Tag Archives: Winston Churchill

NEW STAMPS: Influential Prime Ministers

Today Royal Mail launched eight new stamps showing key British Prime Ministers of the past 200 years. This is the first set first dedicated to Prime Ministers and features some of the most influential office holders.

The Prime Minster is the head of the British Government. The official title is ‘First Lord of the Treasury’. It was around 200 years ago that the term ‘Prime Minister’ was first used.

Prime Ministers Pres Pack Visual

PM Charles Grey, £0.97

PM Charles Grey, £0.97.

PM Clement Attlee, £0.97

PM Clement Attlee, 1st class.

PM Harold Wilson, £0.97

PM Harold Wilson, 1st class.

PM Margaret Thatcher, £0.97

PM Margaret Thatcher, 1st class.

PM Robert Peel, £0.97

PM Robert Peel, £0.97.

PM William Gladstone, £0.97

PM William Gladstone, £0.97.

PM William Gladstone, £0.97

PM Winston Churchill, 1st class.

PM William Pitt the Younger, £0.97

PM William Pitt the Younger, £0.97.

This isn’t Churchill first appearance on a UK stamp. Only his death cleared the path to the production of a commemorative stamp: in 1965 the idea of showing any eminent person on a stamp, even former monarchs, was unprecedented. It was felt that the importance of the occasion, and the inevitable stamp issues from other countries, meant that a stamp should be commissioned.

Winston Churchill memorial stamp, 4d.

Winston Churchill memorial stamp, 4d.

The final design chosen was by David Gentleman and Rosalind Dease, from a photograph by Karsh. The stamp was issued in values of 4d and 1s 3d.

The stamps are available online at www.royalmail.com/primeministers, by phone on 03457 641 641 and in 8,000 Post Offices throughout the UK. Stamps can be bought individually or as a set in a Presentation Pack for £6.90.

Commemorating the start of the Second World War:

75 years ago today, at 11.15am Britain declared war on Germany following its invasion of Poland two days earlier. In the year of the centenary of the beginning of the First World War it is important to remember not just the sacrifices made in that war, the “war to end all wars”, but also those that followed.

'Searching for the enemy.' 20th City of London (3rd GPO) Battalion Home Guard.

‘Searching for the enemy.’ 20th City of London (3rd GPO) Battalion Home Guard or The Post Office Home Guard.

During the Second World War the General Post Office (GPO) not only released men to fight on the front lines, but as in the First played a vital and wide reaching role at home.

Within days of the war breaking out, as men left their jobs to go and fight, women once again began taking on the vacant positions. Many more women were already employed by the GPO at the outbreak of the Second World War than the First but there was still an increase of approximately 78,000 during the course of the conflict. Not only were more women employed by the GPO, they were also given opportunities to take on jobs previously unavailable to them, such as working as an engineer or driving a post van. Women were even allowed to join the Post Office Home Guard, receiving much praise for the work that they did.

Women sorting the mail during the Second World War.

Women sorting the mail during the Second World War.

Not all male GPO staff left to fight on the front lines, for various reasons there were many who were left behind either because of unsuitability for service due to age or injury or because their skills were necessary on the Home Front to keep the war effort going. Perhaps two of the most notable and interesting of these stories belong to Tommy Flowers and Frederick Gurr.

Serious bomb damage at Mount Pleasant during the Second World War.

Serious bomb damage at Mount Pleasant during the Second World War.

Flowers was an experienced telephone engineer who had been responsible for helping to improve the telephone systems before the war. During the war he was working at the Post Office Research station in London, Dollis Hill. It was while he was here he was invited to Bletchley Park to assist with the code breaking work that was occurring there. During his time at Bletchley Park, Flowers worked on the team that cracked the Enigma code and also created Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer, which enabled Britain to crack the code of the German High Command.

Gurr’s story is equally impressive. A postman on the verge of retirement when the war broke out Gurr took it upon himself to create the GPO Rescue and Salvage Squad. He was concerned that the ordinary salvage squads didn’t recognise the importance of the mail and, as such, his own squad would rescue not only valuables from bombed out Post Offices but also supplies and the mail itself, ensuring that the Post Office could prevent mail being delayed more than 48 hours due to enemy action. For his services Gurr was awarded the British Empire Medal by King George VI.

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Gurr’s scrapbook of GPO Rescue and Salvage Squad

These stories show not just the bravery and commitment of individuals but also how great the Post Office’s contribution was. It is commonly known that the Post Office remained dedicated to ensuring delivery of mail but it’s these surprising and often under-told human stories that really shaped the Post Office in the Second World War.

It’s these stories and many more that we intend to bring to light in The Postal Museum revealing Britain’s social, communications and design history.

Post Office Time capsule opened after 93 years

On Monday, the centenary of the First World War, the contents of a time capsule created by Dundee postal workers in 1921 were unveiled. Head of Collections Chris Taft attended the event along with representatives from Royal Mail, Post Office Ltd, the Communication Workers Union, the High School of Dundee (where the former Post Office building from 1921 is now located), The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum and The Great War Dundee Partnership.  

Inside there were documents relating to the period including publications, newspaper cuttings, letters and photographs from soldiers.

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Field Marshall Douglas Haig in Dundee 1920. (Image credit: The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum/ University of Dundee)

Group photo of Dundee Postal War Memorial Committee.

Group photo of Dundee Postal War Memorial Committee. (Image credit: The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum/University of Dundee)

Pte J Brady Black Watch showing tricycle used by collectors 1914.

Pte J Brady Black Watch showing tricycle used by collectors 1914. (Image credit: The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum/University of Dundee)

A store of photographs of local dignitaries, soldiers and postmen and scenes of Dundee, including visits by Princess Mary in 1920 and Winston Churchill in 1921 were found in the capsule.

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There is also a number of sealed envelopes including a Letter from Lord Provost Spence (1921) to the Lord Provost in 2014 and a Letter to the Postmaster of Dundee in 2014 from the Postmaster in 1921.

Letter from the Postmaster to the current Postmaster.

Letter from the Postmaster to the current Postmaster.

The capsule and its contents will be on display at the McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum, and we will be sharing more about the contents soon!

House of Stuart

In March Royal Mail released the House of Stewart stamps, celebrating the Scottish monarchs who reigned from 1406 to 1625. Today a follow-up set is released, the House of Stuart. 

When Elizabeth I of England, the last of the Tudor monarchs, died childless in 1603, the Stewarts inherited the English throne. Later that year came The Union of the Crowns between England and Scotland, with King James VI of Scotland becoming James I of England. This signalled the start of the House of Stuart’s turbulent reign which would last until the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

The six Stuart monarchs: James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II and Anne

The six Stuart monarchs: James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II and Anne

Accompanying this stamp issue is a miniature sheet, The Age of the Stuarts, featuring the physician William Harvey, poet John Milton, architect and dramatist John Vanbrugh and the Battle of Naseby.

The Age of the Stuarts miniature sheet

The Age of the Stuarts miniature sheet

William Harvey was the first person to accurately describe the circulation of the blood. His description was published in the book De Motu Cordis (On the Motion of the Heart and Blood) in 1628. Harvey was also Physician to James I, and later to Charles I. He continued in this post until around the time of the Battle of Naseby, one of the most decisive battles of the English Civil Wars, which saw the Royalists all but destroyed by the Parliamentarians.

The English Civil Wars were previously commemorated on stamps in 1992

The English Civil Wars were previously commemorated on stamps in 1992

One of the beneficiaries of the Royalists eventual defeat was John Milton, a poet and polemicist. He believed passionately in the Parliamentarian cause and played several roles within the Commonwealth government, including composing foreign correspondence in Latin and producing propaganda. Following the Restoration of the monarchy he wrote his most famous work, Paradise Lost, an epic poem reflecting on the failure of the revolution. Milton’s work has not previously been represented on a British stamp.

Also making his debut on British stamps is architect and dramatist John Vanburgh, represented by one of his most famous buildings, Castle Howard. Built for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, it is perhaps best known for its use in the TV series and film Brideshead Revisited.

Stamps showing Blenheim Palace, British Gardens (1983) and World Heritage Sites (2005)

Stamps showing Blenheim Palace, British Gardens (1983) and World Heritage Sites (2005)

Another of Vanburgh’s buildings, Blenheim Palace, has appeared on stamps twice before as part of the British Gardens (1983) and World Heritage Sites (2005) issues. Blenheim, among other things, is the birthplace and ancestral home of Winston Churchill, a man who is no stranger to British stamps. The Palace was built in the early 18th Century for John Churchill, a soldier and statesman who served the last four of the Stuart monarchs, and the first of the Hanover monarchs, George I.

Accompanying this stamp issue are two First Day of Issue postmarks. One bears a quote from John Milton’s Areopagitica, a speech given to parliament against censorship. The other features the House of Stuart coat of arms.

House of Stuart first day of issue postmarks

House of Stuart first day of issue postmarks

The House of Stuart stamps are available from Royal Mail.

Britain Alone

Royal Mail has issued stamps commemorating many aspects of World War 2 in the past (you can see many of them in our online exhibition World War 2 in Stamps), but these have tended to focus on military personnel and military achievements. In a new set of stamps released today, entitled Britain Alone, Royal Mail pays tribute to those who stayed at home and kept the country running.

The Britain Alone stamps

The Britain Alone stamps

Civil defence organisations, and the work and sacrifices of ordinary civilians, were vital to Britain’s survival during the 2nd World War. To ensure an increase in food production, millions of women were called on to replace conscripted men on farms as part of the Women’s Land Army, members of which were commonly known as Land Girls.

In the cities and towns, groups of local volunteers, often First World War veterans, joined the Home Guard, who were ready to fight in the event of an enemy invasion. Also important were the Air Raid Wardens, who were responsible for enforcing a blackout during enemy bombing raids.

The Britain Alone issue sees all of these civilian organisations represented on British stamps for the first time, along with the many women who took on factory work during the war, and the Fire Service, who were particularly vital during the Battle of Britain.

Also commemorated, are wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a man who is no stranger to British stamps, seen inspecting the Home Guard; the Royal Princesses, the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret (making her first appearance on a British stamp?), pictured making a morale boosting broadcast to the children of the Commonwealth; and some of the three million evacuees, many of them children, who were relocated to the countryside to be away from the bombs.

To accompany the British Alone issue is a miniature sheet commemorating the mass evacuation of Dunkirk, the nine day operation which saw more than 300,000 British, French, Canadian and Belgium troops, trapped on the beaches of western France by the advancing German army. A combination of destroyers, large ships and around 700 smaller ships, including fishing vessels, merchant ships, pleasure craft and lifeboats, ferried the troops to safety in Britain. This remarkable mobilisation is still remembered with pride, and was most recently evoked as a possible solution to the volcanic ash cloud crisis, which saw thousands of British tourists trapped in Europe.

Dunkirk miniature sheet, 2010

Dunkirk miniature sheet, 2010

Two pictorial ‘first day of issue postmarks’ have been produced to accompany Britain Alone, both of which feature famous propaganda slogans of the period. One of them, Keep Calm and Carry On, has recently become popular, appearing on merchandise and inspiring a recent advertising campaign for the Police.

Britain Alone first day of issue postmarks

Britain Alone first day of issue postmarks

A variety of Britain Alone products are available from Royal Mail.

Update!

Royal Mail have have released a video about the new Britain Alone stamps:

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.

The Battle of Britain stamps controversy

David Gentleman, whose many British stamp designs are currently being exhibited in our Search Room, is no stranger to controversy. In 1965 he wrote to Postmaster General Tony Benn (who had announced a new policy for stamp issues in late 1964 and was seeking suggestions) and requested that the design limitations of having to include the monarch’s head on stamps be addressed. Benn, a republican, was keen to remove the monarch’s head, and saw Gentleman’s design limitations argument as an excellent – and non-political – way to achieve this objective. 

Gentleman, and his wife Rosalind Dease, had already been commissioned to design stamps commemorating the death of Winston Churchill and the 25th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and supplied Benn with versions of the designs without the Queen’s head. Ultimately, it was decided that the monarch’s head should remain on British stamps (you can read the full story by downloading the PDF The David Gentleman Album from our website), but this was not the end of the controversy as far as the Battle of Britain stamps were concerned.

More than a month before their release date a number of newspapers published images of the stamps, with several tabloids highlighting two of the eight stamps, which showed German aircraft. The first of the two stamps in question showed the wing-tip of a Messerschmitt fighter overshadowed by the wing-tip of a Spitfire; the other stamp showed a Dornier bomber sinking into the sea while Hawker Hurricanes flew above it. The reason for the focus on these stamps was that the German aircraft pictured featured German military emblems, the Balkenkreuz (cross) on the Messerschmitt and the swastika on the Dornier.

The six 4d Battle of Britain se tenant stamps designed by David Gentleman and Rosalind Dease. The two other stamps in this issue showed anti-aircraft artillery, and an air battle over St Pauls cathedral. They were designed by Andrew Restall, and Gentleman and Dease, respectively.

The six 4d Battle of Britain se tenant stamps designed by David Gentleman and Rosalind Dease. The two other stamps in this issue showed anti-aircraft artillery, and an air battle over St Pauls cathedral. They were designed by Andrew Restall, and Gentleman and Dease, respectively.

The inclusion of these emblems, particularly the swastika, caused great concern, with several Members of Parliament and the House of Lords speaking against the stamps. At the same time, representatives of a number of organisations, and many members of the public wrote letters to The Queen, the Prime Minister and Tony Benn, requesting that the Battle of Britain stamps be withdrawn.

A London Rabbi, writing to Benn on behalf of 775 families of his congregation, wrote “Please don’t allow swastika on our stamps. They are the 20th Century symbol of persecution, oppression, suffering and all that is evil”. The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Mr S. Teff, also expressed his concerns in writing to Benn: “The Board has already received numerous complaints from members of the Jewish community to whom the sight of the swastika in any form is offensive in the extreme.”

A common theme amongst many of the complainants, in particular those who had served in the war, was that issuing a stamp bearing the swastika was an insult to the war dead. Others objected to the swastika appearing alongside the Queen’s head.

Withdrawing the stamps would have been very difficult for the Post Office as the Battle of Britain issue was the first set of stamps to be commissioned since Benn had changed the policy to include stamps commemorating important anniversaries. Indeed, the Battle of Britain stamps had come about partly due to lobbying from the Royal Air Forces Association and a number of Members of Parliament. The issue was also the largest issue of commemorative stamps to date.

Benn and his department took the view that the reason for the objections to the stamps was that the tabloid press articles which had highlighted the stamps featuring German aircraft, had not made clear the purpose of the stamps, and that black and white images of the stamps which appeared in various publications did not effectively convey the subtlety of the designs.

“The purpose of the stamp is to commemorate the victory over Nazism and I am sure that when the stamp is seen in colour it will be quite apparent that the swastika on the tail of the Dornier bomber is both split and half covered by water; the shattered Dornier is sinking in the English Channel and high above four RAF fighters, objective achieved, are flying back to base” wrote one official, in reply to a member of the public.

“In effect, the stamp is meant to be symbolic of the crushing of the Nazis and all that they stood for. We hope you will agree that within the limits of stamp design, it is difficult to do justice to a subject without introducing features of this kind into a series illustrating the Battle of Britain…”

Benn himself said in one letter “I feel that the stamp is a true reflection of that period in our history and…will be seen as a reminder of a great victory over the evil of Nazism. Because of this I do not propose to withdraw it.” He also argued that no objections were raised to the swastika being seen in newsreel footage of German planes, and that the RAF had displayed and flown captured Nazi aircraft on numerous occasions.

Eventually criticism died down, and despite threats to boycott the stamps sales were healthy, although the GPO arranged for adequate stocks of ordinary small size stamps to be available for those who did not wish to purchase the Battle of Britain issue.

Writing in his 2002 book Design, David Gentleman reflected “the tabloids [made] a great furore over the inclusion of a swastika and an iron cross. But without an enemy there would have been no battle and, as the stamps showed the Germans getting the worst of it anyway, the whole manufactured fuss quickly died down.”

The British Postal Museum & Archive holds many files relating to the Battle of Britain stamp issue. Details of these can be found on our online catalogue.