Quite an unusual envelope this week… Sent in 1934 from a member of the armed forces based in Egypt, there’s an unusual addition to the envelope. Forwarded from Reading to Brighton to what we can only assume was its final destination in Ealing, the letter bears a quaint reference to the season of good will. We might more often associate whimsical stickers like this to modern post but it clearly has a much longer pedigree. Marked ‘Sealed until Dec XXV’, it must have proved a mighty test of the recipient’s self discipline, arriving as it did in the first week of October!
Below are some of the series of stamps and Christmas seals for letters sent from pre-war Egypt which would have been available in the NAAFI during the mid-late1930`s.
While overprinted stamps are very popular, it’s quite rare to find any relating to military campaigns so these examples are a real find.
In most cases, soldiers used the free ‘on active service’ system which supplied free envelopes. Or they might simply write ‘OAS’ on the cover. However, as with the examples here, some members of the armed forces bought stamps which were overprinted to show their military designation.
These examples are from the North African campaign in Tunisia and Libya. The overprinted BA stands for ‘British Army’, MEF is ‘Middle East Forces’ and MAL is ‘Military Administration Lira’, the currency surcharge. The two postage due stamps indicated that the recipient had to pay an excess before their mail would be handed over.
The circuitous routes taken by some mail items, particularly during the war years, is a useful reminder of a time when postal jurisdiction, no less than the prying eyes of the censor, tells its own story.
Among the superb examples here is an envelope sent in February 1943 to Monaco during the Italian occupation. It was opened and resealed by both the German and the Spanish authorities – just to be sure!
Seeing other examples marked ‘Gone Away’, ‘Return to Sender’ or bearing entirely new forwarding addresses in far flung locations around the globe, one can only wonder about the stories behind them all.
This well franked envelope certainly passed through a lot of hands before it reached Captain Stabb of the S.S. Lahore in 1941. Passing the censor’s office by way of the Bombay General Post Office and various other bodies, its route makes more sense when we consider the fate of the Lahore.
The envelope is postmarked 5th May in Bombay. It was presumably still in transit when, just three days later, the ship was torpoedoed by U-124 (a type IXB ‘Edelweiss boat’) just north of the Cape Verde Islands. One of four ships sunk in the attack, it caught fire and was abandoned the following day. Fortunately, all 82 crew were rescued by the British destroyer, HMS Forester. The mail ship’s wasted journey may well explain how the letter came to be surcharged twopence when it was eventually delivered to Captain Stabb!
My thanks to the redoubtable Michael Burroughs of Anything Militaria for sending the photos and information.
Last week, we featured pins which showcased the success of Britain’s ‘Spitfire Fund’. This was far from the first way to raise popular financial support for the war effort – as we can see with these stamps issued by some members of the First World War’s Triple Alliance.
This complete book of stamps from Imperial Germany is superbly preserved and features a back page illustrating how the monies raised up to that point had helped provide the troops with cigarettes, tobacco and knitwear.
Their neighbour and ally, the Austro-Hungarian Empire had their own version as we see here with a well equipped soldier presumably thinking of the public’s generosity with great affection!
A market regular and wonderfully informative contributor to this blog, Michael Burroughs, has again turned up trumps with this collection of covers and postcards all addressed to the somewhat controversial German collector, Karl Henning.
An active member of the NSDAP (Nazi) party, he officially began making the covers during the Third Reich. This included the General Government covers. By war’s end, he was Post Master General on the Channel Islands and later produced official post-war commemorative covers including the Berlin airlift – an example of which is pictured here.
Taking all his, admittedly considerable, stock to the Dominican republic, it is believed that he continued trading through another company name, Casa Filatelica Antillana. Even today, members of his family are said to still trade but eyebrows have been raised in stamp collecting forums at the seemingly inexhaustible amount of stock still for sale.
This has not seriously tarnished the allure of the ‘Karl Hennig cover’ per se though. They are still much sought after – although it’s wise to consult an experienced dealer before purchasing.
Whether it’s a bric a brac shop, a house clearance or a corner of the loft in your new house, it’s always worth a rummage to see what you might find.
In this case, it’s a stamp collection – a bit worse for wear thanks to the attention of some mice by the looks of it but once, clearly, a labour of love for someone keen on all matters philately. Whether recording the postage of Malta, former British colonies or obscure parts of distant continents the world over, the former owner took great care to record the date and perforation count of each one.
That person may no longer be here but their obsession is. We may only be the temporary curators of our collections but we’re an essential link in the chain between past and present.
Or should that be ‘male’? Along with the change to notes and coins, work is underway to mark the accession of King Charles III across our postal system.
Stamps with the Queen’s head can be used until the end of January 2023, but we’ll soon see his profile replace hers on new stamps. The question of what happens to the Royal Cipher on the 115,000 or so existing post boxes up and down the country is simple: nothing. In line with tradition, existing post boxes or those already in manufacture, will retain their original initials. Any new ones of course, will bear Charles cipher: CIIR, shown here.
However, the cipher will change soon on government buildings, military uniforms and police helmets – just as Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, Passport Office and Prison Service will become His Majesty’s.
Putin obviously believed he’d conquer the whole of Ukraine in a matter of a few weeks. It turns out that the Ukrainians, like their stamps, take some licking.
The inspiring stories of their resistance to Russian aggression has been celebrated in two fine stamps seen here. The first celebrated the cheeky response of the tiny garrison on Snake Island when asked to surrender by two Russian warships. The soldiers were captured but have since been returned and hailed as heroes.
Titled ‘Good evening, we’re from Ukraine”, the latest stamp records a quite incredibly common scene played out on the nightly news: a Ukrainian tractor towing away an abandoned (or even stolen!) Russian tank.
Both designs were the result of open competitions and are available to foreign collectors through their website.
While the four day event – widely referred to on social media as (I kid you not) ‘platty joobs’ – is now at an end, it’s back to business as usual for us all. But just in case you want a souvenir so official it bears the image of HM Queen herself, Royal Mail have you covered.
Still available at their online shop is this commemorative set of 8 stamps depicting her at various points in her record breaking 70 year reign. From her tour of the US in 1957 to her tour of MI5 in 2020, they are a fitting tribute to her active role as the nation’s monarch and a much better souvenir of her Platinum Jubilee than some of the tat we’ve seen hawked about (take a bow Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot Queen Jubilee Soft Toy Set….)