Saturday 10 November 2012

175. Stamperija Latest.

The latest issues to be announced by the stamp production agency, Stamperija, add another 6 miniature sheets to this year's total printed with the name of Mozambique included on them. These items, said to have been issued on 28 February 2012, note "Rossica 2013" and depict traditional Russian eggs:-

Mozambique's total number of stamps for 2012 is now 298 stamps and 56 miniature sheets. Uganda's philatelic reputation is, er, enhanced by the  release of 9 sheetlets, each of 4 stamps and 9 related miniature sheets, on 8 November 2012 on the subject of endangered wildlife. The sub-themes within the issues are the cheetah (4 stamps and 1 m.s.), the secretary bird (4 stamps and 1 m.s.), birds of prey (4 stamps and 1 m.s.), lions (8 stamps and 2 m.s),  chimpanzees (4 stamps and 1 m.s.) and elephants (8 stamps and 2 m.s.):-

In addition to the above is a set marking "co-operation with the WWF" (World Wide Fund For Nature). This set also portrays the secretary bird and comes in an extraordinary array of formats as depicted below (sheetlets of 16, perforate and imperforate, miniature sheets of 4, also perforate and imperforate, a miniature sheet with a single stamp and miniature sheets of 8 stamps, again in perforate and imperforate format:-

The total number of Uganda stamps for 2012 now amounts to 150 stamps and 31 miniature sheets which looks excessive except when you compare it with the productions of Royal Mail during 2012 which now amount to approximately 197 stamps and 72 miniature sheets. Hmm....Royal Mail makes Stamperija look positively conservative in its new issue production rate. That will give collectors of British stamps something to think about.

174. Papua New Guinea Diamond Jubilee Stamps.

Papua New Guinea released a set of 6 stamps and 1 miniature sheet on 7 November 2012 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Papua New Guinea, as well as the royal visit of the heir to the throne of Papua New Queen, The Prince Of Wales and his second wife, The Duchess of Cornwall. It is an excellent set, the designs being a mixture of portraits of its royal visitors and of The Queen herself. It is interesting to have a set which includes a portrait of The Duchess of Cornwall as she has featured on very few stamps in the past. Her dignified and friendly personality when out among people while carrying out her duties makes her a deserving person to feature on the stamps of The Commonwealth. The 25t value features the Prince and the Duchess while the 50t depicts a portrait of Prince Charles in uniform; the latter design shows just how much he resembles his father, The Duke Of Edinburgh, who indeed appears with the Queen and the Prince and Duchess on the K1 value:-

The Prince is depicted in naval uniform on the K1.20 value and the Queen and her son appear together on the K6 value. The K8 value depicts Queen Elizabeth and The Duke Of Edinburgh. All the stamps include the Machin head of the Queen which appears on British stamps in  their designs.

The Machin head also appears to the left of a K10 value which is part of the miniature sheet:-

Interestingly, the miniature sheet also depicts in its lower border a gallery of portraits of the Governors General of Papua New Guinea from independence up to the present day. These people were the Queen's representatives in PNG. Again, it is very interesting to see them depicted on a philatelic item.
 The activities of Royal Mail continue to boggle the mind. On 23 October 2012, a single definitive-sized stamp was issued using an old design which depicts poppies to coincide with the run-up to Remembrance Day on 11 November. Very good, and quite tolerable for collectors as the face value is only 60p. The main problem with the issue is that I have not yet been able to find a post office that sells them, many of the post offices I have visited had not even heard about them. I thought I would therefore order my copy from the Royal Mail Philatelic Bureau in Edinburgh by buying it through its website. Having finally managed successfully to find the issue on the almost impenetrable philatelic bureau site, I discovered that the bureau was not offering the stamp for sale as a single stamp but only as a complete sheet at a cost of £30! Are they mad? Are collectors mad to continue to buy anything from them? I think the answer to both questions is yes. I will certainly not be sending the philatelic bureau £30. They have managed to extract over £20 from me for the Christmas issue in the last couple of days (issued 6 November and comprising 7 self-adhesive stamps, 1 gummed miniature sheet containing all 7 stamps, 1x12x2nd class booklet and 1x12x1st class booklet) and would no doubt have dragged a vastly greater amount of money from me if over the years I had not given up collecting first day covers, presentation packs, PHQ cards, Smilers sheets and so on.

"Lest We Forget" definitive-sized stamps.

Royal Mail Christmas 2012 miniature sheet.

Saturday 3 November 2012

173. Commonwealth New Issues.

Recent Commonwealth new issues include an interesting item from Ghana which features the late President of the country, John Atta-Mills, meeting the President of the USA when the latter visited Ghana on 11 July 2011. The miniature sheet was issued on 1 October 2012. President Atta-Mills died in office on 12 July 2012 from a stroke whilst suffering from throat cancer at the age of 68. He had been President of Ghana since 7 January 2009, succeeding John Agyekum Kufuor, having won a presidential election as the candidate of the National Democratic Congress party. Prior to his life in politics, he had been a law professor. He was succeeded by the former Vice President, John Dramani Mahama.

Ghana's sheetlet of 5 stamps depicting primates was issued on 13 September 2012:-

St. Kitts recently issued a number of sets on 1 October 2012:- Caribbean game fish (6 stamps and 1 miniature sheet), "Elvis Presley - That's The Way It Is" (2 min. sheets), 15th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess Of Wales (1 stamp and 1 m.s.), Caribbean parrots (4 stamps and 1 m.s.), Abraham Lincoln commemoration (3 stamps and 1 m.s.) and Shells (4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet). I shall not include any of these in my collection since they have no direct local relevance to St. Kitts (one or two, admittedly, may have a tangental relevance but that is not good enough in these days of excessive issuing). I shall, however, add the set of 5, sheetlet of 4 and 1 miniature sheet (previously illustrated) which was also issued on 1 October 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen of St. Kitts-Nevis, Elizabeth II:-

Nevis has also now issued a sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee but I do not yet know its date of issue. There is also a sheetlet of 4 identical stamps and 1 m.s. to commemorate the birth bicentenary of Charles Dickens and a sheetlet of 4 different stamps and 1 miniature sheet which commemorate the writer JM Barrie and his character Peter Pan.
Guyana recent issues are :- 23 October 2012:- South American wildlife (3 stamps and 1 m.s.), shells of the Caribbean (10 stamps and 2 m.s.), the evolution of dogs (8 stamps and 1 m.s.), dolphins (6 stamps and 2 m.s.), whales (3 stamps and 1 m.s.); 29 October 2012:- orchids of South America (4 stamps and 1 m.s.), birth quincentenary of the artist Michelangelo 3 stamps and 1 m.s.), 15th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess Of Wales (8 stamps); date not yet known:- Chinese zodiac calendar (2 stamps).
Grenada:- issue date not yet known:- Papal visit to Cuba (4 stamps and 1 m.s.), Chinese zodiac calendar (2 stamps).
Antigua And Barbuda:- 24 September 2012:- Caribbean sea horses (sheetlet of 5 stamps), issue date not yet known:- Christmas (6 stamps), the War of 1812 (6 stamps and 1 m.s.).
The Gambia:- 2 February 2012:- consecration of Rt. Rev. Hannah Faal-Heim, first Gambian Methodist Bishop and first woman bishop in West Africa (4 m.s.) (this issue has previously been mentioned but date of issue is now given); date not yet known:- Christmas (5 stamps and 1 m.s.).
Sierra Leone:- date of issue not yet known:- Chinese zodiac calendar (2 stamps).
Guernsey:- 27 September 2012:- 20th anniversary of Floral Guernsey (6 stamps and 1 m.s.):-

31 October 2012:- Christmas (7 stamps):-

Guernsey (inscribed "Alderney"):- Alderney harbour (6 stamps and 1 miniature sheet):-

31 October 2012:- Christmas (7 stamps):-

Thursday 1 November 2012

No. 172. France To Join The Commonwealth?

One of my all-time favourite Commonwealth philatelic items is the above final essay to be found in the British Postal Museum collection and reproduced as a PHQ-style postcard some years ago by the Postal Museum. It depicts a proposed stamp that was to have been issued at a time when an extraordinary event may have occured - nothing less than the union of Great Britain with France. With the conflict with Hitler's Germany underway in December 1939, Jean Monnet of the French Economic Mission in London hoped for a United States of Europe after the end of the war and as a prelude to that, held talks with Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, and other senior British figures of the time about his idea. By June 1940, the government of Paul Reynard in France was close to defeat at the hands of the Germans and on 15 June the French cabinet voted to seek the terms of an armistice from Germany although in the previous March, they and the British government had agreed that neither would seek a separate peace. the British opposed a French surrender particularly as the Germans might take hold of the French navy as a result.  Wishing to keep Reynard in power in France as he supported the French continuation of the war, British officials joined with Monnet in producing a draft proposal for a "Franco-British Union" hoping that this would give power to Reynard which would help him to persuade his colleagues to continue the war from north Africa. On 16 June 1940 Charles De Gaulle, who supported Reynaud, travelled to London and convinced Winston Churchill, the new British prime minister, that a dramatic gesture was needed to support Reynaud and he was able to phone Paris to say that Churchill proposed a union between the 2 countries which Reynaud accepted. A document was produced which proclaimed that there should be a joint citizenship, a joint currency, joint war cabinet and military command and joint foreign trade. The British War Cabinet approved a "Declaration Of Union" which said that "France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations but one Franco-British Union. The constitution of the Union will provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial and economic policies. Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain, every British subject will become a citizen of France".  Reynaud, De Gaulle and Churchill arranged a joint meeting of the 2 governments for the following day in Concarneau but the rest of the French cabinet was not convinced, believing the Union to be a British attempt to gain control of French colonies and that it was better to "be a Nazi province than a British dominion". Petain, an opponent of Reynaud said that the Union would be "fusion with a corpse" and although the French president, Albert Lebrun, supported Reynaud, the prime minister resigned that evening, Petain formed a new government which immediately asked the Germans for armistice terms and the British cancelled their plans to travel to Concarneau. If the French cabinet had supported Reynaud in agreeing to union with Britain, then Europe would be very different now and The Commonwealth would not only have The Franco-British Union as a member but also the many former French colonies which are now independent and therefore more stamps for the Commonwealth collector to include in their collection. The first stamp issue of the Union would have been the item depicted above. In fact the idea for a joint Anglo-French stamp issue to emphasise the 2 nations' war-time co-operation dated from the early days of the war. The French Minister of Posts and the British Postmaster-General began correspondence on the production of such an issue in January 1940 and by mid-February, King George VI had given his approval. The French Post Office commissioned Henri Cheffer to design a joint stamp while the British Post Office chose Edmund Dulac, the great French-born designer, to work on the design. The postal administrations chose the work of Cheffer:-

but Dulac altered the design to make it suitable for photogravure printing which was used by Harrison and Sons Ltd. for British stamps whilst the French generally used letterpress or intaglio. The design featured King George VI and President Lebrun and was ready in its final form by May 1940 with the intention to release it on 2 September 1940. With Petain's request for an armistice on 17 June, all work on the production of the stamp came to an end. The rest is history. 
 But with the Suez Crisis in 1956 and joint British and French action against the Egyptian regime of Gamel Abdul Nasser, a second opportunity for Anglo-French union occurred. The French prime minister, Guy Mollet, met the British leader, Anthony Eden, in London on 10 September 1956 where he proposed that, in the face of the crisis, a union between The United Kingdom and France be established. Eden turned down the suggestion but when Eden later visited Paris, Guy Mollet requested that France be allowed to join what was then The British Commonwealth. A document of 28 September 1956 indicated that Eden responded in an enthusiastic way to the request especially as Mollet appeared to have no objection to recognising Queen Elizabeth II as Head of The Commonwealth and was prepared to accept common citizenship along the lines of the Irish model. However, the proposals came to nothing, the allies were forced to withdraw from Egypt and in the following year, France joined five other European nations in founding the European Economic Community. Unlike the 1940 events, there were no philatelic consequences of the proposed French Commonwealth membership in 1956. 
 Although political union between Britain and France never occured, geographical union did take place with the opening of the joint Franco-British built Channel Tunnel in 1994. There was finally a joint Franco-British stamp issue to celebrate the event with each country releasing 4 stamps each in two common designs, one design by the British designer, George Hardie, and one by the Frenchman, Jean-Paul Cousin. The British set was issued on 3 May 1994 and printed in photogravure by Harrison and Sons Ltd., just as the issue of 1940 would have been if it had ever been released.

A further British stamp to note the Channel Tunnel was issued in a miniature sheet of 4 different stamps which was released on 2 February 2012 which was part of the final set of stamps which depicted British monarchs. 

Although the question in the title of this blog is now rather silly, things were very different in 1940 and 1956 which may have resulted in we Commonwealth stamp collectors now having French stamps also in our collection.