19 October 2019

 All-day Joint meeting with the King George Sixth Collectors Society

Our President, Richard Berry FRPSL, opened the meeting by welcoming members of the King George Sixth Collectors Society to our all-day joint meeting.  This was reciprocated by .Rod Vousden FRPSL, President of the King George VI Society.  In total we had around 21 members from both societies present for what was to be an enjoyable and at times different day (there were stamps shown - non-military related!).

The FPHS opened the first round of displays with our President Richard Berry FRPSL who reverted to type (being a member of KGVI Society as well) and brought along stamps!! These were Edward VIII material who abdicated on 11 December 1936, but it took a while to have new stamps printed for George VI.  He concentrated on the Morocco Agencies, some of which were printed during the reign of George VI.  He also showed the Coronation Omnibus set of unmounted mint specimen stamps.  His last two frames did, however, have a military connection - various Coronation photographs, showing Indian officers in their dress uniforms, Hampton Court where the Indian troops were based, one showing a line of various officers in their dress uniforms, a view showing the feeding of the coronation troops and one of the submarine HMS Starfish (19S) by Tower Bridge for the coronation.  He also showed three covers with mv City of New York cachets, which was sunk by German U-boat U-160 on 29 March 1942.  Lastly he displayed various Buckingham Palace invitations.

Michael Dobbs was next with a frame of WW2 or early post-war British Forces covers with KG VI stamps cancelled with FPO datestamps: five covers from Homes Forces or APO England (pre D-Day) addresses or associated with Force 135 prior to its involvement with the liberation of the Channel Islands.  We then moved to mainland Europe with registered envelopes re-paid with registration fee (3d) from Oslo (FPO 786) and another one Paris (FPO 801) then a series of FPO covers from Germany (BAOR) including Berlin (FPO 737 in 1948 & 1949) and the Control Commission Leave Centre at Tegernsee in Bavaria (FPO 841) in 1949.  Lastly he showed a couple of covers from Athens, Greece (FPO 783) in 1945 & 1946.

Next to show for the “Forces” was Geoff Hanney FRPSL, who put up a display of Indian forces FPOs, mainly from the Dutch East Indies in the immediate post-war period.  With the Japanese surrender India sent two divisions to what is now Indonesia.  The Indonesians were not happy with this and there was an inevitable clash between the Indian forces and Indonesians.  The display showed a variety of Indian FPOs from this period and also official mail from Malaya going back to various military organisations in India including the Joint Repatriation Office (India) in Delhi and The Sikh Regiment Centre in Nowshera.  The display included a number of registered covers.

We then had Lorraine Maguire who as well as being a member of our society was also a member of the New Zealand Society of Great Britain and, not surprisingly, her display related to New Zealand Forces.  It concerned New Zealanders (or Kiwis) in captivity - it was all about mail to and from POWs.  She had given a display of this material to the NZ Society earlier in the year under the heading of “Treasured letters: New Zealand mail in World War II” and is due to give a similar display to the FPHS in June next year.  Lorraine had undertaken research into about 80 soldiers and about what they did before the war.  Her display included special POW air letter cards introduced in November 1941 for families to write to their relatives who were being held as prisoner of war - during 1943/44 around 30,000 such air letters per month were used - that averaged one air letter card per week for each NZ POW.  She also showed a whole selection of patriotic covers which were popular, impressed with various cachets; there were at least five covers that had widespread distribution in NZ.  She mentioned that in America patriotic covers were being published even before that country entered the war.  Some of these found their way to NZ, the earliest being sent from Wellington on 11 September 1941.  There were restrictions on the mailing of stamps to other countries during WW2, but no restrictions on the exchange of covers, subject of course to censorship.  There were no officially issued covers, they were created by dealers and collectors to exchange with other like-minded collectors.  Lorraine gained a great deal of knowledge on the POW air letter card subject from the publication “Treasured Letters: New Zealand Prisoner of War Air Letter Cards 1941-1945” by Barry J E Scott FRPSL and Robin M Startup RDP, FRPSL, FRPSNZ and published by the Royal Philatelic Society of New Zealand in 2011.  She remarked that it had taken her several years to finally find and purchase a copy of the book.

It was then the turn of the King George Sixth Collectors Society to display material - Rod Vousden FRPSL, as President of that Society, went first and told the fascinating story of Ascension Island and its involvement in the Second World War, together with censorship and postal arrangements.  To help he put up a map showing the location of Ascension Island in the middle of the South Atlantic, a dependency of the Crown Colony of St Helena.  The island consisted of a Cable and Wireless Station and a small fishing village.  However, that was to change when the United States sent a task force to build an airstrip and a runway was constructed within three months.  Known as Wideawake Field the airfield came under the United States Air Transport Command (he showed a photograph of the airfield plaque).  Britain was represented by the King’s Representative for liaison between the Americans and British and he was issued with his own censor stamp and Rod showed an example of this - self-censored embossed with Government of St Helena.  He also showed a selection of uncensored mail posted during the period April 1940 and March 1942 when censorship of civilian mail was suspended.  The Island ended up after the war with four different means of communications: Cable & Wireless, the King’s Representative, US Forces and civilian systems.

Hugh Osborne was next to show for the King George VI society and he explained that he used Ascension Island on his trips to the Falkland Islands.  He also explained that it was for a long time an important staging post from Britain to India.  His display and talk was on censorship in the Falkland Islands and he started with the First World War era.  He showed what is believed to the only Falkland Islands to Egypt cover, also a cover from South Georgia and a couple of covers from the Falklands to Norway, censored in Britain.  The on to World War Two with a series of items connected with HMS Exeter, which suffered a great deal of damage.  There was mail from two German naval personnel interned on the Falklands - one a signals officers and the other a medical officers.  He had three covers associated with the Naval shore base HMS Pursuivant and other covers both inward and outward associated with Garrison troops on the Island and he also showed a selection of non-military censored mail, including mail which originated in South Georgia some of which bore paquebot cancellations.  Many of the items shown were unique.  His last showing consisted of items connected with Naval Party 8901, a small Royal Marine detachment based on the Falklands since 1966.

Turning to something different we had Graham Little showing material from the large number of Czech and Polish service personnel who were based in the UK during World War Two.  He showed a selection of covers and other material with various postal markings, in particular the many commemorative datestamps used by the Czech forces in the UK.  Also shown were items from the Polish Brigade based in the UK.

After lunch it was the turn of the King George Sixth Collectors Society to go first and we had Dennis Littlewort, considered to be the world expert on KGVI high value keyplates, up first.  His display was, not surprisingly, about stamps - high value definitives used by Bermuda, Leeward Islands and Nyasaland, including varieties, plate flaws and fiscal uses.   He explained that the Leeward Islands only used the printing for the 10/- and £1 values.  For Nyasaland there were seven different printings for five stamp values and his display included specimens.  He showed an in-depth study of the 5/- value, printed between 1937 and 1944, which included plate flaws, town and village postmarks.  To finish he had brought along his total “forces” collection - a single official cover from RAF Gan to the MOD (RAF) with RAF Gan BFPO 180 cachet and postmarked FPO 166 on 13 DE 73!

Second display of the afternoon was by Barry Cook, a member of both the KGVI Society and the GB Overprints Society, and his display was …. GB Morocco Overprints.  Control of the British Post Offices in Morocco passed from the Gibraltar Post Office to the Postmaster General in London on 1 June 1907 and the display included examples of GB Morocco overprints from the French and Spanish zones (using surcharged in overprinted French and Spanish currency respectively) as well as Tangier international zone (using British currency).  Between 1937 and 1949 ordinary unoverprinted British stamps were used, but from 1949 "Morocco Agencies" sterling stamps were reintroduced for use in Tetuan only.  The display included a selection of covers which bore Moroccan overprints as well as a couple of patriotic covers.  The last British post offices in Tangier closed on 30 April 1957.  Barry also showed a couple of 1961 covers with rare SHIP LETTER TANGIER cachets.

We then came to newly appointed KGVI Society Chairman Roger Harrison whose display was about the Royal Tour in South Africa from 17th February to 7th April 1947 by.  The Royal Family travelled to South Africa aboard the battleship HMS Vanguard (23).  The main purpose of the visit was to say thank you to South Africa for their efforts in supporting the UK during WW2.  The display included commemorative covers and stamps, including some stamps for South-West Africa, photographs and a souvenir magazine.  He showed whole sheets of the omnibus issue for Basutoland (1d, 2d, 3d & 1/- values), Bechuanaland and Swaziland as well as Southern Rhodesia (½d & 1d), South Africa (3d) and South Africa (2d) overprinted SWA.  In addition there were souvenir booklets and a very large philatelic cover featuring blocks of four stamps.

It was then the turn of the FPHS and our President, Richard Berry FRPSL, was first with a showing of items from Rhodesia during WW2.  He mentioned that over 10,000 air crew trained in that country, but his main display concerned the Rhodesia Army; he managed to obtain a partial correspondence from a Cpl Keith Radford who eventually, after being commissioned, became a Brigadier in the Rhodesian Army.  He also showed correspondence from a William Winterton, a Rhodesian MP who joined the army during WW2.  At the end of the war he was back in Parliament and in 1948 became Minister for Native Affairs.  Another display shown by Richard was his entry in the previous months President’s Cup competition - that of “Royal Air Force, Seletar, Singapore 1 January 1970” which told the story of the commemorative cover and cachet produced by the Seletar Stamp Club to commemorate RAF Seletar as the oldest RAF station in the Far East.  The display consisted of proofs and colour trials of the cover and cachet and you will recall that this was told and illustrated in our Spring 2019 Journal (Issue No 319).  Whilst the commemorative date was outside the period covered by the joint meeting, it was in respect of an RAF station fully functioning during the early years of George Sixths reign, until occupied by the Japanese in 1942.

Then it was the turn of our joint Treasurer, Alan Baker, whose display concerned Canada.  He explained that the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), or Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) often referred to as simply "The Plan", was a massive, joint military aircrew training program created by the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand during WW2.  Canada was chosen as the primary location for "The Plan" because of its ideal weather and wide open spaces suitable for flight and navigation training.  At its height some 131,533 Allied pilots and aircrew were trained in Canada, 72,835 of which were Canadian.  He showed a selection of covers sent by RAF or RCAF personnel from Service Flying Training Schools (SFTS) which had been set up throughout Canada.  These were cancelled using numbered M.P.O cancellations, which bore both a number and location.  The covers were addressed to various locations in Canada, USA, England, Scotland and New Zealand.

He was followed by Peter Burrows, who is also Secretary of the Civil Censorship Study Group, who showed a selection of King George Sixth items from his Royal Visits collection.  He showed both photographs and postcards of various Royal reviews which took place prior to the outbreak of WW2; also official War Office photographs of the King who visited France and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in 1939; a 1940 certificate presented to persons involved in the evacuation of children to the countryside; and a photograph of the King inspecting the Home Guard at London Docks.  He also showed various other items of ephemera to do with Royalty, such as Royal visits and thanksgiving services, Victory programmes; 1948 Territorial Army (TA) review in Hyde Park and finally an admission ticket to the launch of HMS Ark Royal on 3 May 1950 by Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother).

Our final display was put up by Brian Livingston - it was a display put together by John Shaw who regretfully could not be with us and was about the War Train in South Africa during 1941 - a travelling exhibition of South Africa’s war effort on rails, so the displayed leaflet proclaimed.  The aim of the travelling War Train was to sell war bonds and the material displayed was a collection of covers showing the War Train postmarks and cachets or civil post office postmarks as it travelled around the country.  The leaflet showed the route it took starting at Johannesburg on 22nd March and finishing at Pretoria on 7th May.  It was a success in drumming up support for the war effort.  The cachet was in English (WAR TRAIN P.O.) or Afrikans (OORLOGS TREIN PK).

2019 Oct 19 Audience view

General view of some of our audience obviously enjoying the meeting

© Forces Postal History Society 2020