By Anurag Vajpeyi
Since Independence, the Indian Army has taken a leading part in the peace missions to KOREA, INDOCHINA, GAZA and the CONGO. A set of stamps was overprinted for the FPOs of Indian custodian Force and was released in KOREA on 17 October 1953. No First day cover was issued. The first overprint for the FPOs of the International Control Commissions was released with a first day cover on 1 Decemeber 1954. The second overprint became necessary when the \”India Map\” series of stamps were introduced on the change-over to decimal coinage. It was released on 1 April 1957. A similar overprint was authorized for FPOs which accompanied the Indian contingent to the UN peace mission in the CONGO in 1960. The overprinted stamps and the First Day cover were issued on 15 January 1962 (Army Day). The famous Nehru stamp was overprinted and issued on another Army Day (15 January 1965) with a First Day Cover at the FPOs serving with the International Control Commissions in INDO-CHINA and the United Nations Emergency Force in GAZA.A new set of overprinted stamps for the remaining ICC FPOs at SAIGON and VEINTIANE was released on 2 October 1968 (Mahatma Gandhi\’s Birthday) along with a First Day Cover. The stamps were cancelled on the first day of issue with an obliterator of new design. Wherever our field offices go, in India or overseas, they function as part of the India P and T system and use the Indian postage stamps. It is purely a matter of administrative convenience whether or not these stamps in a particular area or expedition and to discourage their purchase with cheap local money for eventual sale in INDIA. The modern overprints are intended to highlight the work and achievements of special Missions.
Though field post offices accompanied the India Army on its numerous expeditions and wars prior to Independence, postage stamps were overprinted only for the China Expeditionary Force (CEF) of 1900-1904 and the India Expeditionary Force (IEF) which took part in the First Word War.
International Control Commissions were established in CAMBODIA, LAOS and VIETNAM in August 1954 in pursuance of the Geneve Agreement for peace in INDO-CHINA. The Commissions were composed of members from CANADA and POLAND with Indian Chairman. Each of these countries contributed a contingent of servicemen to man the inspection teams. The Indian Contingent included a full-fledged postal unit to look after the postal needs of the three Commissions and their national contingents.
The International Commissions Postal Unit reached SAIGON on 3 September 1954 and established field post offices at HANOI, VIENTIANE, SAIGON and PNOM PENH. On completion of their tasks, the FPOs in PNOM PENH and VIENTIANE were closed down on 26 June 1958 and 25 July 1958 respectively. When the LAOS Commission was reactivated in 1961, its FPO was also reestablished in VIENTIANE on 22 May 1961. The FPO at HANOI was eventually closed down on 13 july 1966 as the inspection teams dependent on it had to be withdrawn due to the escalation of the war in VIETNAM.