Ship and Railway Ambulance Mail

Ship and Railway Ambulance Mail

This contribution on the postal history of Novi Bečej would not be complete without addressing two transportation options for postal shipments, as indicated in the subtitle – transportation by river, using boats, and by railway, in special postal wagons. The river flows of Vojvodina, including the Danube, Tisa, Sava, Tamiš, and Begej, facilitated not only the transport of goods but also the transmission of postal shipments.

The establishment of the First Privileged Danube Steamship Company in 1829 in Vienna (Erste privilegierte Donau–DampfSchiffarht Gesellschaft, abbreviated DDSG) was quickly recognized by the postal services of Austria and later Austro-Hungary as an opportunity for their needs. In the mid-19th century, a significant trade in cereals took place in the Turkish-Bečej port, with its port agency providing services to the postal administration of the state, as evidenced by the cargo documents of DDSG from 1854 and 1858. The agency's stamp was blue, rectangular, and with cut corners, bearing the inscription in three rows: D.D.S.G. | NEU BECSE | SALDIRT. After the establishment of the Serbian Shipping Company in 1891, with its agency headquartered in Pančevo, the transfer and exchange of postal shipments continued in this area. Between the two world wars, from the time of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, the agency in Novi Bečej continued its operations until the collapse of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Whether it also handled the transmission of postal shipments or services alongside goods transport during that time is not known. The agency's stamp was a double-circle in purple, with the upper two arcs stating REČNA PLOVIDBA S.H.S. in Latin script, the lower two arcs stating AGENCIJA NOVI BEČEJ, and in the center, above the date, it read AVIZIRANO. In the mid-1930s, the agency's premises (captaincy) were located near the dolma, at the site of the current Cultural Center building, with Dragan Dragi Vulević serving as its chief.

With the construction of the railway line Veliki Bečkerek – Velika Kikinda in 1883, Novi Bečej became connected to the Austro-Hungarian railway network, where a railway ambulance mail service was already in operation. An additional wagon was added to the railway composition to carry letters and other postal valuables. This wagon essentially housed the traveling or ambulance mail, named after the French word "ambulatoire," meaning traveling.

The ambulance mail operated between Veliki Bečkerek and Velika Kikinda from 1889 to 1891 and between Pančevo and Velika Kikinda from 1898 to 1918. Between the two world wars, the ambulance mail operated on the Subotica–Pančevo route in 1921 and from 1923 to 1929/1930, and on the Subotica–Veliki Bečkerek route from 1931 to 1939/1940. The mail service operated on the Velika Kikinda – Pančevo route only in 1927 and on the Velika Kikinda – Belgrade route from 1936 to 1940/1941. After World War II, the Beograd – Velika Kikinda line operated in 1947/1948 and 1959/1960, while the Velika Kikinda – Belgrade line operated from 1948 to 1962/1963. The railway compositions for passenger transport on these lines, equipped with a mail wagon, were obliged to stop at the Novi Bečej-Vranjevo railway station for the handover of postal shipments.

The postal stamps of the ambulance mail were circular and single-circle, featuring the inscriptions of the starting and ending stations, date, and ambulance mail number. Since the Novi Bečej – Vranjevo railway station was never the starting or ending station, it could not be indicated in the postal stamps of the ambulance mail. After the abolition of the ambulance mail, the auto-posts took over the handling of postal shipments.

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