Tag Archives: Berlin Olympics

Ten Collections – One Collector

A social-thematic philatelic display and talk by Dane Garrod

There are so very many themes, countries and periods that any philatelist, stamp-collector, or even social historian, can collect and research, that we are spoilt for choice.  One can marvel at those who are determined to place all their energies and time in having interest in just one area or theme.  However, diversity brings its own rewards by allowing a constant return to a collection that has been temporarily put aside, but to which one can return with fresh enthusiasm and retained knowledge.

My upcoming display and talk at the BPMA will cover ten such diverse collecting interests – there should be something for everyone here – and a brief resumé follows concerning some of what will be shown and alluded to.  Many will include stories of the people who shaped their time, and their country.

The unused 1kr orange of 1850

The unused 1kr orange of 1850

Austria – 19th and early 20th century: To begin, a very early stamp-issuing country in Europe, the first letter of the alphabet, and the first item is their first stamp from some 160 years ago – catalogued as S.G. No.1, it is the unused 1kr orange of 1850.  The sheets in this section continue with the design work of J.F. Renner, who designed all the stamps for Austria from mid-1919 to mid-1921.  Beautifully written-up in Gothic script, but not by this presenter.  Research has failed to find who this illustrious Austrian collector was, but he has left his philatelic legacy in this format. 

Avis de Réception – 21st century: Covers/envelopes from many countries requesting acknowledgement of receipt, with the returning cards prepared for despatch.  This began in the early 19th century in Austria, and spread worldwide in later years.  Now much in decline, it served as a procedure for confirming receipt of letter, package or parcel.  These items shown are from very recent years.

Avis de Réception cover and receipt from Syria

Avis de Réception cover and receipt from Syria

£1 George VI stamp from Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika

£1 George VI stamp from Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika

British Commonwealth – King George VI issues:  A display of covers and stamps, with stamps from Ceylon, Mauritius, and Kenya, Uganda & Tanganyika, as examples of diversity of design and colour shades.  The covers have stories to tell, which is revealed in the PowerPoint display.

Germany – The Third Reich:  With additional supporting items such as a postcard from the set sold on the ill-fated Hindenburg airship, and a voting slip for the 1932 Presidential election, the philatelic material includes stories and examples of a forged German postcard, a Red Cross transmitted item from occupied Guernsey, and the use of the Olympic Stadium postmark of 1936.

A cover sent in 1938 from Stuttgart

A cover sent in 1938 from Stuttgart

Great Britain – Parliamentary:  One of the oldest item shown in this display was written by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, dated 1714 – her parliamentary involvement is well known.  There is an envelope and letter to Willy Sax in Zurich, paint supplier to Churchill – items connected with John Stonehouse and with David Cameron (not to be mentioned together, of course) –  and part of an undated petition to Parliament from the Lady Howard and her daughters, which would have been transmitted by messenger at some date in perhaps the late 1500s.

Christmas card from David and Samantha Cameron, 2004

2004 Christmas card from the current leader of the Conversative party David Cameron and his wife Samantha.

WWI Prisoner of War mail to Kopenhagen:  World War One prisoner-of-war envelopes/covers, despatched to the Danish Red Cross in Kopenhagen, from Russian prisoners in Germany or Poland.  They show the full details of the sender, prison camp, and even the barrack block, and would have contained letters in cyrillic that were sent onwards to their families and loved ones.  The display shows how the covers changed in their pre-printing over the five years of use.

World War One prisoner-of-war mail

World War One prisoner-of-war mail

Revenues:  A field of collecting now returning with a measure of revival in recent years.  Shown are Saar revenue stamps, and British revenue items including vehicle tax discs from the 1950s, a TV licence when it was just £3, and various Motor Ration Books from the 1973 oil crisis – prepared and issued, but fortunately not required.

A TV licence issued in 1960

A TV licence issued in 1960

Württemberg – Stuttgart Privat Post & other stories:  One of the highlights in this section is the postal stationery produced by Wilhelm Leopold for Stuttgart city post from 1888, in competition with the official German post.  Leopold’s attractive postcards were popular with the city inhabitants who were prepared to pay 3 pfennig for them instead of the usual 2 pfennig. When the German postal authorities decided to increase their rate to 3 pfennig, Leopold reduced his to 2 pfennig!

Stuttgart Privat Post postcard

Stuttgart Privat Post postcard

British Commonwealth – Queen Elizabeth II issues:  Mint stamps from Gambia, Sierra Leone and Swaziland are featured, the last two countries showing the use, or even over-use, of overprints on definitives sets.  A few covers to compete this section, including an air-mail letter from independent Rhodesia that was surcharged upon entry to Britain, as the Rhodesian independence was declared illegal.

A surcharged air-mail letter from independent Rhodesia

A surcharged air-mail letter from independent Rhodesia

Great Britain – Social/Open class & other stories:  Perhaps the most interesting and diverse area of philatelic and related material, most with a story to tell.  Included are items from a forced 5-year honeymoon, begun in June 1940 in Guernsey – a letter-card from the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic – hand-drawn Edwardian covers – and finally, a much-loved acrostic.   If like the writer originally was, you are unsure what an acrostic is, then I urge you to come to this PowerPoint talk and display on 22nd April and enjoy being well-informed and much entertained…

British prisoner of war post from Germany

British prisoner of war post from Germany

Dane Garrod will speak at the BPMA on 22nd April. For further information and booking details please visit our website.

Post Office Olympians

by Richard Wade, Archives Assistant

The Post Office has always had many clubs and associations that its staff could get involved with, especially where sport was concerned. Most large offices had their own football, cricket or tennis teams, and Post Office staff have taken part in many other sporting championships besides.

Most of these sports had countrywide postal leagues such as the Courier Cup. There was also a Civil Service athletics championship in which postal workers often featured, and there were regional athletics competitions within the Post Office.

An article from Courier magazine (October 1968) about Post Office employees competing at the Mexico City Olympics.

An article from Courier magazine (October 1968) about Post Office employees competing at the Mexico City Olympics.

Given how seriously sport was taken it is perhaps unsurprising that there were more than a few people from the Post Office chosen to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games. These athlete’s achievements were celebrated in the Post Office staff magazines, and by looking through these one can find out about a lot of the people that were chosen and their athletic achievements.

The following list should represent the large number and diversity of the Post Office’s Olympians. Only a very small handful of medals were gained by Post Office employees, but there were a lot of people who either took part or were shortlisted for the Games.

It is not always clear what happened to individual athletes, but if any information about their results is known it is included. If nothing is given then they certainly did not win any medals and in many cases may not have reached the final selection of athletes.

The period covered is from 1936 to 1988, excluding the war years when there were no Olympic Games. Before 1936, the staff magazines were in a different format and did not really celebrate the achievements of particular staff in the same way. Ending in 1988 gives a period of roughly 50 years which were studied and seemed a sensible place to stop as after this time; the Olympics really became dominated by professional athletes and the chances of anyone from the Post Office taking part would have been much smaller.

1936 – Berlin

  • Mr A. J. Norris from the Savings Bank department was chosen for the marathon. He had already won the Post Office’s polytechnic marathon several times.
  • From the Money Order department was Miss B. O. Crowe who was selected for the Women’s Gymnastic team.

1948 – London

  • This year had a poor showing, which was a shame considering these games were in London. The only person selected was Mr G. F. Ward for the 10m high board diving. He worked as a clerical officer in the Savings Bank department and already held the title for the Men’s High Diving Championship in England.

1952 – Helsinki

  • Mr K. A. Richmond, a Night Telephonist from London Telegraph Region Directory Enquiries, was selected for the Heavyweight Wrestling and took the bronze medal.

1956 – Melbourne and 1960 – Rome

There was nobody selected from the Post Office at all in 1956 or 1960, but these were the only two Olympic Games where this happened during the period I looked at.

1964 – Tokyo

The first of several Olympic Games where the Post Office was well represented:

  • Maureen Tranter, a telephonist at Wolverhampton, was shortlisted for the 220yd relay and went out to Tokyo, but in the end was not selected. At the age of 17 she was still young and had potential, as can be seen by her appearances in future games.
  • Ray Middleton from Golders Green Sub-District Office was selected for the 50km walk and finished 12th place out of 32.
  • Syvanus Blackman, a postman from Acton Sub-District Office, took part in the Light Heavyweight weightlifting and finished 10th place.
  • Kenneth Hill from the Postal and Telegraph Office in Liverpool reached the shortlist for the cycling team, but there are no further references to him, so presumably he was not chosen to go to Tokyo.

1968 – Mexico City

This seems to have been a good year for the Post Office with four people going out to represent Britain. Unfortunately, they did not bring any medals back with them, although several personal bests were achieved.

  • Maureen Tranter tried again, this time for the 200m sprint and the sprint relay. She got a personal best time of 23.5 seconds in the 200m sprint, bit it wasn’t enough for a medal.
  • Syvanus Blackman also entered in the weightlifting for a second time.
  • Mike Bull was the son of John Bull, who was a Belfast telephonist. Mike was entered for the pole vault. He managed 16’5″, a British record, but still one foot short of the winner and not enough for a medal.
  • Robin Baskerville, the son of Sid Baskerville (an Information Officer at Royal Mail Headquarters) was entered for high board diving and took part in the heats, but failed to qualify for the final.
An article about Post Office employees competing at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics from Courier magazine, October 1968.

An article about Post Office employees competing at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics from Courier magazine, October 1968.

1972- Munich

  • Maureen Tranter went out for the third time, this time in the 4 x 400m relay.
  • Phil Griffiths, a technician from Stoke on Trent, was a participant in the cycling.
  • Alan Almond, a technical officer, was a participant in the coxed fours.
  • Brian Brinkley, who was the son of Corinne Brinkley (a cleaner at the Head Post Office) entered in the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle swimming. He competed in the heats, but did not reach the final. Interestingly, he went on to win bronze with three others in the 4x200m relay and reached the final for the 200m butterfly in the 1976 Olympics, but this does not appear in the magazine. Maybe he had left the Post Office in between.
  • Nick Nearchou, a senior mechanic in the London Postal Region, entered for weightlifting.
  • This is more of a sideline, but a notable achievement all the same so deserves a mention: the Olympics for the handicapped at this time took place every two years in Brussels. In this year, Jim Gladman, a night telephonist from Torquay, gained silver in the table tennis, a bronze in the shot put and came fourth in the discus.

1976- Montreal

  • Mary Stewart, a clerical officer, entered in the 1500m.
  • Phil Griffiths entered again in the cycling with Trevor Gadd, both of them technicians. Trevor finished 12th place in the men’s individual pursuit.
  • Peter Weston did not take part himself in the Olympics but did manage the archery team that represented Great Britain. He was a Technical Officer at London Telecoms West. The highest place reached by any of the archery team that year was 21st.

1980- Moscow

  • There was a possible Olympic hopeful in Steve Cronshaw, but it wasn’t clear whether he went to the Olympics, just that he was a strong contender to be selected.

1984- Los Angeles

  • Dennis Jackson and Benny Graham were both hopefuls for the 50km Road Walking, but again, but neither of them made the final selection.
  • Arthur Spencer, a Doncaster Sub-Post Office Assistant, finished 28th place in the free pistol shooting.

1988- Seoul

  • Mike Jones, who was a Security Driver at the Redhill Mechanised Letter Office, represented us in the hammer throw, but he did not make it through to the final.
  • In the Paralympics of that year however, Ian Hayden won gold in the javelin and discus and took silver in the shot put. He was an equal opportunities officer at Royal Mail Oxford.

As can be seen, although very few medals were brought back, the Post Office had quite a strong presence in the Olympic Games and considering they were competing against the world’s best, they did pretty well. In all the years researched, bar two, there was somebody representing the Post Office and in some cases there were several. There can not be many employers with that sort of a record.

As has been written at the beginning, this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as Post Office sport goes. There were also many national, international and regional competitions that Post Office employees took part in and the Post Office’s own sports leagues, all of which are reported on in the staff magazines, copies of which can be found here at the British Postal Museum and Archive.

For more information on other sporting heroes of the Post Office, including Albert ‘Tiny’ Sangwine who represented England at the 1924 Paris Olympics, please see the BPMA’s online exhibition Playing for the Cup.