Tag Archives: Olympic Games

Memories of London 2012

Royal Mail is issuing its final set of stamps marking the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games today. Entitled Memories of London 2012 the set is the first to feature the much-praised Games Makers – the army of volunteers who are credited with helping make London 2012 one of the most successful Games ever.

Memories of London miniature sheet

Memories of London miniature sheet

Memories of London - Games Makers stamp

Memories of London – Games Makers stamp

More than 70,000 people volunteered to help the millions of visitors who flocked to London during the summer. Now the Games Makers are commemorated on a stamp featuring an image of a group of volunteers, in their distinctive purple and red uniforms, with the famous London 2012 Olympic stadium in the background.

Memories of London - Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony stamp

Memories of London – Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony stamp

Memories of London - Paralympics GB Procession stamp

Memories of London – Paralympics GB Procession stamp

Other memories featured on the stamps include the spectacular fireworks display during the Paralympic Opening Ceremony and a First Class stamp shows the ParalympicsGB team entering the stadium to conclude the procession of the participating athletes.

Memories of London - Olympics Closing Ceremony stamp

Memories of London – Olympics Closing Ceremony stamp

The final stamp shows a scene from the Olympic Closing Ceremony, in which athletes and officials of all the countries formed a human version of the Union Flag in the Olympic Stadium.

The stamps are printed within a miniature sheet, the border of which features a quote from Lord Coe, reflecting on the success of both Games.

Two First Day of Issue handstamps are available to accompany this issue.

Memories of London - First Day of Issue handstamps

Memories of London – First Day of Issue handstamps

For more information on the Memories of London 2012 stamp issue visit www.royalmail.com/memories.

Sports and Participation in the Post Office

As a summer of sport draws to a close, we take a look at sports and participation in the Post Office, through the research carried out by six students during the BPMA and University of the Third Age (U3A) Shared Learning Project at the beginning of 2012…

The U3A students

The U3A students

In the course of his research, Gwyn Redgers found that the Post Office has had a long history of participation in sports – much of which was initiated as a way of coping with split shifts. Postmen in the late 19th Century worked long hours, and often found their duties split into three or four attendances in a single day – meaning that many would start work at 6am and not finish until 10pm. Whilst some postmen took to the pub, others took up sports.

Members of the Gloucester Post Office Recreation Club, 1898.

Members of the Gloucester Post Office Recreation Club, 1898.

By the 1930s, most large towns had Post Office football, cricket and tennis teams and were starting to develop the more recent spread of sports and recreation Associations. Sheilah Lowe scoured the sports pages of The Post Office Magazine (1933-1966) for records of both these groups and of sporting individuals, and discovered a wealth of information – including stories about staff who competed in Olympic Games.

In 1952, the magazine notes that a Mr. K. A. Richmond, Night Telephonist (London Telegraph Region Directory Enquiries) was selected for the Heavyweight Wrestling at the Helsinki Games and took a bronze medal. A little online research revealed that Ken Alan Richmond was a former whale ship crewman in Antarctica, turned wrestler, with another significant claim to fame: he was the shirtless man seen banging the enormous gong which preceded the opening credits of the Rank Organisation’s films, such as Great Expectations and Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Sheilah also found that race walker Ray Middleton, of Golders Green sub-district Office competed in Tokyo 1964, finishing 12th in the 50km walk. Ray is a notable Post Office athlete, with a career spanning the 1960s and extending into the 1970s, during which he won 2 golds, 8 silvers and 4 bronze medals in British Championships and represented England internationally on 11 occasions. He won silvers at the 1963 Lugano Cup and the 1966 Commonwealth Games, and was the first winner of a postal sporting event that has taken place annually since 1962: the Postman’s Walk.

Sylvia Chubbs researched the history of this competitive speed walk event, which is open to postal workers across the UK, from novices to trained athletes. Covering laps of a one mile circuit around Coram’s Field near Mount Pleasant in London, participants originally wore full uniform and carried a sack. Nowadays, the rules are a little more relaxed – the sack is no longer required and shorts and trainers are allowed.

In 1970, 35-year old Ray Middleton led a team of British postmen to victory in the European Postal Road Walking Championship at Crystal Palace – beating teams of competitors from 13 other countries. An article in The Daily Mirror celebrated the success, whilst Ray was later named as one of the top celebrities of the year by comedian Charlie Chester. In September 2011, Middleton attended the 50th Annual Postman’s walk, seeing Dave Allen win for the sixteenth time – making him the most successful competitor in the event ever.

Ray Middleton at the 50th Postman's Walk, 2011, with BPMA Curator Vyki Sparkes and BPMA Access & Learning Manager Andy Richmond.

Ray Middleton at the 50th Postman’s Walk, 2011, with BPMA Curator Vyki Sparkes and BPMA Access & Learning Manager Andy Richmond.

From postmen stomping around London, we move on to look at stamps – the topic of research for three of the U3A students. Olga Selivanova became interested in a stamp she had collected in her native Russia. It showed the bronze statue “Let Us Beat Swords Into Ploughshares” – presented by the Soviet Union to the United Nations in 1959.

This artwork was inspired by a biblical passage (Isaiah 2:4) describing the conversion of weapons for use in peaceful civilian applications. The sentiment of this quote has obvious parallels with the peaceful ideals of the Olympic movement, with many activities related to combat – such as archery, javelin, shooting, boxing, taekwondo, and judo – practised in the Games, but always in keeping with the Olympic Creed and Values of friendship and respect.

Another such sport – fencing – was the subject of Pat Boumphrey’s research. She found many examples of stamps featuring fencing, including ones from places as diverse as Afghanistan and Vietnam. As a keen fencer herself, Pat penned a little ditty to inspire Team GB’s female athletes in advance of London 2012:

There are bad times just around the corner,
The horizon’s gloomy as can be.
The British male,
May often fail,
OUR FAITH IN SPORT IS SHAKEN,
So English girls awaken,
And save the nation’s bacon…

It certainly seems to have done the job: the Team GB women won 10 gold medals and 22 in total, making it their most successful Games ever. At least some of that success can be credited to Dame Marea Hartman. Ray Watkins found a stamp dedicated to Hartman, who is credited with the integration of British women athletes into full competition and parity with male athletes. She was Chairwoman of the Women’s Commission of the International Athletic Federation for 13 years, as well as the first woman to serve as President of the Amateur Athletic Association from 1991 to 1994.

Dame Marea Hartman stamp from the Famous Women issue, 6 August 1996.

Dame Marea Hartman stamp from the Famous Women issue, 6 August 1996.

Finally, to bring our story full circle, we return to Gwyn, who found the following quote from an early edition of the St. Martin’s circular. It shows that, as with many things, the Post Office led the way in encouraging British sportswomen:

Not the least of the many medical and scientific discoveries in the 19th Century is the fact that athletic exercise can be indulged in by women without injury to their bodily health. … we have discovered that, as a result of open air exercise, women retain their youth for a longer period than at any time in our history

from St Martin’s 1898, pg. 395.

– Andy Richmond, Access & Learning Manager

Employment of Disabled People

With the Paralympic Games taking place in London right now there has been considerable interest in the history of the event, and the way in which it and other initiatives have challenged prejudice towards disabled people.

The First and Second World Wars saw large numbers return home with severe physical injuries, and within both government and the medical profession there was a drive to offer these veterans the best care and opportunities. Dr Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist who worked at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, where military personnel with spinal injuries were treated, had observed that his patients benefitted from physical activity and in order to encourage this he organised the first International Wheelchair Games (IWG).

The IWG was held parallel to the 1948 London Olympic Games, and was so successful that it was held again, at the same venue in Stoke Mandeville, in 1952. By 1960 the Games had become known as the Paralympics, and were being held in the same host cities as the Olympic Games. An increasing number of athletes from around the world were taking part, and the Games were no longer open solely to war veterans.

The aftermath of war also saw concerted efforts by government to advance employment opportunities for disabled people and within the Royal Mail Archive are records showing how the Post Office responded to this challenge. One interesting item in the Archive is this design for a stool enabling disabled veterans to undertake postal duties.

Part of a design for a special stool for disabled soldiers, circa 1919. (POST 30/4652c)

Part of a design for a special stool for disabled soldiers, circa 1919. (POST 30/4652c)

Employment of disabled people by the Post Office pre-dated World Wars 1 and 2, and included the blind Postmaster General Henry Fawcett, but attitudes to disabled employment have been difficult to change.

Henry Fawcett was accidentally blinded by a shotgun at the age of 25, but did not let his disability deter him. He became a Professor and a Member of Parliament, and served as Postmaster General from 1880 until his death in1884. (Image from BPMA Portfolio Collection)

Henry Fawcett was accidentally blinded by a shotgun at the age of 25, but did not let his disability deter him. He became a Professor and a Member of Parliament, and served as Postmaster General from 1880 until his death in1884. (Image from BPMA Portfolio Collection)

A report produced by the Post Office in 1946 found that many ex-servicemen had been employed to perform duties which were often monotonous and had little prospect of promotion. The report recommended that disabled persons should be encouraged to undertake as wide a range of duties as possible.

By the 1980s Girobank, then still a part of the Post Office, won awards for its role in employing disabled people. There were even Paralympic athletes employed by Royal Mail during this time, such as five-time medal winner Ian Hayden who worked as an Equal Opportunities Officer at Royal Mail Oxford.

Visit our website to find out more about the history of disabled employees in the Post Office, or read other articles on this blog about the Paralympic Games.

The London 1948 Olympic Games – A Collectors’ Guide

From 25th July to 9th September 2012, the British Library is running the exhibition Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games, telling the story of the past and present of the Olympic Games through the medium of postage stamps and related memorabilia. As well as contributing to the exhibition the BPMA has also been involved in the accompanying book The London 1948 Games – A Collectors Guide.

This new publication by Bob Wilcock, of the Society of Olympic Collectors, gives us a detailed postal background of the 1948 Olympic Games.

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

It also includes an essay by the BPMA’s Curator of Philately, Douglas Muir, introducing the fascinating story of the 1948 stamp issue, demonstrating how – just like Royal Mail’s ‘gold medal’ issue today – stamps were used to celebrate and commemorate the Games. He writes:

As the stamp issuing policy at the time was very conservative, not all serious proposals resulted in commemorative stamps – but one event could not be ignored, and that was the holding of the Games of the 14th Olympiad in London and the south of England.

14 designers submitted designs, and from these the Council chose work by G. Knipe of Harrison & Sons, S. D. Scott of Waterlows, Edmund Dulac, Percy Metcalfe and Abram Games. Before these were shown to the King, the Postmaster General felt another option should be offered, and recommended a design by John Armstrong. The book contains images of all submitted designs as well as the issued stamps.

John Armstrong's design with mounted horse

John Armstrong’s design with mounted horse

With hundreds of colour illustrations, the books also features first day covers, postmarks, postal stationery, cigarette cards and other ephemera – a must-read for Olympic collectors.

The London 1948 Olympic Games - A Collector's Guide

The London 1948 Olympic Games – A Collectors’ Guide by Bob Wilcock is now available from the BPMA online shop.

The first British Olympic gold medal winner on stamps

The victories of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning in the Women’s Pairs Rowing, and Bradley Wiggins in the Cycling: Road Men’s Time Trial yesterday has not only earned them Great Britain’s first gold medals of the London 2012 Olympic Games, but will see them appear on stamps issued today. This makes Glover, Stanning and Wiggins the second, third and fourth British Olympians (we think!) to appear on a British stamp, and amongst the few living people to ever appear on a British stamp.

Gold Medal Winner stamp featuring Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, Rowing Women's Pairs

Gold Medal Winner stamp featuring Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, Rowing Women’s Pairs

Gold Medal Winner stamp featuring Bradley Wiggins, Cycling: Road Men's Time Trial.

Gold Medal Winner stamp featuring Bradley Wiggins, Cycling: Road Men’s Time Trial.

Until relatively recently it was Royal Mail’s policy not to issue stamps featuring living people, with members of the Royal family being the only exception to the rule. But in the past decade or so we have seen many British sporting victories commemorated on stamps, including England’s victory at the 2005 Ashes cricket series.

The first British Olympian to appear on a stamp was Mark Phillips, a member of the three day event team which won a gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In 1973 Mark Phillips married a fellow horse-riding champion, Princess Anne, who later represented Great Britain at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

The wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, then a Captain in the 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards, took place at Westminster Abbey on 14th November 1973. These stamps, based on a photograph by royal photographer Lord Lichfield, were issued to celebrate the event, which was watched on television by around 100 million people worldwide.

Royal Wedding Stamps, 14 November 1973 - Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.

Royal Wedding Stamps, 14 November 1973 – Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.

Mark Phillips later competed as part of the British Three-Day Event team at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, winning a silver medal. The couple’s daughter Zara Phillips was part of the British Eventing team which won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Tuesday – the medal was even presented to her by her mother.

As to why we think Glover, Stanning and Wiggins are the second, third and fourth British Olympians to appear on a British stamp, our Curator of Philately points out that there have been “too many crowd scenes of youngsters who may have grown up to do something” on British stamps for us to be sure. If you have any information on this please let us know by leaving a comment.

Stamps featuring all Great Britain’s gold medal winners will be issued within 24 hours of victory. Visit your Post Office today to buy the Heather Glover and Heather Stanning, and Bradley Wiggins stamps, or buy online at www.royalmail.com/goldmedalstamps.

Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games

Opening today at the British Library is Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games, an exhibition telling the fascinating story of the past and present of the Olympic Games through the medium of postage stamps and related memorabilia. The exhibition includes stamp artwork and stamp designs from our collection related to the 1948 London Olympic Games stamp issue.

Submitted design by Harrison & Sons with 'Olympic Games' in Esperanto.

Submitted design by Harrison & Sons with ‘Olympic Games’ in Esperanto.

While no stamps were issued for the 1908 London Olympic Games, the Post Office could hardly refuse to issue stamps in 1948 as the precedent had been established by host nations in previous years. A range of designs were prepared, with four eventually chosen for issue.

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

You can see the designs and the issued stamps for the 1948 London Olympics at Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games along with more than 2,500 other Olympic Games stamps until 9 September 2012. Or visit the Stamps & Philately section of our website to see the stamp designs and stamp artwork for a number of historic British stamp issues.

BPMA Summer Sale

The BPMA Shop summer sale starts today: It’s 20% off all orders! But hurry – this amazing offer only lasts for one week. Enter SUMM3R2012 in the appropriate field at checkout (excludes P&P) and place your order by 31 July 2012.

Savings Greetings Card Set

Savings Greetings Card Set

Choose from our range of unique postal heritage gifts: Learn more about our postal history and design with our publications, let someone know they’re the best with our First Class Greetings Card, get through this British Summer with our big BPMA Umbrella, or simply smarten up your standard business dress with a Penny Black Tie.

And just in time for “the greatest show on earth” the new book by the President of the Society of Olympic Collectors, Bob Wilcock, The London 1948 Olympic Games: A Collectors’ Guide is now also available.

Visit the BPMA show at http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/shop.

Final Olympics stamps

The final set of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games stamps have been issued today, exactly one year before the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. This is the third set of ten London 2012 stamps issued by Royal Mail in the lead-up to the Games; previous sets of ten stamps were issued in 2009 and 2010.

Final set of London 2012 stamps

Final set of London 2012 stamps

The London 2012 stamps are Royal Mail’s largest stamp commission since the Millennium series, which saw more than 100 stamps issued during 1999-2001. 30 UK artists and image makers have designed stamps for the London 2012 sets, many of whom were first time stamp designers.

Paralympic Sailing, Athletics, Volleyball, Wheelchair Rugby, Wrestling, Wheelchair Tennis, Fencing, Gymnastics, Triathlon and Handball feature on this final set of 10 stamps, which is subtitled ‘Get Ready for 2012’. Three first day of issue postmarks have been produced to accompany this set.

First day of issue postmarks

First day of issue postmarks

In addition to the usual range of philatelic products, Royal Mail has produced a composite stamp sheet which features all 30 stamps from the three Olympic and Paralympic stamp issues on a single sheet.

The stamps, first day covers and other products are available from the Royal Mail website.

The first London Olympics stamps

Tomorrow Royal Mail is releasing the first ten of 30 1st class stamps which will be issued over the next three years in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The thirty stamps not only represent the 30th Olympiad but will showcase thirty different Olympic and Paralympic sports. Each stamp is designed by a different contemporary artist or illustrator, giving this issue a distinctive and modern look. 

The first of the London 2012 Olympics stamp issues

The first of the London 2012 Olympics stamp issues

But London 2012 is not London’s first Olympics and these are not Britain’s first Olympics stamps; London hosted the Games in both 1908 and 1948 (the only city apart from Athens to be awarded the Games three times) and a set of stamps was released to celebrate the 1948 Games (there were no 1908 Olympics stamps as commemoratives were not issued in Britain until 1924). Unfortunately we are unable to show pictures of the 1948 Olympics stamps, but we can tell you a little about them.

Four Olympics stamps were issued on 29th July 1948 (the day of the opening ceremony) in 2½d, 3d, 6d and 1/- denominations. The designers were S. D. Scott (of Waterlows stamp printers), Edmund Dulac, Percy Metcalfe and Abram Games. Scott’s 6d design was also selected for use on air letters, as it was suitable for both photogravure (stamp) and letterpress (air letter) printing.

The first day cover cancellations for the first London 2012 Olympics stamps

The first day cover cancellations for the first set of London 2012 Olympics stamps

A special slogan die bearing the impression of the Olympic rings set against a background of wavy obliterator lines was produced and a special stamp cancelling machine was installed at Wembley Stadium (the main Olympics venue). The Olympic rings slogan was used on all unregistered letters (provided they would pass through the machine) that were posted in specially-marked pillar boxes in the Wembley grounds or at the Olympics Games Post Office.

Overprints for use in Bahrain, Kuwait, Muscat, Morocco Agencies and Tangier were produced, but according to a press report of the time one of the Muscat overprints was faulty. On 11th August 1948 The Evening News reported that Mr J G Clive, managing director of a stamp wholesaler in Maidenhead, received an order of 9000 of the 1/- stamps overprinted 1 Rupee for Muscat. They arrived in 75 sheets of 120, and Mr Clive found that one sheet had a fault: the 1 Rupee overprint had been printed twice. Mr Clive told the Evening News that his find was worth at least £3,000 (more than £81,000 in today’s money).

In total 3.5 million sets of the 1948 Olympics issue were sold, earning the GPO £340,000 – and the stamps were much admired by the public and collectors. The magazine Stamp Collecting even published an anonymous poem on the subject in their issue dated 14th August 1948.

To the Very Refined Lady on the 1/- Olympic Stamp

Dedicated without permission, to the Postmaster General, by his humble and obedient servant a Member of the Public

She bounces on a weary world
Skittish, coy, and fat and forty.
Her wings askew, her hair is curled,
She hopes she’s looking rather naughty. 

Oh Whitehall, dashing, carefree, frisky.
How did you draw a dame so risqué?
Perhaps you wished to make us start
With admiration at your art-
Or was it just a double whisky?

References
POST 102/12 – Commemorative stamp issues, Channel Islands, Olympic Games and U K regional issues
POST 122/8232 – Postage stamps. Obliteration and sales to dealers etc.: philatelic revenue from new issues. Accountant General’s Department calculations on the Silver Wedding, Channel Islands and Olympics special issues