Fezzan, French Occupation (1949-1951)

ALBUM – view my Fezzan album

Fast Facts

Region: North Africa
Group: Libya Area
Classification: Military Occupation (France)
Prior Regime: Fezzan-Ghadames, French Occupation
Key Dates:

  1943, Jan 18 – French assume control in Fezzan-Ghadames and establish Military Authority
  1943, Feb – Axies forces driven out of Libya
  1949 – Fezzan-Ghadames separated into occupied territories
  1949, Nov, 21 – UN General Assembly resolution passed for Libya’s independence.
  1951, Dec 24 – United Kingdom of Libya formed, and Ghadames became a part of the new kingdom
Prior Regime: Kingdom of Libya
Scott Catalogue: (Libya, Fezzan) 2N1-2N23, 2NB1-2NB2, 2NC1-2NC4, 2NJ1-2NJ6
Pick Catalogue: (Libya) #M9-M11
Currency: 100 centimes = 1 franc


Marzuk  - 1950
Marzuk – 1950
Fezzan is the south-western region of Libya, and it is mostly rugged desert, broken up by mountains dry river beds (wadis), with scattered oasis and ancient towns and villages. Ghadames is an oasis town in the west of Libya, near the borders of Algeria and Tunisia.

For centuries, Libya was under the nominal control of the Ottoman Empire, and were historically separated into three major regions: Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan. As the Ottoman Empire begin to collapse, European powers begin to compete for the various territories. For Libya, Turkish forces were driven out of the area during the Italo-Turkish War fought between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy from 29 Sept, 1911 – 18 Oct, 1912. Being such a far outpost, the Italians didn’t arrive in Ghadames until 1914, where they were met with strong resistance. It was not until 1924 where they finally assumed control.

Initially, the territory was known as Italian North Africa, but in 1922 it was split into two colonies, Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania, run by Italian governors. On 1 Jan, 1934, the colonies of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica along with the Military Territory of Fezzan were combined to form the single Italian Colony of Libya.

With the outbreak of World War 2, North Africa was a major theater of operations. Italian forces were defeated rather early in the war in a failed attempt to invade Egypt. they surrendered to the British in Feb 1941, creating some 150,000 prisoners of war. However, in March, 1941, German Afrika Korps commanded by Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel, launched an offensive into Cyrenaica essentially cutting off British troops at Tobruk. For the next two years, the battle for North Africa seesawed back in forth, until Jan 1943, when the Eighth Army, under the command of General Bernard Montgomery, broke through the Axis lines causing German and Italian forces to retreat. By February, Axis troops had been driven out of Libya entirely.

NAF - Fezzan mapLibya was broken into three separate sections, with Cyrenaica and Tripolitania being administered by the British, and Fezzan and the town of Ghadames to be administered by the French.

Free French troops occupied Murzuk, a chief town of Fezzan, on 16 Jan 1943, but decided to administer Fezzan with a staff stationed in Sabha. But French administration was largely exercised through Fezzan notables of the family of Sayf an Nasr. This obviously caused issues with some of the other tribes in the area. (as a note Muammar Gaddafi was of the Sayf an Nasr tribe). At the lower echelons, French troop commanders acted in both military and civil capacities according to customary French practice in the Algerian Sahara. In 1949, Fezzan and Ghadames seemed to be separated administratively by the French, (although I cannot find clear documentation), and separate postage stamps were issued.

On 21 Nov 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before 1 Jan 1952. Idris represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. On 24 Dec 1951, Libya declared its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional and hereditary monarchy was formed under King Idris, Libya’s only monarch.


NAF - Fezzan StampALBUM
Beginning in 1946, stamps were produced for Fezzan-Ghadames by the French, but beginning in 1949, separate issues were created for the Territories.

In 1949, French Military Authorities issued a series of 11 stamps with various designs: the Monument at Djerma Oasis, the Tombs of the Beni-Khettab, the Well at Gorda, Col. Colonna d’Ornano at Fort at Murzuch, and Gen. Jacque Leclerc. In 1951, a new set of 12 stamps were issued. The designation “Territoire Militaire du Fezzan” was changed, and these stamps were designated “Territoire du Fezzan”, dropping the reference to military. The various designs featured scenes of Fezzan life, and one with the portrait of Ahmed Bey, who headed the local administration of Fezzan under the French. Achmed Bey became the wali (head of administration) of the Fezzan province after independence.

Fezzan also issued semi-postal stamps in 1950, with the proceeds going to “charitable works”, Air Post stamps in 1949 and 1951, and a set of Postage Due Stamps in 1950.

All in all, these stamps are quite beautiful, and were used until Fezzan joined with the newly formed United Kingdom of Libya, on 24 Dec. 1951.


In French occupied Libya, occupational forces overprinted 5fr, 25fr and 100fr Banque De l’Afrique Occidentale banknotes with “R.F. FEZZAN.” These bills were used from 1943 – 1951.


Fezzan from Wikipedia
SOUVENIRS DU FEZZAN 1950 – 1952 par Jean Soupene – excellent site (use Google translate if you don’t read French)

This entry was posted in French Occupation, Libya Area, Military Occupations, North Africa, WW2. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fezzan, French Occupation (1949-1951)

  1. Jim Jackson says:

    Great map
    Nice stamps
    Wonderful information

    I need to expand from a 1940 cutoff to 1950 for my collection. Too many interesting things (philatelicly speaking) occurred in the 1940s. 😉

Leave a Reply to Jim Jackson Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *