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Sikkim’s Rocket mail- II

With an article Sikkim’s Rocket mail this correspondent joined WR and over the last 15 months has been able to trace down the complete inside story of the Rocket mail in Sikkim.
Sikkim Rocket experiments were one of the first official firings in Asia. Stephen Hector Smith a pioneer in Indian Rocket mail history chooses Sikkim for his experiment because of its geographical features and mountains.

Sikkim is also the first country in the world to successfully dispatch by means of a rocket, a parcel containing small quantities of such useful articles as medicine, tobacco, tea, sugar, etc. Those people who helped Sikkim Rocket experiment succeed included Chogyal Tashi Namgyal, CE Dudley, General Secretary to the Chogyal, Tashi Dadul Densapa, Private Secretary, Rai Sahib Faqir Chand Jali, the state engineer and F Williamson, British Political Officer. For a curiosity I would like to tell that a mask statue of Williamson’s face could be seen in the wall of STNM Hospital on the way to male ward above the blood donation room.

Prior to the first experiment at Gangtok four tests was done where of the four two was ragged and busted. The first official rocket mail was done from the Gangtok Post Office compound to the Durbar High School where 200 items was carried. It was at 10.30 am and 10.35 am. The envelopes were franked with the special two rupees rocket stamp in blue and yellow. The letters were then posted and have the postmark “Gangtok 7 Th April 1939.” Two launches were made with over 50 yards that was successful.

Second firing was done at Chogyal Tashi Namgyal Field towards Post Office in presence of the Chogyal and the His Highness signing his name in three of the six covers. The covers scripted “Tashi Namgyal Field 8/4/35.” Six covers and 410 cards were flown by the Maharajah with one pound of mail as the weight carried by the rocket.

An evening of April 8 witnessed an interesting firing being fired vertical. The rocket carried 388 gold cards and had raised 1000ft and the weight included 2lbs. This was the first vertical firing east of Europe. The Chogyal autographed two cards for the experimenter and granted him permission to have a block made of his signature to impress all rocket mail items dispatched by him.

Fourth firing saw 175 covers being dispatched by F Williamson from Dak Bungalow towards the Post Offices. The rocket failed to its target and struck to the rock and was smashed. World’s first parcel dispatch over the river was done on April 10 over River Rani khola that is written as Ranikhali on the covers at 3.30 pm. CE Dudley discharged the mail rocket.

The sixth firing on April 10 at 3.35 pm established a new world record when for the first time a parcel was carried by means of a rocket. The parcel included 12 items that had packet of tea, sugars, spoon, hanger chief, toothbrush, cigarettes, and others. Dudley fired the parcel rocket over the river Rani khola from Surumsa to Ray. On the parcel reaching destination the river was crossed and Smith opened the parcel. All the articles were perfectly intact. In the missives of word “ mail” was cancelled by hand and the word “ Parcel’ written instead.

Firing was again done over River Rani khola but from opposite bank i.e. from Ray to Suramsa. Tashi Dadul Densapa fired the 186-cover flight. Dudley handed over a certificate to Smith quoting that this experiment as a means of transport during floods or landslips. Another experiment was held on the same day at opposite White Memorial Hall, Gangtok. The test was to observe the strength of the rocket against the gale.

Smith fired eight firing over Singtam River in Singtam on April 13 with 118 covers flown. The distance covered by the rocket was 550 yards. The last and the ninth firing in Sikkim were made over Rungpo River in Rungpo. There was 1oo covers flown.




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