Philatelic pearls: F.F.I. envelops

The French resistance (in French: La Resistance Française) is the name that is used for the gathering of French opposition movements that fought during the second wolrd war against both Nazi Germany and the collaborating Vichy-regime. The men and women of the resistance came from all economic levels and political preferences, including emigrants, conservative Roman Catholics (with amongst them priests), members of the Jewish community and citizens from the ranks of liberals, anarchists and communists.

After the landings in Normandy (June 6th 1944) and the Provence (August 15th) the para-military parts of the resistance were organized more formally. Under the guidance of Marschal Pétain a hierarchy of operational units like the French troops of Internal Affairs (Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur, F.F.I.) developed.

Marshal Pétain
Marshal Pétain

General Leclerc
General Leclerc

General de Gaulle with the Croix de Lorraine chosen by him
as symbol of the resistance

In June 1944 the strength was estimated to be 100.000, but soon the F.F.I. grew, from a doubling in the next month to around 400.000 in October of the same year. Soon General de Gaulle became the popular political representative of the F.F.I., but it was General Leclerc (born as Philippe François Marie, comte de Hauteclocque), with his 2e armored division, who provided the most glorious moment of the Resistance: the liberation of Paris on August 25th 1944.

Now I hear you thinking: a nice story, but what does this have to do with motorcycle philately?

Preceding the liberation of Paris various groups held anti-German demonstrations. There were also several strikes like in the Parish Metro, Gendarmerie, Police and Post.
To be able to still send post in this period, the week from August 19th til 25th, the F.F.I. letters had been delivered by motorcycle. The letters had to be franked with a stamp of 1,50 FFr with the image of Pétain, imprinted with a Croix de Lorraine, and an extra stamp "poste spéciale F.F.I." with on the bottom the letters M.L.N. (Mouvement de Liberation Nationale).

French F.F.I. envelop from the strike week

Because of the risk of interception of the messages the envelops were provided with a coded address. The F.F.I. had several addresses spread over Paris between which messages were exchanged. Beneath a small overview of 14 of those addresses. First the abbreviation of the service, next the services name and finally the coded address. The last one had to be clearly written on the envelop.

List with coded adresses of the French F.F.I.

When the strikes were over and the normal post was operating again the special F.F.I. envelops were superfluous. At that moment there were still around 28.000 envelops left, of which about 2000 with the cachet stamping "Paris Libéré", with accompanying date stamping. Those were sold in November and the revenue was for benefit of the F.F.I.

F.F.I. Envelop with date stamping 23-08-1944

F.F.I. Envelop with stamping 26-08-1944 and text 'Paris Libéré' in the upper left corner
26-08-1944 with "Paris Libéré" in the upper left corner

Date stamping 21-08-1944 on French F.F.I. envelop from the strike week
The address on the first envelop, Compagnie Location des Terrain, is on the list of coded addresses, and the date (21-08-1944) is in the period that the F.F.I. messages have been transported by motorcyle. It is almost 100% sure that this envelop fits in our motorcycle related collection.
Although the list with coded addresses is probably not complete (more info is always welcome) it is not sure that the addresses on the other envelops (resp. JFT and Société Nationale d'Aviation) were really related to the F.F.I. Of the envelop with cachet stamping "Paris Libéré" it is very likely that it belongs to the lot that has been sold in November for benefit of the F.F.I. cash.


Nico Helling


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