Sunday 31 March 2013

222. New Indian Stamps.

The Indian Post Office philatelic website includes an excellent "catalogue" of all stamps issued since independence and is complete until the end of 2012 which is very useful in finding dates of issue of more recent stamps. I see that the National Mathematics Day issue that I mentioned in my last blog is listed in the "catalogue" and that the date of issue was 22 December 2012. There was only one further issue in 2012 after that - the attractive pair of stamps and miniature sheet depicted below which featured  lighthouses of India (released 23 December 2012):-

The website also details the issues planned for 2013 and the first stamps of the year are listed here:-
1. 3 January: Indian Science Congress Association (1st stamp from left below); 2. 7 January: Post Graduate Medical Education and Research Institute, Chandigarh (2nd stamp from left below) and 3. 8 January: Centenary of the Ghadar Party (right hand illustration below):-

4. (not listed and exact date of issue not yet known): Adilya Vikram Birla (left hand stamp below); 5. 8 January: 125th anniversary of the Uttar Pradesh Legislature (2nd from left below); 6. 11 January: the Silk Letter Movement (2nd from right below) and 7. 13 January: C. Achyutha Menon (right hand stamp below):-

8. 12 January: 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda (set of 4 stamps depicted below):-

Issues awaited are:- 9. 22 January: the Shrine of the Basilica Vailankanni; 10. 2 March: 3 Para Regiment of the Indian Army; 11. 7 March: OTA,  Chennai ("Defence issue"); 12. 8 March: Sahir Ludhianvi; 13. 16 March: Malayala Manorama; 14. 17 March: Jhulelal; 15. 22 March: Shivram Hari Rajguru; 16. 5 April: Post Office buildings including the centenary of Mumbai GPO Building; 17. 9 April: Peerjada Ghulam Ahmed Mehjoor; 18. 14 April: Chaitya Bhoomi; 19. 30 April: Hari Singh Nalwa; 20. ?April: Headgears of India; 21. ?April Stepwells of India; 22. 3 May: Centenary of Indian cinema; 23. 18 May: Dr. Nilratan Sircar; 24. 30 May: Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex, Shimla; 25. ?May: the Wild ass of Kutch and Ledakh; 26. ?June: Flora and fauna of India; 27. ?June: Traditional hand fans of India; 28. 13 July: The Delhi Gymkhana Club; 29. 21 July: Indian musicians (8 stamps) and 30. ?July: Indian Archaeological Heritage.

Friday 29 March 2013

221. Dr Who First Day Cover, Diego Garcia And Aldabra.

It's a fact that most commercially produced first day covers in present times are not exactly what they claim to be, certainly here in Britain at any rate. The stamps are usually made available to the first day cover prodcers some time before the announced day of issue so that they can prepare their products and then deliver them to Royal Mail so that the special first day postmarks can be applied to the covers, not necessarily on the precise day of issue. The postmarks are applied to the covers at regional postmarking centres which are not necessarily in the same geographical locations as named on the commemorative postmarks. Sometimes, extraordinarily, the postmarks suggest that the covers were cancelled at post offices in villages or towns that do not even have a post office or have once have had one which has now been closed. Many such covers are extremely attractive, almost works of art, but also frequently remarkably expensive and as postal items they are actually a nonsense. I gave up collecting first day covers in 2000 but when I visited my local sub-post office, West Heath - a tiny suburb on the outskirts of Birmingham - on 26 March 2013 and saw how attractive the new Dr. Who stamps appeared to be, I could not resist buying a set and putting them on a large envelope and sending them by special delivery to myself. By so doing, the cover was cancelled by the kind and helpful counter clerk with beautifully positioned and clear, neat local cancellations and I could be sure that this was a genuine first day cover with stamps bought from the post office on the date of issue and posted on the same day.

I recently received the latest India stamps from a dealer from whom I regularly buy new issues and included in them was a single stamp which commemorates "National Mathematics Day". On close examination of the stamp I see that the date imprinted at the lower left corner is "2010". I have not previously been aware of that issue having been released in 2010 so I wonder if this is an issue which was due to appear then but did not for some reason or if this is an issue from 2010 which has only just appeared on the retail market or if the imprint date is simply a design error. If anyone who reads this knows the correct answer, I should be delighted if they would let me know in the comment section at the end of the blog.

I could not resist featuring another recent dog issue from a Commonwealth post office particularly as it includes an illustration of a labrador retriever to add to my labrador collection. Sad to say, the art work on the stamp which has been produced on behalf of Sierra Leone, is rather poor and the featured labrador would be somewhat difficult to identify as an example of that breed without being told of its identity. It certainly would not win "Best of Breed" at Cruft's Dog Show:-

A labrador retriever or so we are told.

I have recently mentioned the set of 4 stamps and 1 miniature sheet which were issued by Australia Post with the inscription "Australian Antarctic Territory" on 12 March 2013 and I now illustrate the miniature sheet which is interesting and attractive:-

I return to the subject of my home-produced covers. In blog 210 I described the covers I obtained by sending stamped envelopes addressed to myself to the Forces post offices in Akrotiri and Dhekelia, the British Dependent Territory in southern Cyprus. At the same time, as I have a particular interest in the stamps of the Indian Ocean area, I sent a similar item to BFPO 485 (Naval Party NP1002 in Diego Garcia) at post code BF1 4TG. After a couple of months I received the item illustrated below which I find to be very interesting. It does not have a BFPO cancellation and indeed the British definitive applied to it remains uncancelled but an oblong-shaped cachet in red has been applied to the bottom right-hand corner which says "BIOT POST OFFICE DIEGO GARCIA" and is dated 12 MAR 2013. I'm guessing that the cover must have been passed on to the civilian BIOT post office which applied the cachet very neatly to the cover and then returned the cover to me, the journey apparently taking 15 days from the time of cancellation till it dropped through my letter box although its adventures had not yet ended since my dog (a labrador of course) raced to the door at the sound of the postman's arrival and seized the cover and took a small bite out of the top of the envelope though the damage was minimal fortunately.

entire cover
cachet applied to cover.
Of course the island of Diego Garcia is the sole raison d'etre of The British Indian Ocean Territory used, as it is, as an enormously important and strategic United States Air Force base. The Territory was established on 8 November 1965 by grouping various fairly isolated Indian Ocean islands which had previously been administered by the British colonial authorities in Mauritius and Seychelles in a separate colony so that the most significant island, Aldabra, could be developed as a strategically important military base. Aldabra was viewed as an ecologically important site and eventually it was decided not to use that atoll as the place where the new base would be built and it and other islands which included Desroches and Farquhar were returned to Seychelles when the country gained its independence in 1976. However, the Chagos archipelago remained part of the BIOT and the main island of the group, Diego Garcia, was developed into the military base instead of Aldabra. The human inhabitants of The Chagos were less fortunate than the giant tortoises and rare birds of Aldabra since they were forcibly evicted by the British from their homes on the islands and exiled to Mauritius in one of the most shameful acts of modern British history. The islanders, known as the Ilois, have since attempted through the British legal system to be allowed back to their island homes but even English Law has let them down and they remain exiles. Meanwhile Diego Garcia continues to exist as an American base. In my blog of 9 July 2010 I illustrate a cachet and a postmark in use at Diego Garcia then and I also have in my collection a cover with a 15c value stamp from the 1968 definitive series which is cancelled by a black circular date stamp inscribed "DIEGO GARCIA. CHAGOS B.I.O.T." and dated 28 FE 1969:-

Cover from Diego Garcia 28 February 1969.

Diego Garcia postmark 28 February 1969.

I also have a few covers from Aldabra where the Aldabra drongos and white-throated rails are flourishing having been spared the destruction of their habitat that the unfortunate Ilois suffered in Diego Garcia. I have a pair of registered covers which between them bear a complete set of the 1968 definitive set of Seychelles stamps overprinted "B.I.O.T." and which are postmarked with a black "ALDABRA ISLAND B.I.O.T." circular date stamp and dated "* DE 1 68". The significance of the date on the postmark is that it was the first day that the set of stamps was sold on Aldabra Island (a local first day of issue although the Crown Agents had released the stamps on 15 January 1968 and Stanley Gibbons gives the local first day of issue in the BIOT as being 17 January 1968, presumably on one of the other islands). The cover with the high values of the set is depicted below:-

RS10 stamp with Aldabra Island cancellation.

Aldabra Island cds 1968.

The Lindblad Explorer was a small cruise ship active in the Seychelles area in the early 1970's having made its inaugural Indian Ocean cruise in April 1970 with cruises continuing until November 1970 and then being repeated during 1971.  The tours commenced in Mombasa and after 2 days spent at sea calls were then made at Mahe, La Digue, Praslin, Cousin, Desroches, Ile Des Nouefs, Farquhar, Aldabra, Grand Comore and then, after a further day at sea, the ship returned to Mombasa. The cover illustrated below relates to a cruise in late 1971 and bears 4 of the definitives of the set issued by BIOT on 23 October 1968 which been designed by Gordon Drummond from artwork made by Mrs. W. Veevers-Carter,  a British woman who lived for a while on one of the Seychelles islands, Remire or Eagle Island:-

The stamps themselves are cancelled by the Aldabra Island circular date stamp and dated 18 NO 71:-

and other markings on the cover include a blue circular mark inscribed "LINDBLAD EXPLORER. INDIAN OCEAN CRUISE" with the Mombasa Paquebot cancellation in black and dated 24 NO 71:-

Another cruise ship of note in Aldabra's postal history was The M.V. World Discoverer which visited Aldabra four times during 1991. I was lucky to be aboard the ship during its first cruise of that year and was delighted to be told that the ship was carrying a cancel sent out from Mahe by the Seychelles Post Office which was to be applied to any mail leaving the island. The mark was applied as a cachet to the cover rather than directly on to the stamps and since I was on the scene of the inauguration of this cancel I prepared some covers for myself and asked the local "postmaster" (actually one of the 8 temporary residents of the island who fulfilled that role secondary to his job of working at the island's meteorological station) to arrange for my covers to be sent to my home in England through the post. Not surprisingly, there was no building on the island which was designated as the local post office. The covers were despatched from Aldabra on 21 April 1991 with the special cancellation, diameter 34mm,  applied in blue ink - it reads "ALDABRA SEYCHELLES WORLD HERITAGE SITE" - and were apparently returned to Victoria via Mombasa by the 2 immigration officials who must have travelled with the World Discoverer to Aldabra with the purpose of dealing with the tourists and crew on board when they arrived at the island. At Victoria the stamps on the covers were cancelled by contemporary "CENTRAL POST OFFICE VICTORIA MAHE SEYCHELLES" and dated "07.05.91", having therefore taken 17 days to arrive at the Seychelles capital for sending on to Britain. To the best of my knowledge, no-one else aboard the World Discoverer sent any mail from Aldabra on that occasion so I am rather pleased to have some unique items in my collection:-
Aldabra cover April 1991.

Central Post Office Victoria cancellation 1991.

Aldabra World Heritage Site cachet, first used April 1991.
The Settlement, Aldabra Island 1991.
I think that some of the above items illustrate that it is possible to thoroughly enjoy the hobby of stamp collecting without feeling the need to spend large amounts of money on expensive new stamp issues and being a slave to the whims and prejudices of stamp catalogue editors. We can collect what we like and if we are inventive in our approach to our hobby we can ourselves create items which are of far more interest than some that are commercially available.
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Saturday 23 March 2013

220. Heroic Canadians Resist US Occupation.

On 20 June 2013, Canada will release its second stamp issue which commemorates the bicentenary of the War of 1812. In the blog of 17 March 2012, I described the first issue of the series and we arrived at the point where the invading Americans had been defeated at the Battle of Queenston Heights although the battle ended with the tragic death of General Brock, the British commander. The Canada Post information released with the announcement of the second issue draws attention to the continuing American invasion and occupation of the Niagara Peninsula during the second year of the war. The Americans billeted themselves in the houses of the local population and mistreated and robbed the Canadians which was not the best way to win over the locals to their anti-British cause. One of the new stamps features Laura Secord who, on the evening of 21 June 1813, learned of a secret plan of the Americans to attack the British, Canadian and First Nation forces who were together fighting the American occupiers. She set out to travel 30 kilometres to warn the Allied forces of the treacherous plan and after an arduous journey through fields, ditches and underbrush arrived at the encampment of the First Nation warriors who took her to meet the British Lieutenant FitzGibbon and with the information Laura had so bravely brought to them, the Allies were able to attack and defeat the Americans at the Battle of Beaver Dams.
  A few months later, Canada faced another American invasion from 21 to 23 October 1813, as 4000 invaders swarmed across the border near Montreal. Forces under the command of Lt. Col. Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry, although outnumbered, prepared defences to meet the invaders from  America near Allen's Corner, Quebec. De Salaberry is featured on the second of the stamps to be issued this year. As the battle got underway, de Salaberry took advantage of confusion in the Americans' ranks and instructed his soldiers to begin making a chorus of calls and shouts which suggested to the befuddled Americans that they were facing a much larger Allied force and led to their rapid withdrawal from the field of battle. Thus another notable victory was achieved by the Canadians over the invaders.
  The two heroic Canadians featured in this set are portrayed by the artist Susan Scott who was also responsible for the designs of the 2012 set. I will continue this exciting story when Canada issues its third series of War of 1812 commemoratives, though presumably that will not be until 2014.

Friday 22 March 2013

219. Even More Dogs (And Cats And A Parrot).

The current profusion of dog-themed stamps I have described in recent blogs is added to by two further issues from Commonwealth countries - Canada and Solomon Islands. On 22 April 2013, Canada will issue 5 self-adhesive stamps from a booklet and 1 gummed miniature sheet to promote the adoption of a pet - 2 of the values depict dogs, 2 depict cats and 1 portrays a parrot. They are certainly very attractive stamps and the appealing look of the animals may well persuade a few Canadians to adopt a pet.

"Will you find me a home?"

1 of the 2 cat stamps

Who's a pretty boy then?

The miniature sheet.

Other upcoming issues from Canada include one "P" self-adhesive stamp issued in a booklet of 10 stamps  on 9 April 2013 which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Prince Of Wales' Own Regiment; on 1 May 2013, 8  different "P" self-adhesive stamps in booklets of 8 plus a gummed miniature sheet which depict Gates to various Chinatowns in Canada, and on 8 May 2013, 1 self-adhesive "P" stamp from a booklet of 10 which commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II:-

There are also the following:- one self-adhesive "P" stamp from booklets of 10 which commemorates the centenary of "Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada", an organisation which provides mentors for vulnerable children, to be issued on 14 May 2013; on 10 June 2013 one self-adhesive "P" stamp from booklets of 10 which commemorates the 250th anniversary of the appointment of Hugh Finlay as the first postmaster-general at Quebec and on 5 June 2013 two self-adhesive "P" stamps from booklets of 10 plus a gummed miniature sheet which feature motor cycles:-


Meanwhile Stamperija has produced a sheetlet of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet with the name of Solomon Islands printed on them which feature "Domestic dogs of the Pacific islands" (depicted above and below). The date that these are said to have been issued is 15 February 2013 and on the same day another 44 stamps and 11 miniature sheets were also "issued" as part of a general issues part II set (Part 1 [44 stamps and 11 miniature sheets] and a WWF set [4 stamps and 2 miniature sheets] were also "issued" on the same day). The part II issue set also included a sheetlet of 4 stamps and 1 m.s. each on the themes of Diana, Princess Of Wales (when will the philatelic exploitation of that unfortunate woman's memory come to an end?); corals part II; birds of Solomon Islands part II; football; Solomon Islands rugby players; steam trains, the Asia Pacific Scout Region; 180th birth anniversary of Edouard Monet, French artist; the history of chess; John Glenn, US astronaut and marine life of The Solomon Islands. So, by mid-February 2013 Solomon Islands had had a total of 96 stamps and 25 miniature sheets produced with the country's name on it (by then Australia Post, including Christmas Island, had only managed to issue 45 stamps and 4 miniature sheets and Royal Mail (by 22 February) a total of 52 stamps and 1 m.s. and 4 booklets). If these "stamps" are actually sold at post office counters in Solomon Islands, what must the locals think?

218. New British Definitives And More Akrotiri.

Royal Mail is not altering its first and second class domestic postal rates this year although there are a number of alterations on other rates and there are to be 5 new definitive stamps released on 27 March 2013 as a result (rates are altered on 2 April). The rate for worldwide Airmail is altered from 87p to 88p but the £1.90p rate for a worldwide 40g letter is reduced to £1.88p (see illustration below). Two additional stamps are also issued for ordinary-sized and large 1st class postage which is to be signed for (respectively £1.55 rising to £1.70 on 2 April and £1.85 rising to £2.00 on 2 April):-

All 5 stamps are printed in photogravure by De La Rue Security Print and perforated 15 x 14 or, in the case of the Large Signed For stamp, perf. 14.

Life is not so simple with Royal Mail as all that - there are also to be 4 new regional stamps in the 88p rate for England, Scotland (possibly one of the last to be issued by Royal Mail if Scotland becomes an independent country in 2016), Wales and Northern Ireland. These stamps are lithographed by Cartor and perforated 15 x 14:-

The ongoing British Postal Museum Post And Go series has been added to by the production of 6 new stamps using the Union Jack design (the 3 highest values are depicted here). The stamps were first available from the Hytech machine at the museum on 21 February 2013:-

I also depict the 2 second class postage Post and Go stamps, printed by Walsall Security Printers, which were released on 20 February 2013. These will become available in machines in post offices across Britain during the course of the summer of 2013:-

I return to Blog 210 which was on the subject of the British Dependency of Akrotiri And Dhekelia so that I can depict 2 more covers which I have recently obtained. The first illustrations show a cover from RAF Akrotiri Station (BFPO 53) dated 1 June 1957 which was 3 years before the establishment of the United Kingdom Sovereign Bases in Cyprus which occurred when Cyprus became an independent country. The cancel, on a contemporary British twopence halfpenny Wilding definitive, consists of wavy lines and a square box in 2 lines which reads "FIELD POST OFFICE 3" with the date "1 JUN 57".

The second cover is also from BFPO 53, a few years after the establishment of The Sovereign Bases. Note that the postal rate has by then been increased to 3d and the cancellation now reads "FIELD POST OFFICE 113" with the date "17 De 63" inside the inner circle. Hence the second cover dates from 3 years after the establishment of The Sovereign Bases:-

The cover is addressed to "Family Favourites" at Broadcasting House in London. I vaguely remember from my childhood that Family Favourites was a popular BBC radio show of the time which often broadcast messages and music requests from military personnel serving abroad for their loved ones back home. An interesting little piece of social history particularly as the BBC is just this week closing down Broadcasting House and moving to a new building.

Thursday 21 March 2013

217. New Universal Mail UK Stamps And New Zealand Post.

Universal Mail United Kingdom has recently released 3 new booklets, each containing 5 different self-adhesive stamps for use on postcards sent abroad with special regard to the tourist market. All three are in the "bespoke" design group and feature popular tourism sights and depicted above is Booklet no. UK0070 which is dated 11/12 which presumably suggests that it was released in November 2012. The designs feature scenes and artifacts of the Roman baths in Bath in west England. Interestingly, although all 3 booklets depict English subjects, the flag included in the design is the Union Jack rather than St. George's Cross. The photograph on the 4th stamp from the top has previously been used on a stamp in Booklet UK0046  06/12 but on that occasion the stamp design depicted the St. George's Cross flag rather than the Union Jack and the inscription read "Roman Baths" rather than "The Roman Baths, Bath" which appears on the most recent issue. Bath's Roman baths were also featured in one of the first booklets issued (UK0011 05/09) but the single stamp in the booklet which was inscribed "South West England Souvenir Stamps" depicted a different picture of the baths. 
  UK0069 is dated 12/12 and all 5 designs feature "Saxon Tower Oxford" with the inscription on the front of the booklet reading "Oldest Building in Oxford Saxon Tower of St Michael at the North Gate" which is about as self-explanatory as it needs to be. A booklet has previously been issued dedicated to the city of Oxford (UK0040 06/12)  but the designs centred on various buildings of Oxford University;- Bridge of Sighs, Christ Church College, Radcliffe Camera, All Souls College and Magdelen College and the flag depicted on those designs was St. George's Cross. The All Souls College design also appeared on one stamp in booklet UK0012 05/09 but the flag featured on that occasion was the Union Jack.

Booklet UK0071 1/13 depicts tableaux of historic events which occurred in London which are found in  The London Dungeon, a tourist sight on the London South bank. Each stamp bears the inscription "Fear Is A Funny Thing", which must mean something to the person who came up with it but is rather lost on me apart from reminding me what an unpleasant place London is now. I guess that the top design features an actor playing William Shakespeare since it depicts a man, probably in Elizabethan dress, holding a pen quill (of course Shakespeare originated from the English Midlands rather than London) and the second from the top clearly depicts Guy Fawkes who, with other conspirators (again largely from the English Midlands), attempted to blow up King James I and Parliament. The 4th design from the top seems to depict the notorious murderer Jack The Ripper (whose identity remains unknown so that we can not say if he too originated in the English Midlands) and the stamp at the bottom of the strip clearly depicts Sweeney Todd, another murderer, which again seems to emphasise that not only is London a pretty horrible place now but it always seems to have been the same. I'm not sure that the depiction of murderers on stamps helps the tourist industry very much:-

Leaving murderers aside, and travelling to other side of The Commonwealth, a recent issue from New Zealand is rather less menacing. A set of 5 stamps and a miniature sheet were issued on 13 March 2013 which depict scenes from the books of Margaret Mahy, a local writer of books for children:-
However, the next issue from New Zealand will have a military subject: the service of New Zealand forces abroad. The issue which will be released on 10 April will consist of 6 stamps and one of those "miniature sheet" booklets which New Zealand Post produces almost annually and which consists of 6 different miniature sheets, each one centred around one of the individual stamps plus a 7th pane which combines all 6 stamps. Publicity emphasises that the "miniature sheets" will only be obtainable by buying them in the booklet format, the cost being NZ$19.90.

Finally, New Zealand Post has also produced the first issue of the year from Niue which is also to be released on 10 April 2013. The issue consists of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet and depicts local butterflies and seems to continue the trend established by New Zealand Post when they took over responsibility for the stamps of Niue of producing reasonably attractive but wholly unexciting designs. Still, at least New Zealand Post spared the the island the philatelic fate of some of the other Commonwealth territories in the Pacific area:-