Sunday 27 July 2014

443. British Wartime Occupations (II): Faroe Islands

  One of the great pleasures about collecting the stamps of the British Empire and The Commonwealth is that a totally eclectic collection can be put together often including items which have a logical place in the collection but which are not found, for instance, in the Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth Catalogue. The catalogue includes in its listings a number of issues for various territories occupied by British forces during or after a period of war. These were periods when the British effectively ruled or at least had the final say in the administration of the respective territories. Sometimes the British were responsible for the establishment of or the administration of the postal services in the territories during the period of, or part of the period of, their occupation.
  On 9 April 1940 German forces invaded Denmark and with the country occupied the British decided to occupy the Danish territory of The Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean to prevent the territory also falling into Axis hands. As a result, as part of Operation Valentine, 2 British destroyers sailed into the harbour of Torshavn, the Faroese capital, on 12 February 1940 and after the British commanders had met with local government representatives, the occupation of the islands was announced in the evening of the same day. The following day, HMS Suffolk arrived in the islands and 250 Marines were disembarked and despite a protest by the Faroese government, cordial relations between the 2 sides were maintained.
  The local inhabitants were able to exchange mail in the form of Red Cross letters with relatives in occupied Denmark via Britain and Switzerland and also via Portugal.
  The British armed forces in the islands established Field Post Offices for use by the troops. The FPOs had the numbers 219, 611 and 695 with their postmarks existing in various colours of ink.

   Throughout the period of the war, postal affairs in The Faroes continued to be regulated by the Danish Post Office which is why the occupation stamps of these islamds do not qualify to be included in Gibbons' Commonwealth Catalogue. When the British administration in Thorshavn heard that the Danish Post Office had increased its standard inland postal rate on 10 July 1940 from 15 to 20 ore it arranged for locally available Danish stamps to be surcharged to meet the local postal needs.
  The first surcharge appeared in November 1940 and was the 15 ore value with a 20 ore surcharge applied In black (see illustration at head of this piece). The surcharge was applied, one sheet at a time by HN Jacobsen, the local bookstore. 
  Further surcharges followed with a 50 ore on 5 ore value and 60 ore on 6 ore value being released in November 1940 (see above illustration) and then a new 20 ore surcharge (this time on a 5 ore value) in March 1941. A further 5 ore value (on 1ore) was released in May 1941:-

   When supplies of stamps dwindled Postage Paid - Franco Betalt - handstamps were applied to mail. No further new stamps were produced during the period of the British occupation although a second printing of the 20o on 1o, 5Oo on 5o and 60o on 6o was carried out in May 1941.
  After the defeat of Germany, British forces departed The Faroes in September 1945 and the occupation was over. The occupation had been broadly popular in the islands particularly when the alternative of a German occupation was considered and 150 marriages even took place between Faroese women and British soldiers during the period.
 On 19 September 2005, the Faroe Islands Postal Administration issued a pair of stamps which commemorated the 60th anniversary of the ending of the British occupation, calling the Issue "The Friendly Occupation". The stamps were printed by the Austrian State Printers in Vienna and depicted 2 scenes featuring British soldiers including a pleasant picture of British soldiers and Faroese children:-

   I have found it quite reasonable to add the 5 Faroese occupation stamps to my Commonwealth collection as they tell a less well known chapter in the story of the British Empire and Commonwealth even if the Post Office there was not set up by the British. I have even added the two 2005 Faroese stamps as an interesting footnote to my mini-collection.

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