Tag Archives: Libya

KGVI Overprints – Illustrating the Rise and Fall of Modern Libya

In wake of the recent demise of Muammar Gaddafi, as Libya attempts to build a multiparty democracy (an idea derided by the former leader as being for “donkeys”), the King George VI (KGVI) overprinted stamp registration sheets from this region provide a topical insight into the period of British control. It may come as a surprise to many that Britain was chiefly responsible for uniting Libya under a single monarchy following World War II. This story can be told through a recently catalogued collection of registration sheets, held at the BPMA.

In 1943 the Allies drove the Italians out of Libya (who themselves ousted the Ottoman Turks in the Italo-Turkish War 1911-12), ending Italian rule and the axis powers’ stronghold over the region. Under Mussolini’s fascist government, the Italians divided Libya into three provinces; Britain took military control of two of them – Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, while the French took control of the third region – Fezzan.

The British, as was commonplace throughout the empire and its many military endeavours, wasted no time in implementing the use of its postage stamps in these two territories. The first stamps used were overprinted ‘M.E.F’ (Middle East Forces) 1943-48 as used throughout British control of all former Italian colonies in the Middle East at the time (including Eritrea and Somalia).

KGVI 9d olive-green, overprinted 'M.E.F.' (Middle East Forces), registration sheet, perforated.  Registration date: 15 September 1942.

KGVI 9d olive-green, overprinted 'M.E.F.' (Middle East Forces), registration sheet, perforated. Registration date: 15 September 1942.

The ‘British Military Administration’ (B.M.A) started using its own overprints in Tripolitania (which included Tripoli) from 1948 to 1950, replacing those overprinted ‘M.E.F’.

KGVI 3d pale violet, overprinted 'B.M.A. TRIPOLITANIA 6 M.A.L.', registration sheet, perforated.  Registration date: 23 April 1948.

KGVI 3d pale violet, overprinted 'B.M.A. TRIPOLITANIA 6 M.A.L.', registration sheet, perforated. Registration date: 23 April 1948.

Following the UN Assembly in 1949 however, the British backed the resolution for Libya to gain its independence, placing Idris as-Senussi as the King within two years. Subsequently British control of the region was reduced to civilian control as the move towards an independent Libya began. The overprints consequently changed to’ British Administration’ (B.A) 1950-51.

KGVI Festival of Britain Issue, 10s blue overprinted 'B.A. TRIPOLITANIA 240 M.A.L.' registration sheet, perforated.  Registration date: 27 April 1951.

KGVI Festival of Britain Issue, 10s blue overprinted 'B.A. TRIPOLITANIA 240 M.A.L.' registration sheet, perforated. Registration date: 27 April 1951.

Libya Stamp - King Idris stamp – April 1952

Libya Stamp - King Idris stamp – April 1952

M.E.F overprinted stamps were used throughout British control of Cyrenaica, until 24 December 1951, when Libya formerly gained independence and Britain ceased all forms of administration in the region, including use of its postage stamps. The three aforementioned provinces therefore were combined to form the United Kingdom of Libya.

Libya’s downfall began in September 1969, when Gaddafi came to power following a military coup, where King Idris was overthrown, thus seeing the beginning of Gaddafi’s Arab nationalist, totalitarian, and brutal regime. The rest as they say is history.

Libya stamps: (L) April 1983, Gaddafi with Green Book, which set out the political philosophy of Gaddafi (recently burned by anti-Gaddafi demonstrators all over Libya), (R) April 1983 - Propaganda, April 1983

Libya stamps: (L) April 1983, Gaddafi with Green Book, which set out the political philosophy of Gaddafi (recently burned by anti-Gaddafi demonstrators all over Libya), (R) April 1983 - Propaganda, April 1983

Libya stamp May 1984 - Gaddafi propaganda

Libya stamp May 1984 - Gaddafi propaganda

- Stuart Aitken, Cataloguer/Collections Assistant

New records released on our online catalogue

Thankfully, our recent problems with the online catalogue appear to be resolved. We apologise for the inconvenience you may have suffered in recent weeks.

The online catalogue service began switching itself off when we upgraded the catalogue system software. We noticed that our web server was having problems with the new software almost immediately. Although we did test the system before we installed it on our web server, a bug in the system did not become apparent until the online catalogue interface began asking for data from the system database. We’ve now reverted to a stable version of the system so hopefully we will not have any more unplanned interruptions to the online catalogue service.

On a more positive note, we can reveal that 4752 records have been added to the online catalogue and these are now available to the public. These include:

POST 91: Buildings, Furniture and Fittings – over 3000 descriptions of plans, blueprints, photographs, illustrations and documents relating to Post Office sites and installations across the United Kingdom between c.1780 and 2002. We’ve digitised a small number of these records and we hope to attach these to their descriptions in the following months.

King Edward Building - two keyboard operators at Single Position Letter Sorting Machine (SPLSM), November 1971 (POST 118/6024)

King Edward Building - two keyboard operators at Single Position Letter Sorting Machine (SPLSM), November 1971 (POST 118/6024)

POST 118: Post Office Photograph Library – 450 descriptions of photographs from 1967-1999. These images form part of a series of photographs compiled by library staff during the course of their work. They include many colour medium-format photographs of sorting offices, technical photographs of equipment and postmen and women on delivery. These records often include digital images of the photographs themselves. Further records from this series will be released in the future.

From the museum collection we have added an additional 450 detailed descriptions of textile and uniform, many of which include photographs of the uniforms. Other significant releases from the museum collection include an additional 114 prints and drawings, and a further 210 handstamps.

Coat Jacket - British Postal Agency (Tangier), c. 1950 (2011-0338)

Coat Jacket - British Postal Agency (Tangier), c. 1950 (2011-0338)

From our philatelic collections, King George VI Overprints are now available, including postage due label overprints. This collection of definitives, commemoratives, high value definitive stamps and postage due label registration sheets include overprints relating to the official use of these stamps in various territories under British control, including the Gulf and former Italian colonies in Africa, occupied by British troops during Word War II.

KGVI 6d purple, overprinted 'B.M.A. TRIPOLITANIA 12 M.A.L.', registration sheet, perforated (POST 150/KGVI/O/BRA/ICL/0008)

KGVI 6d purple, overprinted 'B.M.A. TRIPOLITANIA 12 M.A.L.', registration sheet, perforated (POST 150/KGVI/O/BRA/ICL/0008)

Holding particular political and historical significance today, registration sheets overprinted for ‘British Military Administration’ and ‘British Administration’ in ‘Tripolitania’, a historic region in the former province of Libya are included in the collection. These stamps provide a reminder of British domination of this former Italian colony, both in terms of its military administration and also on a civilian basis. Tripolitania included Tripoli in the old system and these registration sheets document the fact that Britain actually set up the combined state of Libya. The British backed King Idris to become Emir of Tripolitania who also proclaimed an independent Emirate of Cyrenaica in 1949.

Various postal agencies in the Gulf used British overprinted stamps after 1948, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Muscat and Qatar.

- Martin Devereux, Acting Catalogue Manager

Search our online catalogue at www.postalheritage.org.uk/catalogue.