1937-03-12

Crash site Jeshwang airport, Bathurst, Gambia
Airline Deutsche Lufthansa
Aircraft Heinkel He 111 – D-ALIX – Rostock
Route Las Palmas – Bathurst
Crew 4 – 0 survivors
Passengers 0

 

The crash

The plane came from Las Palmas, Spain and arrived over Bathurst at 02:10. It circled widely three times around Bathurst before flying southeast over the harbour and then disappeared. The Lufthansa catapult ship “Ostmark” was in contact with the plane from 02:47 until 03:41 and assumed the plane had landed safely.
In the early morning it was realized that the plane was lost. The Lufthansa Dornier Wal “Mistral” and a launch boat from “Ostmark” started the search for the lost plane. Shortly before 10:00 “Mistral” spotted some debris and post sacks floating near Dog Island in the Gambia River, and at 10:30 larger parts of the wreck were observed in the river. The crew members were never found.
The reason for the crash was never determined.

 

The mail

The plane carried a large amount of mail destined for West Africa and South America. During the day 24 mail bags and 30 loose packages of letters were recovered. It was estimated that 90% of all the mail was recovered. Most was picked up by the launch boat from “Ostmark”. The mail for West African destinations was brought ashore, and the mail for South America was taken aboard “Ostmark” to be dried and sorted.
The mail for South America was forwarded the following night. The Dornier Wal “Mistral” was catapulted from the depot-ship “Ostmark” on 13 March at 01:02 and arrived in Natal, Brazil the same day at 17:45.
Only two Nordic covers are known (both illustrated below).

A.19370312 A

Argentinian label with both
printed and typewritten text.
Size: ?

This label is a variation of the
labels illustrated by Nierinck.

 

 

B. 19370312 B
Single line handstamp.
Size: ?
Stated to be used onboard
the “Ostmark”, but I am not
so sure about that.

 

Examples of mail

19370312 005a 19370312 005b
Cover from Finland postmarked HELSINKI 3 III 37 and addressed to Argentina. At the back is a transit postmark of PARIS 9 III 1937. On front is the label type A. Also a long handwritten explanation of the accident (probably not postal).
Kauppi collection.
19370312 010a 19370312 010b
Cover from Stockholm, Sweden sent to Uruguay without any crash markings. Stamps are floated off, so the postmark is illegible. Red German transit mark DEUTSCHE LUFTPOST C EUROPA-SÜDAMERIKA (code letter C was used in Friedrichshafen).
At the back is a transit railway postmark BERLIN-SASSNITZ BAHNPOST 7.3.37 and also an arrival postmark MONTEVIDEO 15.III.37.
Slettebø collection.