The last mail drop for S.M.S. Scharnhorst and S.M.S. Gneisenau prior to arriving in Ponape was 22 June 1914, the date they arrived in Nagasaki, thus setting the earliest possible cancellation date for mail from those vesssels as 22 June 1914. The S.M.S. Nürnberg‘s last mail drop was on 27 July 1914 in Honolulu as it made its way west to Ponape.
The latest cancellation dates are 6 August 1914, the date the mail was delivered to Herr Ludwig.
Items from early in the eligible time period are franked in amounts that were standard for MSP of the time. Items dated 5-6 August 1914 were unfranked as Feldpost mail.
Items with Marianen or Karolinen postage are possible, as the S.M.S. Scharnhorst and S.M.S. Gneisenau stopped in those locations prior to arriving at Ponape.
Items were also mailed by personnel on board the supporting vessels accompanying the cruisers (steamer Titania and Japanese collier Fukoku Maru), but as these vessels had no on-board postal facilities, items from those crewmwmbers can only be identified by the contents of the writings.
Following their departure from Ponape, the S.M.S. Scharnhorst, S.M.S. Gneisenau, and S.M.S. Nürnberg rendezvoused with several other ships of the German navy and went to war. They won a victory over the Royal Navy at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914, before all three were sunk at the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914.
In 1923, Japan permitted Germany to recover the mail that had been buried at Ponape. Environmental conditions had caused damage to most, but the Marine-Postbureau attempted delivery of the surviving items. Two labels were attached. One translates as:
Arrived here from the Office of Foreign Affairs on 20 September 1923. No postage due is to be collected since this was legitimately mailed in the year 1914 and was sufficiently franked. Naval Post Office Berlin C-2, Berlin N65, Seestr. 37.
The other as:
Mail from the Cruiser Squadron of August 1914
These items are among the rarest items in German colonial philately.
The card shown above was sent by Friedrich “Fritz” Kirchhoff, a Torpedo Machinists Mate assigned to the 1st Company of the II. Torpedo Division on board the S.M.S. Gneisenau, to his father, also named Friedrich, in Oebisfelde, Germany.