The Consul General at London (Hollis) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 10.]
Sir: I have the honor to report that the British War Office has just issued a statement showing that during the war the postal censorship in the United Kingdom examined some 630 million postal packets and that approximately 1,300,000 of these packets were detained on the ground that their transmission would have assisted the enemy’s military and naval plans, or have increased his commercial or financial resources, or have furthered his far-reaching campaign of political and commercial propaganda. Now that the war is ended the question of the disposal of these detained mail packets has been taken up by the War Office and this has been the subject of a long and careful consideration and it is stated that the decisions now reached have been governed by the desire to guard the interests of Neutral as well as Allied nations, to avoid as far as possible injury to commercial firms, and individuals, and to avoid unreasonable expense. It has now been finally determined that such of this correspondence as originated in, or was destined for the United Kingdom will be destroyed except where it contains articles and documents of value, which can now be transmitted with safety.
With regard to mails carried over the United Kingdom in transit to and from foreign countries, and mails landed from neutral ships which entered British territorial waters, it has been decided that packets containing goods, currency, realizable securities, or other financial packets of value will be put into the Prize Court; that commercial correspondence and private correspondence containing documents of value will be released; and that private correspondence will be destroyed, inasmuch as it would be impossible without very great expense to re-examine packets of this class in order to determine which could or could not now safely be sent on.
The total number of packets released or about to be released under these decisions is approximately 92,500 registered and 500,000 unregistered [Page 629] packets. The preparation of packets for release and their actual handing over to the Post Office began on June 23, and will be completed by August 30. The work is being carried out by a staff of about 50 male and 150 female workers, irrespective of Post Office staff. All packets released will be closed with the Censorship label and stamped “Released by the British Military Authorities.”
Inquiries with regard to missing letters are generally undesirable, and to many questions no answer could, in the nature of the case, be given, since a vast mass of postal matter was lost through submarine warfare and other causes, and many packets were detained by Allied and enemy censorships. Inquiry as to a missing letter, that is desired to be made by persons other than those resident in the United Kingdom should be made through diplomatic channels. An inquirer should state the name and address of the person to whom the packet was addressed, the date of its posting, and the nature of the contents. He should also state the registered number and the office of origin wherever the letters were registered.
Trusting that this information will prove to be of interest to the Department,
I have [etc.]