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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 16, pp2-5 (October 1982)

Copyright notice

The 1932 "Semi-official" Airmails (Part 2)

By Carlos Romo

The 4th volume of the "Gran Enciclopedia Catalana", pages 302-303, May 1973, bear this information about the Aviator:

Canudas i Busquets, Josep - (Barcelona 1894).
Aviator, one of the main promotors of aviation in Catalonia. He had been a sports journalist and co-founder of the "Aeroclub de Catalunya" (1915). In 1917 he obtained the first title of pilot given in Catalonia at "L'Escola Catalana d'Aviació", of which he was the Head Instructor and Pilot (1920). He took part in the Moroccan War (1921-22) where he received the rank of Officer of Aviation. He founded "La Penya de l'Aire" (Aeronautic Club) (1922) and the Society "Aerodrom Canudas" which promoted interest for passenger flights, and "L'Escola d'Aviació de Barcelona" for instruction of pilots (1929). He had been head of the first Spanish airline, Seville-Larraix (1921), and of the Andorran line ( Barcelona-Seu d'Urgell), the first one in the Catalonia region 1932). In 1933 "La Generalitat de Catalunya" (The Catalonian Provincial Government) appointed him Head of Aeronautic Services. During the Civil War (1936-39) he acted as liaison pilot on the Aragon Front and was Manager of "L'Escola d'Aviació Militar de Barcelona". He went into exile in 1939, first to France, later on to America, and since 1963 he has lived in Switzerland.

From Mrs. Canudas we learn that after a short period of exile in France she and her husband had emigrated to Cuba where they spent one year. When Mr. Canudas' health began to deteriorate due to the tropical weather to which neither one was accustomed, they moved to New York, in 1941, in search of a more favourable climate. There, they made their residence until January 1950, and when Mr. Canudas' health had improved, they moved to Amherst, Mass. where Mr. Canudas was employed as Spanish Language Instructor by Amherst College for 18 months. Later Mr. Canudas joined the Aviation Section of the US Department of Defence as a translator of documents from English to Spanish, and at the end of World War II he became Editor of "Revista Aerea"; which was a Spanish edition of the American magazine "Aero Digest". Finally he became a member of the Civil Aviation Section of the UN (ICAO) which had its Headquarters in Montreal, Canada, and he retired at the age of 61 at the end of his contract there. A good friend of Mr. Canudas - the great Catalonian Rafael Patchot - who was residing in Geneva, suggested that the Canudas move to Switzerland where they could make a more comfortable living with his pension, and on June 15th 1963 the Canudas arrived in Fribourg where Mr. Canudas would pass away eleven years later. The Canudas' became US citizens in 1949.

The Promotor - Jaume Nadal

In the town of Seo de Urgel, Lérida Province - Spain, near the frontier with Andorra there is a grave with the date 1 Nov. 1931, within which lie buried the remains of a Gentleman who, before his passing from this World, had left his indelible mark in the Postal History of Andorra. Although the developments of his Andorra related activities took place merely fifty years ago all the information concerning the affair which had come to our hands was a collection of suppositions, inventions and half-truths; even the name of the Gentleman had been a mystery to us until now, and had only been known as "Sr. N". Our good friend Mr. Josep Gelonch Guimet of Lérida was able to piece together the following information concerning Sr. Nadal:

"Sr. Francesc Segues, a resident of Seo de Urgel had a conversation with an old Gentleman named Josep Escude, who even to this day is the caretaker of the grave of the Airline Promotor, and from him he acquired the following data;

Born in Mallorca. When still a young man he emigrated to the Americas (Ecuador) where he built an initial capital by selling shoelaces in bar terraces. Later, having enlarged his fortune through several colourful business enterprises - he returned to Mallorca where he began to suffer from asthma attacks. His doctor advised him to seek a mountain climate of moderate elevation, and he chose Seo de Urgel where he took up residence in the Hotel Andria (a place which to this day is still in service). Once in la Seo he foresaw the possibility of a great enterprise, and he proposed to the governments of Spain and Andorra the establishment of an air line for transportation of Freight and mail (possibly inspired by the SCADTA Private Air Service of Ecuador and Colombia) with the proviso that he be granted authorization to operate the production and distribution of stamps which would provide sufficient capital for the maintenance of the air line. - even in the event that there whould never be any mail transported by it -. Unfortunately after only a few experimental flights (towards the end of 1931) Sr. Nadal died of a heart attack brought on by asthma. Upon learning of his death his relatives came from Mallorca; they were informed of the circumstances surrounding the air line project, but as they knew nothing about philately they let the whole matter lapse.

Correcting old data

The only information about the 1932 issue known to us up until now appears to have originated from an article in "Madrid Filatélico" of 1934 by Sr. Manuel Galvez, a distinguished Spanish Stamp Dealer, Philatelist and Writer. In this article Sr. Galvez sought to enhance the status of this series by giving them the appearance of having been an issue of "Semi-Official" nature. All other future references to the series were based wholly or in part on the Galvez' article, thus perpetuating the inaccuracies in it.

In his article Galvez states that;

  1. A ministerial enactment, of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation of 15 Oct. 1931 had authorized "Sr. N" to build and establish a Private Aerodrome at a site near Seo de Urgel known as "Monte del Cuervo".
  2. That a following enactment of 27 Nov. 1931 authorized "Sr. N" to inaugurate the air line Barcelona-Andorra.
  3. That an enactment of 31 Dec. 1931 requests that the promotor submit details of the aeroplanes in order to give consideration to the authorization of the airline as a public service.

Sr. Gelonch Guimet checked through a complete file of the official "Gaceta de Madrid" for the entire period 1931-32, and did not find any of these enactments recorded, no doubt because the air line was not licenced as a public service at this stage. Sr. Gelonch's diligent research in Seo de Urgel brought out the fact that no place named "Monte del Cuervo" exists, and indeed no one had ever heard of a place by that name. The name does not appear on any of the maps of the area either. The actual place where the aerodrome was situated and where the experimental flights took place in 1931-32 was called "Campo de Bernabe", also known as "Els Inferns".

An authorization to inaugurate the line as a public service (but not as a postal air line) was officially granted on the 18th Feb, 1932. This enactment was published in the "Gaceta de Madrid" of the following day:

Gaceta de Madrid No. 50 19 February 1932 Page 1245
A petition dated the 3rd instant was presented to the General Directorate of Civil Aviation by Dn. Gabriel Montserrat Beunasar and Dn. José Canudas Busquets, the first named as the legal representative of the heirs of Dn. Jaime Nadal Maimo, concessionary of the air line Andorra-Barcelona with aerodrome at Seo de Urgel; the second named as the technical Director of said undertaking, in which they have requested the appropiate authorization to put into operation the said line. The stipulations contained in the Order dated 29th January last of the G.D. of C.A. having been fulfilled, this Ministry has directed that the interested parties be authorized to commence the operation of the Andorra- Barcelona line, with authorized landing ground in Seo de Urgel, subject to the following conditions:
  1. The Pilot responsible for this service shall be Don José Canudas Busquets, who is in possession of Public Transport Pilot licence.
  2. The line shall be operated for the time being with a Farman aeroplane, with a capacity for four passengers, and various two-seater aeroplanes, all of them duly licenced in the National Register of Aircrafts.
  3. The departures and arrivals in Barcelona shall be verified at the National Provisional Aerodrome at Prat de Lobregat, and in Seo de Urgel at the Private Aerodrome of that locality approved by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation.
  4. The following tariffs, proposed by the concessionaire are approved: 75 pesetas per passenger for a single journey between Barcelona and Seo de Urgel, or viceversa; 2 pesetas per kilogram for air packets.
  5. The Line shall not have any exclusive character, the General Directorate of Civil Aviation being enpowered to modify it, or suspend it when deemed appropiate for practical or other reasons.
  6. Until the line has functioned regularly for two months, and daily during one month, postal transport will not be authorized. Once this has been done, the concessionaire must deposit a bond guaranteeing the continuation of the postal service for a period of at least six months, in conformity with the dispositions which will be made to this effect by the G.D. of C.A.
  7. The G.D. of C.A. will appoint an Inspector of the line, who will supervise the service and also the equipment and the personnel employed. The expenses entailed by this inspection shall be borne by the Company.
  8. The exploitation of this line must be in accordance with all the general regulations which are in force in Spain with regard to air traffic, or which may be introduced in the future.
Madrid, 18th February, 1932 ANGEL GALARZA
Director-General of Civil Av.

Sr. Galvez stated in his "Madrid Filatélico" article of 1934 that "Sr. N" had died from the excitement of the reception of official notification that he had been granted the right to transport mail; however, from the foregoing official communication it is evident that Sr. Nadal had died prior to the date of the enactment. Article 6 shows also that the line was not authorized to transport mail. Sr. Galvez also states in the same article that the stamps in question had been used to frank correspondence "even though the line was never inaugurated.". Article 6 again shows that this is also incorrect.

In later years there appeared the "first flight" cachet, in an apparent effort to give the labels a genuine status which was never theirs. Some covers are known bearing the labels tied with the so called "first flight" mark; but evidently they were prepared several years after the experimental flights took place. As we can see the stamps bear a totally catalonian inscription and it makes no sense to have a cancelling cachet with a totally castillian inscription to mark such an special event as a first flight which was supposed to have taken place in a Catalonian region.

The Failure of the Enterprise

Several attempts by the widow of the promotor, her nephew Sr. Gabriel Montserrat and the Pilot, Josep Canudas Busquets to get stamp dealer to finance the realization of the conditions stipulated for the authorization of a Postal Service fell on deaf ears and consequently the whole project was abandoned; but not before leaving us the legacy of an interesting story.

An Aside

The "Sociedad Aerofilatelica Espanola" carried an article about the series in its bulletin of Dec. 1978. Much of its contents seem to be based on the old Galvez article and contains nothing new apart from the amusing statement that the 1932 air line scheme had been financed by an "International Gaming Society based in London" and that Frederick Weilenmann had undertaken negotiations with the Spanish and Andorran governments under the assumed name of "Sr. N"! The writer of the article seems to have confused various different events, as an Australian "Betting" or "Gaming" Concern, "Brooms Syndicate", obtained a concession from the General Council of Andorra in May 1930 in connection with the running of sweepstakes from Andorra. The British Government, not happy about this, made representations to the French Government about the matter, and the French Government had the connection annulled. Mr. Weilenmann makes no mention whatsoever of these affairs in any of the books he wrote about his relations with Andorra.

Els Inferns Aerodrome

January l4th 1932.   Canudas' aeroplane at Els Inferns Aerodrome (La Seo) with the village of Alàs in the background (left).

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