Thursday, August 16, 2012


At first glance, this isn't much of a postcard.  With it's amazing detail, it's clearly a photograph, most likely a black & white photograph, that has been hand colored.  Labeled "Pension Francaise Maurice" it was probably given out to guests passing through Naples. A nice image, but not all that exciting.

But turn it over and it gets far more interesting.  There are two postmarks, one from Naples, and one from Burma.  The Italian stamp is mostly obscured, but the Burmese, "MANDALAY  11 OCT 28  2:30 P.M."   is easily read.  It's addressed to "Miss H. M. Price, A.B.M. Girls School, Mandalay, Burma, Brit. India"  And the message, "We are coming along toward Burma at a pretty rapid clip.  Sail tonight for Bombay, ought to reach R by Oct. 10th.  Hope to see you soon after that.  Our journey has been so rapid I haven't had time to write any letters.  Shall have lots to tell you.  I have a pkg. for you I think you'll like.  Yrs, B."

I punched A.B.M. girls school into the search engine, not expecting much.  My initial thought was that it had to be a school for the daughters of British, colonial administrators.  I was wrong.  A.B.M. stands for American Baptist Missionary, and it wasn't a school for white children, but a church school that taught Christianity along with useful skills to Burmese girls.  The earliest reference to a Baptist missionary school in Burma that I could find was from 1895, a boy's school in Mandalay.  For girls, 1906, also in Mandalay.  So that means that Miss Price must have been a teacher.  I couldn't find anything about her on the web, but I did find mention of an L. W. Price, a Baptist missionary in Burma,  from 1900.  Possibly a relative of some kind, although 1928 is quite a gap.  So maybe not.

Mandalay was the last royal capital of Burma, now Myanmar.  In 1885, the British conquered the country, exiled the king and queen, and added it to their colonial empire.  The palace was looted.  The art, and symbols of state are in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, some of which are on display.  I suspect that "R" refers to Rangoon, now Yangon.  After the British conquest, they moved the capital from Mandalay to Rangoon.  While Rangoon, a seaport, would become a major commercial hub for the British, Mandalay would remain the center of Buddhist and Burmese culture.  Burma became independent in 1948.  In 2002, the military junta running the country began construction of a brand new city, Naypydaw. In 2006, it became the new capital of Myanmar.  Several years ago the military was forced to cede power to an elected, civilian government.  Only time will tell how stable it will be.

An uncle of mine was in the British military in World War 2.  He served in the CBI theater.  That's China, Burma, India.  He told me stories of taking Japanese prisoners up in DC-3 transports and throwing them out over the jungles and mountains of Burma. An interrogation technique that rarely worked.  He told me how the soldiers would beat and imprison any Burmese thought to be disloyal to the British Empire.  It always amazed me that he didn't understand why the British were so despised by their colonial subjects.

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