Postal runner - A Postage Stamp for a Gravestone - News - Gondwana Collection

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Postal runner - A Postage Stamp for a Gravestone

Avatar of inke inke - 08. September 2017 - Discover Namibia

Postal runner Richard “Tooke” Karambovandu shortly before his tragic death in September 1897. Source: Lichtbildstelle des Fernmeldetechnischen Zentralamtes (FTZ) in Darmstadt (seit 1995 Forschungs- und Technologiezentrum der Deutschen Telekom AG in Berlin)

Now would actually be a good time to light a fire and spend the night in the bush, he thinks. However, Omaruru isn’t much further from here and he can find his way easily in the dark. He is also spurred on by ambition. The journey to Walvis Bay has taken him less than three weeks, which is really fast but quite normal for him. Wouldn’t they be amazed then, if he returned tonight? And also terribly pleased about this particularly heavy bag of letters they always awaited so eagerly? Ignoring the heavy load on his shoulder he continues his trot through the bush. There! Isn’t that the glow of a fire ahead of him? 

Suddenly a voice booms through the darkness: “Stop! Who goes there? Password?” He is startled. He doesn’t know the password. “Tooke”, he calls and because he does not recognise the voice he hastily adds “the postal runner”. “Password?” the voice asks again, louder now and nervous. His anxiety turns into fear. The soldier on watch does not know him and will shoot if he does not immediately respond with the correct password. “Post, post ...” he shouts breathlessly. “Post, post ...” he keeps gasping after a blow hits him on the chest and knocks him down.


This is how the last few minutes in the life of Richard “Tooke” Karambovandu might have been. Unfortunately there is no record to tell us what really happened on that first day of September 1897. There is no doubt, however, that a tragic mistake was made. Tooke, the postal runner, was a highly appreciated member of a trained Herero unit attached to the Schutztruppe. He was laid to rest with military honours in the Rhenish Mission cemetery in Omaruru. His grave can no longer be identified as the customary wooden cross has not withstood the ravages of time, termites, wind and weather. 


But 100 years after his death Namibia Post has given him a monument visible far beyond Omaruru, and even beyond Namibia’s borders: a postage stamp designed by Namibian artist Joe Madisia. A picture of Richard “Tooke” Karambovandu, which must have been taken shortly before his death, served as reference.

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