World War II British Courier’s Passport – Charles Bonham-Carter

World War II British Courier’s Passport – Charles Bonham-Carter

issued to Major D. R. H. Gwynne, Rifle Brigade, by H.M. Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Malta, signed ‘Charles Bonham-Carter’, and dated The Palace, Malta, 30 August 1939. A British Courier´s passport is one of the most rare documents a collector can find for his collection and this one is even more special as just issued one day before WWII.


D. R. H. Gwynne, was educated at Eton and was Commissioned Second Lieutenant, Rifle Brigade, on 21 August 1918. He served during operations in Iraq in 1920 (entitled to General Service Medal with clasp for Iraq), and was promoted Lieutenant on 21 February 1920, and Captain on 1 November 1932. He was appointed Assistant Military Secretary, Malta, on 1 September 1935, and was promoted Major on 1 August 1938. He served with the Rifle Brigade during the Second World War, and was promoted temporary Lieutenant-Colonel on 3 June 1942.

Charles Bonham-Carter was born in Kensington, London, on 25 February 1876, and was educated at Cigton College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment in 1896 and saw active service in the Boer War. He held a number of staff posts in France during the Great War, and was was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the French Legion of Honor, and the American Distinguished Service Medal, and was five times mentioned in Despatches. In 1919 he was created a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.

After the Great War Bonham-Carter served in Turkey and India, and in 1927 became Director of Staff Duties. In 1931 he moved to become General Officer Commanding the 4th Division in Colchester. In 1933 he was promoted to Lieutenant-General and became Director-General of the Territorial Army until 1936.

In 1936 Bonham-Carter was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta. He was a strong supporter of the need to defend the islands after War was declared in 1939, but by mid-1940 he had become ill, and had to resign his post on 11 October 1940. Created a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1941, he died at home in Petersfield, Hampshire on 21 October 1955. His son, Victor, became a novelist of some renown, and his great-niece is Helena Bonham Carter, the actress.

-World War II British Courier’s Passport, Charles Bonham-Carter-


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FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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