John Daynes

John Daynes - 1939 - 2008

Born 10th July 1939 and died 17th July 2008, aged 69 years.

There will be few collectors of military mails who have not heard of John Daynes.

The world of military postal history is very much the poorer on the passing of John who died on 17 July 2008, after a long fight against cancer.

Whilst his postal history interests were diverse - from airmails, POW, Korea and Suez to forces cancellations 1939 to the present day - he will probably be best remembered for his definitive study of WWII censor marks, which the FPHS published in 1984. It has been the study consulted by military postal historians the world over for all these years. I am pleased to say that I persuaded him to start a revision of the book two years ago and he was working on it right up to a few weeks prior to his death.

John had collected forces postal history for many years; indeed he became a member of our society in 1958 and since then his contribution to the hobby and to the FPHS has been invaluable. Always one to encourage others, he was generous with his time and assistance to others' studies as and when they made enquiries of him.

It was in January 1958 that John first made contact with the Society. He wrote to John Smith, our then chairman, enquiring about QEII GB stamps used abroad. The reply contained and invitation and application form to join the society. At that time he had a particular interest in the Suez Crisis of 1956 but waited in vain over the years for the information he sought. This was another of his recent projects and we hope to be able to publish his study before long.

Although he was interested in forces mail from all countries his expertise was centred on British forces from 1939 to the present. As many will appreciate the subject is vast, covering not only forces actually in the UK but British forces worldwide and the various means by which their mail was sent home. Postal markings, cachets, envelope types, especially the airletters, privilege rates, the airgraph and Christmas concessions, to name but a few, and of course censor markings. Army, Royal Air Force, and the Royal Navy were all of interest, as were the Empire markings from around the world.

Gibraltar and Malta were also 'favourites' of John's. He made visits to both countries for military anniversaries. The study circles for these two territories were only two of the many societies of which John had been a member at one time or another.

I like to think that John had a particular fondness for the Forces Postal History Society. He was a regular at our London monthly meetings and missed very few until his illness prevented him travelling too far. Over the years he played a very active part in the society. From 1964 up to 2008 he was a Committee member; between 1975 and 2004 he was Librarian. From Vice-President 1982-1988 be became President 1988-1991. From Auction Manager 1997-2001 to London Meetings Organiser 2001-2007 and Newsletter Editor 2003-2004. Other 'activities' included helping print the Newsletter and other society publications non the large FPHS photocopier housed in his garage over many years.

The Society Newsletter (now 'Journal') received many articles from John. He was also the author (or joint author) of several books, most published by the society. 'The Forces Postal History of the Falkland Islands & Task Force'; 'Wartime Postal Stationery', both in the 1980s and, more recently a jointly authored publication on 'West Indian Printings & Military Air Mail Letter cards, Air Letters & Honour Envelopes'.

On a visit to a philatelic event in Livorno, Italy, in 1996, where he represented the FPHS, he was presented with a large silver plate - the 'Pierluigi Montanelli Plate'. On his return to the UK John gave the plate to the society to be presented as an award for a member competition. He helped draft the rules for the competition and the plate - known as 'The John Daynes' Plate' - is 'fought over' each year. I have the privilege of being the current holder of the trophy. The society honoured John's work by an Honorary Life Membership in 2004.

One of John's achievements over the years was his good relationship with the forces postal authorities at Mill Hill. This rapport resulted in useful information which would otherwise have been 'undiscovered'. He formed a close working relationship with the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham, one of which he was proud and which led to his assisting them in cataloguing and organising their archives relating to the Forces Postal Services.

His keen interest in modern forces postmarks and other postal aspects - the self inking datestamps (SIDs), Horizon labels, forces airletters ('Blueys') and, latterly, the 'e-bluey', had enabled many hitherto unknown facts to be recorded. These are the postal history of the future of course. Many a letter was written to a commanding officer of an overseas unit requesting envelopes to be returned in order to get examples of current cancellations and cachets. Often John produced 'special overprinted blueys' specifically for that operation or unit and sent a bundle to an officer 'for the use of your men' - 'oh, and would you post a couple back to me?!

So that was John the postal historian. What of John the man?

He was born in Birmingham in July 1939 and is survived by his married twin sister. He never married. Following education in grammar schools in Coventry and Ilminster, he went into public service. Still in his 20s he moved to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, becoming a Public Health Inspector and Surveyor, a post he retained up to his retirement.

During this period he was a founder secretary of a local Round Table, and then chairman. A few years later he became a member of Rotary and served as president. His work with both charitable organisations enabled him to channel both his Christian faith and his deep concern for people in need. During the memorial service held in Burnham-on-Crouch the FPHS was represented by four members who were astonished to learn of the time and effort that John had spent with the Round Table and Rotary over the years he lived there. In addition, he was active in a number of other charities supporting overseas projects. How he had the time to combine his charitable work with his postal history researches is hard to fathom. John was awarded the highest honour that Rotary can award - a 'Paul Harris Fellowship' - in the 1990s and a second in 2006.

As his illness took its grip on him John made the decision to move from Essex to Seaton, in Devon, where his twin sister Ann lived with her husband. The move took place in August 2007 to a flat a few hundred yards from the seafront. Regrettably, his illness and increasing frailty prevented him from taking full advantage of his location but the size of the flat enabled him to continue his postal history studies and to write the books he had been working on.

Two years ago the majority of his forces postal history collection was sold by Cavendish. He had retained some because, as he told me, he really did not know how he would feel after it had all gone. He was pleased, however, to find that it was the joy of collecting that had sustained him over the years and not the joy of just having the collection. That discovered, he then went ahead and offered for sale the remainder of his covers and cards, again via Cavendish Auctions.

At least we thought the 'remainder' had been sold. It was not until two of us went to the flat a few weeks following the sad news of John's death that we were astounded (yes, I think that is the right word) to discover what was left. That is another story indeed!

John Daynes will be remembered in Burnham-on-Crouch for his good works and by his many postal history friends throughout the world and especially the members of the Forces Postal History Society of which he was such a good ambassador and for so many years. Many of us, and I include myself, are proud to have known John and to have experienced his friendship. There must be many collectors of military postal history who will be able to display items 'ex-Daynes'.

The sympathy of the society and membership goes to Ann, John's twin sister, and her husband Ron, with their thanks for allowing us to salvage John's 'remainders'.


Peter High, October 2000

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