Tuesday, 14 May 2013

241. British Invasion Of The Trucial States.

On 2 December 1971, six small states in the Persian Gulf area formed The United Arab Emirates. These were Abu Dhabi, Dubai,  Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah and Umm Al Qiwain and they were joined in the federation by a 7th state, Ras al Khaimah, on 10 February 1972. Until the termination on 1 December 1971 of a treaty all seven had signed with Great Britain all the territories had been what was effectively Protected States of Great Britain. Such a status should qualify the territories' postage stamps for inclusion in Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth Catalogue but only the stamps of Abu Dhabi actually make an appearance in that august publication and they only appear from 30 March 1964 until the end of 1966, during which time a British postal administration operated in the shaikhdom, and a note at the end of the Abu Dhabi section states "The Abu Dhabi Post Department took over the postal services on 1 January 1967. Later stamp issues will be found in Part 19 (Middle East) of this Catalogue". 
  Of the other states, Dubai's postal services were controlled by the British postal service from 1 April 1948 until 14 June 1963 during which time, firstly surcharged British stamps and then a set of 11 stamps depicting 7 palm trees or a dhow, were issued in the territory. Issues after these - that is - after the Dubai Post Department took control of their services do not appear in the Commonwealth Catalogue even though political independence was not achieved until 1971. No stamps from the other  Shaikhdoms make any appearance at all despite their status making them, in effect, territories of the British Empire, even though they are not generally described as having had that status. We Commonwealth stamp collectors may be grateful to Gibbons for making us feel that the stamps of the Shaikhdoms did not need to be included in our collection since many hundreds, if not thousands, appeared on the philatelic market in the late 1960's and few were on subjects which were relevant to the Gulf territories and even fewer probably ever made their way on to an item of mail sent from one of these small territories. Still, it is all rather inconsistent that these territories which were firmly controlled by the British at that time do not appear in what used to be "Part 1 " and there are indeed occasional items which are of interest.
  When I was a schoolboy, I was taken to the 1970 International Stamp Exhibition in London (my first ever visit to a philatelic exhibition) and apart from the thrill of being there in general, one of the greatest excitements for me was a visit to the Crown Agents stand where I bought a number of Commonwealth countries' new stamp issues as well as a copy of the then current Crown Agents Stamp Bulletin. I remember being amazed when looking through it to find that the Crown Agents had taken on the handling of the stamps of Umm Al Qiwain, one of those naughty Persian Gulf states. Apparently, Umm Al Qiwain had approached the Crown Agents in 1970 with the request that they handle future trade sales and that as part of this only 6 sets of commemoratives would be issued annually and that defintive sets would be used for 3 to 4 years. Only 3 commemorative issues were released in 1970 and the first issue honoured the Apollo XII astronauts (issued May 1970) followed by an Expo 1970 set in August of that year. The set that drew my attention to the Crown Agents involvement with Umm Al Qiwain, however, was that which was featured in the Crown Agents Bulletin which I had bought and it was a set of 6 stamps and 2 miniature sheets which united the basic set to commemorate the 150th anniversary of "The British Landing On The Trucial Coast". When I looked at the designs it was clear that this was actually a clever attempt to cash in on the Military Uniforms theme which was very popular at the time; Antigua, for instance, embarked on a series of such issues in 1970 which continued until 1974.

Up until recently, I have never wanted to obtain any stamp from Umm Al Qiwain but a little while ago, when thinking about historical subjects, I remembered this particular issue and thought it would be interesting to obtain it to illustrate a highly significant historical event. Of course the issue does not appear in the Commonwealth Catalogue and is only mentioned in the appendix section for Umm Al Qiwain in Gibbons World Catalogue so it was quite difficult to find out information about it. I looked at E Bay and Delcampe to see if it was being offered there and although many hundreds of Umm Al Qiwain items are offered on the auction sites, I have not yet found this set being sold on either of them. The set's appendix listing is interesting given that it was handled at the time by what was then probably the most respectable philatelic agency around - I wonder if it did get any usage on mail out in The Gulf. Perhaps depicting military personnel who had successfully attacked your country was not the most tactful subject to include on stamp designs even if Great Britain and the Gulf states had enjoyed good relations for over 100 years.
  In the past couple of weeks however, I did find a first day cover of one of the miniature sheets being offered for sale and bidding was quite brisk for what amounts to a philatelic cover of an uncatalogued part set. The 3 stamps featured in the miniature sheet depict three British military men in their uniforms: a private of the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire), a sailor of the Royal Navy and an officer of the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire). The first day post mark is depicted below:-

So what exactly happened in The Gulf in 1820? As with so much of the history of the British Empire, it all boiled down to the issue of trade, The English East India Company, founded in 1600, had traded with Persia since 1616 and in 1623 the British had established their headquarters at Bandar Abbas from where they could undertake and protect their commercial activities in the area. As British commercial activity built up in the area, the British claimed that their shipping was being attacked by pirates especially originating from the Qawasim in Ras Al Khaimah. The British reached an agreement with the Qawasim in 1806 whereby they agreed to respect each other's subjects and property but the British claimed that pirate attacks continued and eventually in 1819 the British launched a military expedition against the Qawasim in Ras Al Khaimah and their other ports - Fasht, Sharjah, Umm Al Qiwain and Ajman.
  In late 1819 a force of 3000 fighting men under the command of Major General William Grant Keir set out from Bombay in 3 British ships. Meanwhile, another force set out overland from Muscat to form a pincer movement which would prevent the Qawasim from retreating from the coast to the desert inland. After bitter fighting, Ras Al Khaimah fell to the British in early 1820 to be followed by the fall of the other Qawasim strongholds. Keir's interpreter, Captain J Perronet Thompson of the 17th Light Dragoons, drafted a treaty in Arabic which was agreed with the Qawasim which forbade "piracy and plunder", forbade the "carrying off" of slaves in local ships and stipulated that a special flag, white with a red square at its centre, be flown by friendly Arab vessels in The Gulf as a sign of peaceful intentions.
  The treaty did not prevent sea fights between the ships of local rulers but in 1835 a Maritime Truce was put forward by the British and signed by the rulers of Abu Dhabi, Bubur, Sharjah and Ajman. The treaty was so successful in achieving its goal of local peace that it was renewed annually until 1843 when a 10 year truce was signed. Umm Al Qiwain first agreed to adhere to the treaty in 1836. In 1853, the local rulers agreed to The Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Peace and they and the British could assuredly settle down to the safe carrying on of trade in the area. It was their agreement to these treaties of truce that earned the local states in The Gulf the name of The Trucial States or The Trucial Coast.
  So, the 1970 stamp issue from Umm Al Qiwain is the commemoration of  a very significant event in the history of The Gulf and the development of the British Empire, particularly given that at least one of the states, Abu Dhabi, was to rise to prominence in the 20th century because of its great oil reserves which remain extensive today. As Umm Al Qiwain was not fully independent when this set was issued I think I can justify including it in my Commonwealth stamp collection particularly because it was an item which was handled by the then highly respectable Crown Agents. I shall keep looking out for a set that is being offered for sale. Everything comes along eventually.

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