Tuesday 29 May 2012

Tokelau Definitives & Jubilee, The British Prime Minister, Hard-To-Find Mozambique & New Cameroun.

On 11 April 2012, the Tokelau Islands whose philatelic new issue programme is now safely in the hands of New Zealand Post, issued a delightful set of 9 new definitive stamps which depict various idyllic views of the islands. The 45c value depicts a local sailing boat which is the main feature of the national flag of Tokelau which was adopted in 2009 (see above and below).
The other values of the set are 10c, 20c, 25c, 40c, 50c, $1, $1.40 and $2. The stamps were designed by New Zealand Post and give collectors a wonderful impression of these tiny islands which have been territories of New Zealand since 1925, having been detached from the British colony of Gilbert And Ellice Islands.
A pair of stamps and a miniature sheet were issued on 23 May 2012 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, who, of course, is Queen of Tokelau. Again these stamps were designed by New Zealand Post and printed by Southern Colour Print.
Recently I wrote about stamps which depict Margaret Thatcher who was British prime minister at the time of the Falklands War. I pointed out how surprisingly few philatelic items she had been depicted on given her international stature. The latest British prime minister, David Cameron, who has been in power for only two years leading a coalition government, an unusual entity in modern British history, has in contrast got off to a flying start in terms of depiction on postage stamps. On 25 July 2011, The Gambia released a sheetlet of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet of 2 stamps which commemorated the visit of the US President to The United Kingdom (quite why this was of such significance to The Gambia that it required the issue of a set of stamps by the tiny African country, is a question that probably can only be answered by its prolific philatelic agents in New York). Nevertheless, the subject is of interest and depicted below is the miniature sheet with Mr Cameron depicted on the left hand stamp.
The sheetlet of 4 stamps also includes one design which depicts Mr. Cameron with his wife, Samantha, standing on the doorstep of No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence, with the United States leader and his wife. The President also appears with Queen Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh on another stamp from the sheetlet.
One recent British prime minister who rather surprisingly has not been singled out by the New York stamp agents who represent The Gambia and numerous other impoverished territories for philatelic commemoration is Anthony Blair who was elected in 1997 who, despite enormous initial popularity, is now generally despised in Britain although he is still much admired abroad. I am not aware of any stamps which depict him but a good cause could be made for an issue by Sierra Leone (whom the New York agency also represent) because he allowed British troops to enter the country in May 2000 to evacuate foreign nationals and reestablish order there when the Sierra Leone government found itself unable to hold back a growing tide of violence from rebel forces. It is surprising that Sierra Leone has never issued a set of stamps to commemorate the return of peace to the country after the extended terrible period of civil war although it has found it quite necessary, apparently, to issue stamps to commemorate such subjects of significance to the country as the movies of Elvis Presley, the 150th anniversary of the US civil war, the beatification of Pope John Paul II, the centenary of the accession of King George VI, the birth centenary of Ronald Reagan (all issues from 2011) etc etc. On a different subject, I have finally tracked down a mint set of the most difficult stamps to find which were issued by Mozambique in the period 1998 to 2000. This is the set of 4 stamps which feature fruit and flowers in the usual style of locally produced Mozambique stamps. This is the first time I have seen a mint set (or even a complete used set) for sale for several years although the accompanying miniature sheet appears to turn up more often.
I have also managed to obtain another example of a local surcharge from the same period as depicted below.
This is different from the "local fountains" surcharge mentioned in the latest Stanley Gibbons Central and South Africa Catalogue which is 17000 m surcharged on the 125m value of the fountains set. Presumably the stamp depicted is another previously unknown surcharge. Finally, Cameroun seems to have issued a single stamp and one miniature sheet to mark the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the HM Virus and of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS or SIDA in French). The stamp mentions the national Committee to Fight AIDS and is inscribed with the printer's name, Cartor, and the apparent date of issue, 3 June 2011.

Monday 28 May 2012

The Battle Of Goose Green.

After British troops began landing at San Carlos Water in East Falkland on 21 May 2012 as shown on the above stamp which was issued by The Falkland Islands on 14 June 2002 as part of a set of six stamps which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the liberation of the islands from Argentine occupation, the British government wished the armed forces to prioritise the recapture of the settlement of Goose Green (see blog of 26 May 2012). On 26 March 2012, 2 Para set out for Goose Green. From the early morning of 27 May to 28 May, the 500 men of 2 Para with artillery support from 8 Commando Battery approached and attacked Darwin and Goose Green which the Argentine 12th Infantry Regiment were in possession of. A ferocious battle which lasted all night and part of the next day ended when the British forces had killed 47 Argentine soldiers and taken 961 Argentine troops prisoner.
The British also suffered losses - 17 men were killed including the commanding officer of 2 Para, Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones, who died at the head of his battalion whilst charging the well-prepared Argentine positions. He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his role in the battle and both he, and Sergeant Ian J. McKay who won the VC a few days later at Mount Longden, were depicted on a set of 2 stamps and a miniature sheet which included the 2 stamps as well as a third which showed a Victoria Cross. The stamps were issued on 11 November 2006 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross and were designed by Andrew Robinson who has designed many Falkland Islands stamps in recent years.
The British dead of the conflict were buried in a cemetery at San Carlos and the cemetery was depicted on one of two stamps issued by The Falkland Islands on 13 November 2002 to commemorate the Royal Visit to the islands of HRH The Duke Of York, Queen Elizabeth II's second oldest son, who had served as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands during the war with Argentina.
The cemetery was also depicted on one of 4 stamps issued on 29 January 1996 to commemorate the Royal Visit of HRH The Princess Royal, The Duke Of York's sister.
Another value from the set depicted the church at Goose Green.
With the removal of the large Argentine force which had been situated at Goose Green, the British forces became able to move out of the San Carlos bridgehead. Flag Counter

Saturday 26 May 2012

British Troops Back In The Falklands.

During the night of 21 May 1981, British forces began an amphibious landing on beaches around San Carlos Water on the northwestern coast of East Falkland. Such was the severity of Argentine air attacks from low-flying jets that the site became known as Bomb Alley. The 4000 men of 3 Commando Brigade were put ashore from the ferry Norland, HMS Fearless, HMS Intrepid and RFA Stromness with 42 Commando being held on board SS Canberra as a tactical reserve. By dawn of 22 May the British troops had secured a beachhead from which to conduct their operations. It was planned to capture the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green before going on to the capital of Port Stanley. At sea the British had suffered losses:- the destroyer HMS Sheffield had been sunk on 4 May by a French exocet missile (despite claiming to support the British the French government kept a missile team in Argentina throughout the war) and 20 British crew members died. A number of British aircraft had been lost in the first weeks of May. The British had sunk or damaged a number of Argentine vessels:- the ARA General Belgrano on 2 May (323 crew members died), the ARA Alferez Sobral on 1 May, the trawler Narwhal was sunk on 9 May as was the supply ship Islas de los Estados on 10 May.
On 14 June 1983, The Falkland Islands issued a set of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet designed by Anthony Theobald which highlighted the 4 British services which took part in the landings at San Carlos Water, the date of issue coinciding with the first anniversary of the end of the war. The miniature sheet (above) combined all four values and depicted in its margins the badges of the participating forces:- The Royal Marines, Royal Army Chaplains Department, Welsh Guards, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Falklands Islands Defence Force, The Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles, Special Air Service Regiment, Scots Guards, Royal Army Ordinance Corps, Blues and Royals, Parachute Regiment, Royal Corps of Transport, Royal Army Pay Corps, Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, Royal Engineers, Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, Army Catering Corps, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Merchant Navy, the Royal Navy, Army Air Corps, Royal Pioneer Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Military Police, Royal Artillery, the Royal Air Force, the Intelligence Corps, Royal Army Dental Corps and the Royal Corps of Signals. The 5p value, depicted above, showed British troops "yomping" across the island and the 17p depicted the all important air cover which the troops received (below), a "Harrier" fighter being the subject of the design. The 13p value was dedicated to the Merchant Navy and depicted the transport ships, the SS Canberra and MV Norland, both mentioned above. As illustrated in a previous blog, the Royal Navy was commemorated by the 50p value and showed the aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes.
The 17p design was reproduced for a stamp exhibition souvenir miniature sheet which was produced the following year and also included a facsimile signature of the Governor of The Falkland Islands, Rex Hunt, who had been expelled from the islands when the Argentines first invaded. It makes quite an interesting addition to any collection of Falkland Islands stamps even though it of course had no postal validity.
The British suffered terrible blows over the following days:- on 21 May the frigate, the Ardent, was sunk in San Carlos Water, on 24 May another frigate, HMS Antelope, was sunk by an exploding bomb and the landing crafts Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot were hit by Argentine bombs and Sir Bevedere was also damaged by a bomb. On 25 May the destroyer, HMS Coventry, was sunk and 20 crew members were killed and on the same day, the Atlantic Conveyor, had to be abandoned after an exocet attack and 12 crew members died and 3 vital chinook helicopters were lost. From 21 to 25 May, 40 Argentine aircraft were shot down. On 26 May, the British government made the taking of Goose Green a priority and 2 Para set out for the settlement.

Friday 25 May 2012

Pigs, Flags And New Zimbabwe Definitives.

"Post & Go" machine-printed self-adhesive stamps are highly popular among British collectors at the moment and Royal Mail has not hesitated to cash in on this latest area of collecting of Great Britain stamps. Having issued 4 different sets of "British birds" Post & Go stamps last year, they have set about issuing a further series which depicts rare breeds of British farm animals - 6 different sheep which were issued on 24 February 2012 and, more recently, 6 British breeds of pig, issued on 24 April 2012. The designs, by Robert Gillmor and Kate Stephens, are excellent and feature the following breeds:- Berkshire, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Oxford Sandy and Black, Welsh, Tamworth and British Saddleback. Post office machines can print out a "collectors" set which contains one of each value (the value and design will vary so that there is a potential 36 different stamps to be obtained from each 6-design set - 1st class up to 100g, 1st large up to 100g, Europe up to 100g, and worldwide up to 10g or 20g or 40g).
Royal Mail also sells a pack with the six designs all in the 1st class up to 100g rate with the inscription printed on them by Walsall Security Printers so that they are different from the stamps obtainable with their inscriptions printed by the machines in the post offices where the machines are situated. The pack is a very attractive item and makes a composite picture when placed beside the sheep pack and the upcoming cattle issue.
The latest addition to the Post & Go series is the "Union Jack" issue which is part of the Diamond Jubilee commemoration and was issued on 21 May 2012. In the Head Post Office in Victoria Square in Birmingham, Britain's most important city after London, the pig Post & Go stamps had been replaced by the flag stamps on 21 May which means they had only been available as machine-printed stamps for about one month which must surely make them rather rare and well-worth tracking down if they have not already been obtained by the collector. The "collectors' set" sold from the machine was again in all six "values" though this time only six different stamps are available rather that 36 as mentioned above.
Elsewhere, Zimbabwe has produced eight new definitive stamps which depict local sculpture. They come in the values 5c, 25c, 30c, 50c, 75c, 85c, $1 and $1.50. These are also quite attractive stamps but Zimbabwe has joined the growing trend of issuing miniature sheets which contain an example of every stamp in the definitive set. In recent months we have seen such miniature sheets from Cook Islands, Cook Islands Rarotonga, Cook Islands Aitutaki, Cook Islands Penrhyn, Tonga, Tonga Niuafo'ou and Vanuatu. Fortunately the face values of the new Zimbabwe definitives are not too high so buying the equivalent of two sets instead of one is not so arduous as it has been with some of the aforementioned philatelic entities.
The date of issue of the new definitives was 27 March 2012. I include illustrations of 5 of the 8 new values which make up the set below:-

Monday 21 May 2012

Installation Of The King Of Malaysia.

As a post scriptum to the blog of 19 May 2012 where I wrote about the new Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, Tuanku Abdul Halim Shah, whose installation was carried out on 11 April 2012 and where I said that I did not know about any stamps that Malaysia had issued in connection with the king's installation, I have now seen images of a set of three stamps and a miniature sheet which commemorate the event. The miniature sheet is interesting in that it includes portraits of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong from both 1971 when he was installed as ruler for the first time as well as 2012 when he began his second term as King of Malaysia. In fact the 1971 portrait takes the form of the 10c value from the set of three which was issued to celebrate the royal installation and which I illustrated in full in my blog of 19 May 2012.

Rauf Denktash & Pacific New Issues.

Rauf Denktash, who was the founding president of The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (see blog of 30 April 2012), died on 13 January 2012 and a miniature sheet of four stamps has been issued by Northern Cyprus to commemorate him.
Denktash, who was born on 27 January 1924 at Paphos, trained as a teacher and then as a barrister in London. He was a member of the Consultative Assembly in search of self-government in Cyprus and in 1957 played an important role in founding the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT) which resisted EOKA's campaign for the union of Cyprus with Greece. Paramilitary action against the Turks began in Cyprus in December 1963 after the achievement of independence by Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriots withdrew from government. When Turkish military forces invaded Cyprus in 1974, Rauf Denktash was elected President of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus in the north-eastern part of the island. When the The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed on 15 November 1983, he remained as President and occupied the post until 24 April 2005. Rauf Denktash was therefore a man of enormous importance to the Cypriots of Turkish origin and the issued miniature sheet is therefore of great interest and significance. The 60 kurus value from the sheet is depicted below.
Below are a number of illustrations of recent issues from Commonwealth states and philatelic entities in the Pacific Ocean area. Four of the values of the new 12 value "butterflies" definitive set issued by Niuafo'ou 20 April 2012 are depicted. These stamps are much too large to be practically usable without taking up a large proportion of the envelope or postcard to which they are applied. We saw the same thing happen when The Cook Islands issued its new definitive stamps on 14 September 2010 - they were replaced by much smaller stamps of the same design which were issued just 6 weeks after the first set - a great little dodge for extracting money from stamp collectors. I wouldn't be surprised if the same thing happened again with these Niuafo'ou stamps and no doubt they also be overprinted for use as official stamps. Time will tell. In all events they do represent the first stamp issue of the reign of Tonga's new king, King Tupou VI (see blog of 17 May 2012).
A rather surprising issue was released by Fiji on 23 January 2012 - a sheetlet of 4 identical stamps which commemorate the lunar new year, the Year of The Dragon.
Meanwhile, Pitcairn has produced four very attractive stamps and a miniature sheet which depict dolphins. I am not yet sure of the date of issue.
From Norfolk Island there are four self-adhesive stamps cut to the shape of the island. The theme is "iconic activities", what ever that may mean, and, unlike the new Niuafo'ou stamps they have the problem of being a little too small to be able to recognise what "iconic activity" is being depicted although one of the designs seems to involve gathering birds eggs. Presumably the bird is not an endangered species!

Saturday 19 May 2012

Commonwealth Royals Attend Jubilee Banquet.

As parties go, this was about the most exclusive there has ever been in history. Even if you were the most highly-paid Hollywood movie star or the world's richest internet billionaire or even the most powerful man in the world, you just could not get an invitation to it. It was the Diamond Jubilee Sovereign Monarchs Lunch held at Buckingham Palace and hosted by Queen Elizabeth II and her family on 18 May 2012. The above official photograph shows just who was there. Oh, the Queen Of Spain refused to go because of the dispute about Gibraltar (I would have thought that Spain had rather more important matters to worry about at present) but almost all the other monarchs of the world (or their representative) were there although I'm not quite sure what happened to the King Of Bhutan and The Sultan of Oman (I hope they didn't forget to invite them). For anyone interested the photograph features (front row, left to right) The Emperor of Japan, The Queen of The Netherlands, The Queen of Denmark, The King of The Hellenes, The King of Romania, Queen Elizabeth, The King of The Bulgarians, The Sultan of Brunei, The King of Sweden, The King of Swaziland and The Prince of Liechtenstein, (middle row, left to right) The Prince of Monaco, The Grand Duke of Luxembourg, The King of Lesotho, The King of The Belgians, The King of Norway, The Emir of Qatar, The King of Jordan, The King of Bahrain and The Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, (back row, left to right) The Emir of Kuwait's representative, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, The Crown Prince of Yugoslavia, The King of Tonga, the Crown Prince of Thailand, The Princess of Morocco and the representative of The King of Saudi Arabia. Thus apart from Queen Elizabeth herself, five Commonwealth monarchs were present at this memorable occasion. The King, or Yang di-Pertuan Agong, of Malaysia is a post to which the incumbant is elected for a period of 5 years by the Council of Rulers which is comprised of the various sultans and rajahs of the Malay states. The present king, Tuanku Abdul Halim, the Sultan of Kedah, is the only monarch to have occupied the Malaysian throne twice - firstly from 1970 to 1975 and again from 13 December 2011. His second installation as king took place on 11 April 2012 but I have not yet seen the stamps which would have been issued to commemorate the occasion. The set issued to mark his first installation in the royal post is illustrated below and was issued on 20 February 1971.
The Sultan of Brunei, Sir Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzadin Waddaulah, succeeded to the throne of Brunei on the death of his father, Sultan Sir Omar Ali Saifuddin Wasa'adul Kairi Wadin in 1967. His 65th birthday which occurred on 15 July 2011 was celebrated philatelically by a se-tenant strip of 6 stamps, a miniature sheet of the same 6 stamps and a 2nd miniature sheet sold for the astonishingly high price of $65 though, as the illustrations below show, you did get an equally astonishingly big stamp for your money.
While Brunei is one of the richest countries in the world, King Letsie III of Lesotho comes from one of the poorest. Lesotho has issued very few stamps in recent years. The King himself was depicted on a sheetlet of 4 stamps issued on 18 February 2000 to commemorate his wedding to Karabo Anne Motsoeneng (depicted below).
King Mswati III of Swaziland succeeded his father, King Sobhuza II, when he was a boy and since has been depicted on a number of stamps which have been issued by Swaziland. The two stamps depicted below are from a set of 9 stamps issued on 28 October 2008 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Swaziland's independence and the 40th birthday of King Mswati. The E1.05 value depicts King Mswati in traditional Swazi dress and the E3.95 value shows King Sobhuza II, also in traditional dress, at the independence celebrations.
The final Commonwealth monarch to attend the banquet was King Tupou VI of Tonga about whom I wrote in the last blog. We await stamps from Tonga and Niuafo'ou which depict that monarch.