14 December 2019


New Acquisitions and Queries ...... and a chat over Coffee, Biscuits and Mince Pies - Members’ Displays

We were in the Burns Room for this meeting, having been pipped at the post for our usual Reserved Bar Lounge meeting room by an all-day meeting of the Channel Islands Specialists’ Society (who even borrowed some of our display frames to hoot, albeit by agreement!).  It has been a long time since we last met in the Burns Room, but we were in for a very pleasant surprise - having been redecorated and refurbished the room is very light and airy and comfortable for the number of persons we can expect at our afternoon meetings.  So much so that we may well have more meetings in this room in 2020 (so watch out for any room changes on your programme card!).  We were joined by a new face to our London meetings and welcomed Julian Bagwell who joined us for lunch having “escaped” from the CISS!  He already knew one or two of our members having met them in Gibraltar in October for the Royal Philatelic Society London commemorative event at the Gibraltar Garrison Library to mark the Society’s 150th Anniversary.  We hope Julian enjoyed his afternoon with us and look forward to seeing him again sometime in the future.

First to show was Lorraine Maguire who had recently managed to purchase a job lot of military covers sent by New Zealand soldiers during WW2 from someone in one of her local societies at a knock-down price!  The rush was now on to find out all she could about the sender and to present the covers along with the information gleaned from various online sources.  This gave biographical details of the sender, their war record and in some cases even a photograph of the individual.  The amount of information obtained was a hit and miss affair, depending upon what surviving relatives had included.  This was a new way of collecting, based on the individual not the postmark, route taken or the stationery itself.  It included a cover sent by Lt Col Edward Norman who later became an Anglican minister after the war and also a letter from a Harold Herbert Heron who was a sapper and who included in his detailed letter home of March 21st, 1941 the fact that due to the cold weather he was wearing woollen underpants and explained that he had never worn underpants before in his life!

Next up was Peter Burrows who explained that these were not recent acquisitions, but items that had been buried in boxes and it was about time they were brought out and mounted up!  Among the many items shown was a request for tickets for a presentation to the Hertfordshire Militia on 11 June 1902 upon their return from the Boer War; picture postcards showing gravestones near the New Zealand Hospital in Brockenhurst; a souvenir programme which had been de-foxed with envelope; items from HMS Mary Rose, including a cover and letter, Peter is looking for a photo of the vessel, which was sunk soon after it was taken into service.  In 1919 an Australian lady had a book on poems published, one of which was dedicated to the loss of HMS Mary Rose - “WE’RE NOT DONE YET!” (“Songs of Cheer” by Ellie Wemyss).  He also showed a selection of postcards from Malta with SZ7, HD1 and civilian postmarks; a CITY STATE specimen Pitney Bowes machine postmark in 1955 with a SACLANT Norfolk, Virginia slogan; four POW letter sheets from MARLAG and MILAG NORD in Germany and a Czech Field Post OHMS cover with shield censor (Type A600) 11694 and postmarked US APO 655.

Our President, Richard Berry FRPSL, was third to display in the first round - he brought along a number of items from the Alistair Kennedy collection to which he had added to which concerned British operations in Antwerp during 1914.  He displayed covers and postcards from 1st and 2nd RN Brigades and the armoured motor cars attached to the Royal Naval Division; he also showed a selection of material from 7th Division in Zeebrugge and Ostend and internment mail from the Royal Marine Brigade interned in Holland.

Our second showing started with your Hon Secretary, Michael Dobbs, showing a selection of material connected with the Royal Engineers Mobile Display Team and explained that he was sorting through a file of old papers from the late John Smith in an attempt to record the REMDT on a year by year basis.  He started with text he had put together on the set-up and organisation of the REMDT which appears to have operated annually from 1962 to 1987 and he showed covers from a wide range of dates from 1962 to 1979 along with letters, one from the DPCC in 1967 which stated “I would like to advise you that NCOs of the Forces Postal Services are not allowed to act as ‘Agents’ in any way for philatelic purposes” and another from the Display Team in 1976 stated “requested to refrain from writing flattering letters to the Postal NCO and WRAC personnel on the team.  These letters normally try to obtain back-dating facilities” - well we are philatelists and the REMDT did have an FPO open to the public and sold commemorative covers!  Also shown was a copy of the 1977 Tour Programme, a poster for the 1978 Tour and Programme Cards for 1983 and 1986.

Then we had Peter High with a mixture of items connected to hospital ships.  He had a menu from a dinner to raise funds for a hospital ship - in October 1899 the Boer War broke out and the Admiralty was offered the use of the Maine as a hospital ship by an American shipping line. Funding for the conversion was raised by the "American Ladies Hospital Ship Society" based in London and headed by Jennie Churchill, the mother of Winston Churchill. The Maine sailed for South Africa on 23 December 1899, with Jennie Churchill aboard, and arrived at Durban on 23 January 1900.  After only four months at South Africa, she returned to UK and then went to China for the Boxer Rebellion.  Also an item from the hospital ship Trojan - in 1899 the Union Co’s steamer Trojan, which had been fitted up by the Admiralty as a hospital ship, left St Vincent and arrived at Cape Town on 13 November 1899; there were a couple of Japanese hospital ship covers (the Hakuai Maru and Karafuto Maru) from the Russo-Japanese War 1904-05 and a 1907 item from the war in Morocco.  Also shown was a postcard of the crew of the RFA Maine in 1910 which had berthed at Portsmouth and discharged 28 naval and 16 military invalids from Malta and Gibraltar; a postcard of the Steam Yacht Sunbeam in WW1 and mail fro  Italian hospital ships Gradisca and Aquileia.

The Selous Scouts (named after the British explorer Frederick Selous [1851–1917]) was the starting theme for Richard Berry FRPSL, he explained that this was a mixed unit of both black and white troops.  They operated in Rhodesia from 1973 until that country was reconstituted as Zimbabwe in 1980; there were four groups and a support group.  He showed headed notepaper and a 1979 dinning out menu for the outgoing Commanding Officer.  The Scouts were one of the first units to be disbanded in the newly formed Zimbabwe, but individuals were allowed to join the Zimbabwean Army.  He also showed items connected with Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) by Rhodesia in 1965.  The UK sent RAF detachment to Zambia - a squadron of Javelin aircraft (No 29 Squadron RAF) stationed at Ndola, ground environment stationed at Lusaka and a detachment of the RAF Regiment to be stationed at both airports and he showed covers from Lusaka which bore cachets authorising concessionary rates of postage on RAF mail.

Geoff Hanney FRPSL was first to show in the next round.  He had purchased in auction material from the late Alistair Kennedy and Bill Collingwood collections - the latter only received in the past few days.  They both related to US Forces mail during WW2 under the generic heading “The Pacific Theatre of Operations”.  The first two covers were from the Kennedy collection and showed rubber US NAVY datestamps of 1943 which included slogans between the cancelling bars: “DON’T FAIL TO SEND MAIL” and “TOJO IS A BUM, HITLER A HEEL”.  Those from the Collingwood collection required re-mounting and more research but were dated 1943-44 and came from a variety of locations including Biak Island, New Guinea; Samoa; Fiji; mail from New Zealand; Tonga and Dutch New Guinea amongst others.

A newcomer to our meetings was Julian Bagwell who displayed a miscellaneous selection of material profusely written up including material from Colonel S D Bridges aboard HMS Europa in Lemnos Islands in 1916 who had been treated with 17 different wounds!  He also showed and told the story of the unofficial “Levant” overprints on British stamps in 1916 produced by Lt Cdr Henry Pirie-Gordon; it turned out that they had been originally intended for use at a civilian PO at Mount Athos in Northern Greece, but the project was abandoned and the stamps put on sale at the Army PO in Salonika.  There was also Gallipoli mail in the form of a cover from HMS Europa to 3rd Royal Marine Brigade with an ARMY TELEGRAPHS datestamp with the code MW and dated 24.XII.16; post-WW1 mail from the Indian Expeditionary Force 1921-23; and postcards from hospital ships post-WW1 with RAMC Ambulance Transport PC3 and PC20 cachets.

Last to show was David Milsted FRPSL with an unusual display, a selection of the Mafeking Mail, a newspaper, published 'Siege Slips' on an almost daily basis with the annotation 'shells permitting' and there were some days when enemy shellfire did indeed stop production. The first issue came out on 1st November 1899 and by the time the Siege was over on 17th May 1900 - the 217th day of the Siege - 143 issues had been printed. They were not, as a rule, produced on Saturdays and Sundays, and no issue was printed on the day of the Relief.  Production went on until 31st May 1900.  He had original copies, including the first issue, and also displayed photocopies of the text from other pages in the issues displayed, although some issues only had one page.  These were very large broadsheets and were printed on a variety of paper types, some thin and fragile and in differing colours.  Extremely interesting to read, this was a most unusual display of ephemera.

© Forces Postal History Society 2020