n 1927,the Reich Transport Ministry sought to speed up trans-Atlantic mail service to America. To do so, they entered into agreements with the Norddeutscher-Lloyd shipping line, Lufthansa, and the Reichspost. Under these agreements, the NDL liners Bremen and Europa would be equipped with catapults and floatplanes, allowing delivery of mail to shore while the liners were still 500-800 km from port.
Europa launching its floatplane
The first catapult fight was launched from the Bremen on 22 June 1929, and the service was discontinued in 1935.
In 1933, a catapult airmail service was also instituted for liners on the Germany-South America routes. This service was in operation until 1939. Unlike the North Atlantic Catapult Post in which mail was typically carried by airplane only on the final leg of each journey, mail on the South Atlantic routes was carried by airplane on both ends of the routes, with ship carriage only in between Las Palmas and Fernando de Norontha.
On 22 July 1929, the Bremen launched its first catapult flight to New York. Mail carried on the flight was stamped with a serial number, with a total of 10,997 pieces carried. A few covers are known without a serial number.
Mail carried on-board originated from three sources — inland German sources, on-board seapost, and Danzig.
Most mail carried on-board bears a red Norddeutscher Lloyd cachet, and a black first-flight cachet.
Norddeutscher Lloyd Cachet
Most mail does not bear the red “Mit Katapultflug” cachet that would become mandatory in mid-August 1929, though several copies do exist with the cachet. Also, a small number of the pieces carried were marked with a red box cachet from the Bremen 5 post office.
On 20 August 1929, the Bremen launched a catapult flight to New York. Mail carried on the flight was stamped with a catapult flight cachet. The last “9” in the flight cachet date is a modified “8”.
Mail carried on board also bears the “Mit Katapultflug” cachet required on all catapult airmail from mid-August 1929 through 1930.
This cover bears a Bremen seapost cancel.
This voyage of the Bremen was the first which made use of supplementary flights. In addition to the mail loaded at port in Germany, late-arriving mail was flown from Köln to Cherbourg, where it was loaded on the Bremen during a brief port call.
These early supplementary flights carry a special cachet.
From March-September 1930, Europa made her first nine trans-Atlantic voyages without a catapult installed. Beginning in July 1930, supplementary flights were made to the Europa, delivering mail to the ship. This mail could not be catapulted off the ship, and most were marked with a one-line advisory noting that the mail was not catapulted or had the airmail etiquette crossed out.
Mail from supplementary flights bears a red supplementary flight cachet.
Catapult service on the Bremen and Europa ceased in 1935 due to the introduction of mail service on the airship Hindenburg (LZ-129) in 1936. However, supplementary flights from Köln to Cherbourg, with the mail being loaded onto Bremen and Europa at that location, continued until 1939.
This mail was never transported by catapult flight, but is typically catalogued alongside catapult mail due to the fact that it was a continuation of the same supplementary flight and ship transport services as during the catapult era, but without the final leg being by catapult flight.
As during the catapult era, mail transported in this manner carries a supplementary flight cachet.
On 1 August 1929, the Bremen was on the return leg of its first catapult flight trip across the North Atlantic. On that date, it launched its catapult flight to its home port of Bremen, Germany.
Mail carried on the flight was stamped with a serial number, with a total of 19,003 pieces carried. These pieces originated from four sources — inland U.S. sources, U.S. seapost, German seapost, and Canada.
Most mail carried on-board bears a red Bremen cachet.