchange of correspondence was foreseen between the soldiers and their superiors and relatives back in India, a postal staff under Mr. V. T. Van Sumeran was also sent to China.

The Indian stamps were overprinted with the words C.E.F so that their use could be monitored within a certain region and thus prevent their misuse. The postal staff was under orders to issue the stamps only to C.E.F  military personnel in uniform. The postal rates in effect in China were the same as those prevalent in India at that time. The first use of these stamps was recorded in August 1900.




 As difficulties were experienced in rendering postal services to the troops stationed at or near railway stations where there were no post offices, special combined post and railway mail service between Peking - Taku - Tienstein and Shan Hi Kwan were introduced. The letters were also sorted, accepted for onward dispatches, in trains, and delivered at each railway station the trains halted, where the postal staff also sold stamps and stationary. In August 1901 when a large reduction of troops in China were made, the postal staff was also reduced with 14 post offices closing down. This was the largest postal contingent ever set out of India with an expeditionary force.

Twenty post offices were opened during this campaign and post offices were provided with distinguishing  number as follows:

F.P.O. 1 Peking (Legation Gate) F.P.O. 11 Sinho
F.P.O. 2 Peking (temple of Heaven) F.P.O. 12 Howhiwa, later Matoo
F.P.O. 3 Tungchoo F.P.O. 13 Liu Kung Tao
F.P.O. 4 Tienstein (Advance Base) F.P.O. 14 Shan Hi Kwan
F.P.O. 5 Shanghai (Tienstein L. C. Rd) F.P.O. 15 Shan Hi Kwan
F.P.O. 6 Shanghai F.P.O. 16 Chin Wang Tao
F.P.O. 7 Peking (Tartar City) F.P.O. 17 Wei Hai Wei
F.P.O. 8 Unknown F.P.O. 18 Tienstein
F.P.O. 9 Yangstum F.P.O. 19 Reserve
F.P.O. 10 Shanghai F.P.O. 20 Tienstein or Peking

In addition to the above post offices, there was an Indian Base forwarding office in Hongkong. As the main body of Indian troops were withdrawn in 1906, only six of the main post offices were kept open for the convenience of the Indian troops, constituting the North China command viz. F.P.O. - 1, 4, 5, 6, 14 & 15 F.P.O. no. 5 at Tienstein  was the only post office which operated till September 1939, when the last garrison was withdrawn from North China, by an agreement signed between Great Britain and Japan.

Examples of Indian stamps used from these post offices are scarce. During this expedition the Peking - Shan Hi Kwan railway was first divided up between Germany, Japan and Russia but, in February 1901 the entire railway line was handed over to British authorities for its administration. A postal box was attached to the railway postal van for the convenience of the public and a special Chinese stamp , 1/2 cent value was overprinted BRA/5/cents in three lines for payment of late fee on letters posted at the last minute. This stamp is found generally used on covers in combination with C.E.F. stamps. 

In the beginning of the expedition the field post offices were supplied with ordinary Indian stamps but due to the difficulty in accounting, the Queen Victoria series from 3 pies to Re.1/- were overprinted with the letters C.E.F. at the Government of India Central Printing office, Calcutta. These stamps are shown below. They were issued on Aug 16th 1900.


Sc # M1, SG # C1

Sc # M2, SG # C2

Sc # M3, SG # C3

Sc # M4, SG # C4

Sc # M5, SG # C5

Sc# M6, SG# C6

Sc# M7, SG# C7

Sc# M8, SG# C8

Sc# M9, SG# C9

Sc # M10, SG # C10

Sc#, SG# C10c (prepared but not issued)

Sc# M11, SG# C11 (Issued Feb27, 1904)

Later the Edward series were similarly overprinted and (C12-20 issued on 16th Sept 1904, C21-22 issued 1908-09) followed by K.G.V watermarked single star series (issued from 1914-1922). The last series is rarely found used on covers

Sc# M12, SG# C12

Sc# M13, SG# C13

Sc# M14, SG# C14

Sc# M15, SG# C15


Sc# M16, SG# C16

Sc# M17, SG# C17

Sc# M18, SG# C18

Sc# M19, SG# C19

Sc# M20, SG# C20

Sc# M21, SG# C21

Sc# M22, SG# C22


Sc# M23, SG# C23

Sc# M24, SG# C24

Sc# M25, SG# C25

Sc# M26, SG# C26

Sc# M27, SG# C27

Sc# M28, SG# C28

Sc# M29, SG# C29

Sc# M30, SG# C30

Sc# M31, SG# C32

Sc# M32, SG# C33

Sc#M33, SG# C34

Articles appear here as reference material. All copyrights are acknowledged. If there are objections to the articles appearing here please let me know and I will re-consider the decision to post them online.


1. Scott Stamp Catalog

2. Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth Stamp Catalogue - INDIA

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