Tag Archives: Paralympics

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.

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.

Welcome to the London 2012 Paralympic Games

Royal Mail have today issued a second special London 2012 mini-sheet of four stamps to coincide with the opening of the London 2012 Paralympic Games this evening. This means that Royal Mail has become the first postal administration whose country is hosting the Games to issue a set of stamps to celebrate the start of the Paralympics.

Welcome to the London 2012 Paralympic Games miniature sheet

Welcome to the London 2012 Paralympic Games miniature sheet

Around 4,200 athletes from 160 countries will participate in the London 2012 Paralympic Games with 471 medal events on the programme, spread across 20 sports.

Like the first mini-sheet to be issued for the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Paralympic sheet also features a quartet of sports.

This sees Powerlifting, Athletics, Wheelchair Basketball and Cycling ‘merged’ with five iconic London landmarks: St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge, the Olympic Stadium, the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye.

Once again, to bring out the very best of these striking composite images, Royal Mail is using one of its widest formats for the mini-sheet, which contains two 1st class stamps and two £1.28 stamps.

The two 1st Class stamps feature an athlete wearing running blades heading towards the Olympic Stadium, and a Wheelchair Basketball player ‘aiming’ a ball towards the Palace of Westminster.

The 1st class stamps: an athlete wearing running blades with the Olympic Stadium, and a Wheelchair Basketball player with the Palace of Westminster.

The 1st class stamps: an athlete wearing running blades with the Olympic Stadium, and a Wheelchair Basketball player with the Palace of Westminster.

The £1.28 stamps show a Paralympic powerlifter with a view of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge, together with a cyclist on his specially adapted bike heading towards London’s iconic Ferris wheel the London Eye.

The £1.28 stamps: a powerlifter with St Paul's Cathedral, and a cyclist with the London Eye.

The £1.28 stamps: a powerlifter with St Paul’s Cathedral, and a cyclist with the London Eye.

Further Paralympics stamps will be issued to mark the achievements of all of Team GB’s Gold Medal Winners, as they were for the Olympic Games. Similarly, all Gold Medal-winning Paralympians will also be honoured with a Gold Post Box in their hometown.

The new London 2012 Paralympic Games stamps and stamp products are available at most Post Office branches, online at www.royalmail.com/bethefirst and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB.

Visit our website to see stamps and stamp artwork from the 1948 London Olympic Games.

Olympics Stamps 2010

In the lead up to the London 2012 Games Royal Mail is issuing 30 stamps, each showcasing an Olympic or Paralympic sport. The second set of 10 stamps is available from today.

London 2012 Olympics stamps - set 2 (2010)

London 2012 Olympics stamps - set 2 (2010)

Apart from the contemporary look of this issue (each stamp is designed by a different artist), what makes it so interesting is the range of sports covered. Modern pentathlon, taekwondo, goalball and BMX cycling all make their debut on a British stamp, while many of the other sports featured appear for the only the second time ever.

13th Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh & World Hockey Cup for Men, London stamps (1986)

13th Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh & World Hockey Cup for Men, London stamps (1986)

Several previous sets of stamps, issued for the Commonwealth or Olympic Games, have covered a wide range of sports, but none have ever included a Paralympic sport. Indeed, people with disabilities have rarely featured on British stamps – the International Year of the Disabled stamps being one of the few exceptions.

International Year of the Disabled=

International Year of the Disabled stamps (1981)

The first London 2012 set featured Paralympic equestrian and archery, along with boccia, a version of bocce for athletes with physical disabilities. This new set of stamps features Paralympic rowing, table tennis and goalball.

Goalball was developed for blind and partially sighted players, and sees two teams of three competing to throw a ball into their opponents’ goal. A bell inside the ball enables the players to hear its location. In the stamp designed by Tobatron, the bell inside the ball is neatly shown by giving the goalball a speech bubble.

First Day of Issue postmarks for London 2012 stamps (2010)

First Day of Issue postmarks for London 2012 stamps (2010)

The British Olympic and Paralympic teams hope to do well at the London 2012 Games, and quotes from boxer Luke Campbell and goalball player Anna Sharkey appear on the first day of issue postmarks which accompany this issue.

The Olympic and Paralmypic Games stamps are available from Royal Mail Stamps & Collecting.

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

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.