Mauritius postal history: a personal selection
First Flights "Raid Samat"
or "Roland Garros"
Post Offices &
Perfin & Meter
Royal Visit


Links &

1937 Roland Garros: first flight Mauritius to France

Early aeronautical history

(From...Encyclopedia of African Airlines by Ben R. Guttery. page 123.)

The remoteness of the island of Mauritius has given it a unique aeronautical history. It was June 2, 1922, when the first aircraft was flown over Mauritius by Major F. W. Honnet. The plane was likely taken by ship to the island and flown from a field near Vacoas. On September 10, 1933, Maurice Samat and Paul Louis Lemerle made the first flight to Mauritius in a Potez 42 (F-AMGP "Monique"). The plane had flown to Réunion to a point near Mon Choisy, the site of a memorial marker today. On November 9, 1933, the two French aviators were joined by Jean Hily on a flight to Réunion. The three were to fly three aircraft--two Potez 43s and a Cauldron Renault--with mail to Réunion. Hily and Lemerle made the flight without any trouble, but Samat developed engine trouble and followed a day later, In December 1936 Laurent, Touge, and Lenier flew a Farman 199 ("Roland Garros") to Mauritius after completing a flight from France via Tunis, Cairo, Djibouti, and Tananarive. The flyers left Mauritius on January 20, 1937, returning to France on February 11. In 1942 the British built an airport at Plaisance near Mahebourg to aid the war effort. The airport is today known as Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport...

The Roland Garros flight

(From The Postal History and Stamps of Mauritius, by Peter Ibbotson (1991), pages 94 & 95)

Roland Garros left Mauritius on 20th January, this time carrying a small quantity of letters. More were picked up in Réunion, whence the aeroplain departed on 26th January, reaching Paris by easy stages on 12th February. The total mail carried from Réunion comprised 50 letters from Mauritius for France, 2·45kg for Madagascar (from Mauritius and Réunion), 1·02kg (mainly from Réunion) for Djibouti, Tunisia and Syria and 8kg for Europe. All mail from Mauritius carried on this return flight received a four-line cachet: "MAURICE FRANCE / lère Liaison aéropostale / Avion Roland Garros / Voyage de retour”, which was applied in Réunion

On page 96 we have...

Souvenir envelopes carries to France in January 1937, by Roland Garros on the first-ever flight from Mauritius to France, were stamped at the rate via Madagascar, often with philaelic franking using Queen Victoria definitives or first Arms type postal stationery. Thus there exists an 1897 36c postal stationery envelope supplemented by 4c, 10c and 3 × 25c KGV keyplate definitives, making up Rs1.25, the rate to Europe via Madagascar.

Most stamp dealers quote "only 40 flown", a query in the first issue of "IO", the Quarterly Bulletin of the Indian Ocean Study Circle, September 1970, gives some background on the original sources of the figures...

M.1. Can anyone shed authoritative light on the number of covers carried from Mauritius by the "Roland Garros"? George Wren in his pamphlet Air Mail History of Mauritius (n.d.; internal evidence suggests 1953 or 4) says 50; Francis J. Field, in a letter to the editor, quotes a 1947 French catalogue" as giving the figure of 40. Which, if either, is correct?

But what do we make of Ibbotson's "8kg for Europe", and "All mail from Mauritius carried on this return flight received a four-line cachet", one interpretation could read only the mail from Mauritius had the cachet applied, being 40 or 50? letters to France, but not the Mail from Réunion. One of the mail bags "about to leave" in the photograph certainly looks like 8kg.

Here is an attempt to collect as many of these as possible, (107 so far)...with at least another 24 known to have been sent, which makes a minimum of 131 covers sent. If you can provide or know the location of any please contact me. Click on an individual cover for a larger picture, if available.

Number of covers by destination, Belgium=1   France=42   Magagascar=9   Reunion=5   UK=47   unknown=2   total=107

Thanks to George Gray for supplying scans of 4 covers, #38, #39, #40 & #41, taking us over the "40" flown according to Muller. Filip Van der Haegen for #42, #46, #47, Peter Winget for #43 & #44, Colin Spong for #48, Dave Tarry for #50 to #55, Patrick Kwan for #61 & #62, Philip Malcolm of Principality Auctions for #72, David Gibbon for #74, Bruce Haynes for #82 to #86, Ray Stanton for #87 and Jake Marr for #100. Also thanks go to Robert Marion for supplying scans of 15 covers, #17 to #27 & #29, #35, #36 , #37 his great uncle was Max Rohan, a dentist in Mauritius at the time who sent groups of covers, at least 2 × 11. (see below a copy of a typed letter(s) he sent to within the covers to Edward Rohan and Mme Delliard). Given the typed "circular" that this is ( including to his own brother! Also a dentist) I presume that he sent more than the two (ie lots of eleven) that I have. I think that any typed cover which matches the two I sent you must have been sent in eleven copies. Robert Marion also informs us a French dealer was selling a lot of 5+ "Roland Garros" covers.

The "Roland Garros" at Choisy airfield 1937
The mail bags about to leave
The full photogaph is reproduced in
"The Postal History of Mauritius"
by E. B. Proud. Page 93.
Sir Louis Souchon was the London representative
of the Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture.
This letter was in the preceeding cover
addressed to Touge(?) the pilot
239 Rue Lafayette, Paris
addressed to Touge(?) the pilot
239 Rue Lafayette, Paris
addressed to Jean Laurent the navigator
of the "Roland Garros"
A second example addressed to
Jean Laurent, this one he signed.
A third example addressed to
Jean Laurent
A fourth example addressed to
Jean Laurent, also signed
A fifth example addressed to
Jean Laurent
A sixth example addressed to
Jean Laurent, also signed
A seventh example
to the same address
This cover is backstamped "delivery 12-Feb-37"

This cover is backstanped
'Seine et Oise '13 2 37
#1 of 11 to Edward Rohan
#2 of 11 to Edward Rohan
#3 of 11 to Edward Rohan
#4 of 11 to Edward Rohan
#5 of 11 to Edward Rohan
addressed to the French stamp dealer
Theodore Champion
#1 of 11 to Mme Delliard
#2 of 11 to Mme Delliard
Letter from Max Rohan included
to Edward Rohan and Mme Delliard
Reverse postmarked London E.C-9.45am 13 FEB 37 
Return London 15 FE 37 then G.P.O Mauritius 25 MR 37
(written on reverse, click to view)
5 cards keep one return four please
(second of five postcards sent)
(third of five postcards sent)
Sent to Raynald Henry
2nd example sent to Raynald Henry
3rd example sent to Raynald Henry
4th example sent to Raynald Henry
Sent to Max Henry
2nd example sent to Max Henry
cover addressed
to John Gibson
2nd cover addressed
to John Gibson
3rd cover addressed
to John Gibson
4th cover addressed
to John Gibson
sent to Miss L.C. Claude(undelivered)
by Miss J. Henisson 2nd example
A French dealers lot of
5+ "Roland Garros" covers