2019 News

Text Box: Henley and District Philatelic Society

 Chairman’s Evening on 11th December 2019

12 of us gathered at Bix for the annual Chairman’s Evening. David has been buying stamps at auctions since he was a young man. So he has a vast collection, largely in the form of loose-leaf sheets of hinged stamps, albeit with some of the scarcest stamps (e.g. Canadian $2 and $4 1897 Jubilee) inseparable in Imperial albums. Meanwhile his thousands of loose sheets
show stamps almost entirely in fine condition (with any defects in rare specimens noted);
includes a great deal of apparent duplication – but these show wide variations in colours, shades, overprints and postmarks;
and are separated and indicated as to different watermarks, perforations, types of paper, etc.

On this occasion David selected 144 sheets (say 5000 stamps) from five countries.

Victorian Canada stamps started from a wide selection of the 1857 Canada colony perforates, including some in dual (peeny, cent) currencies because the Canadian dollar floated down from the US one). These were followed by large and small head stamps, the 1897 Jubilee issue and all the colour varieties of the admirable 1898 Christmas stamp.

Egyptian postage stamps started in 1866 with an issue whose values were only described in Arabic wording and could not be deciphered by, e.g. British, postal clerks. So they were replaced the next year by the first of several Sphinx and Pyramid issues. Following the 1914 pictorial definitives there was a profusion of mainly large and attractive commemorative and airmail stamps (including one wth the 1931 Graf Zeppelin overprint).

Sudan’s first issue was the current Egyptian set overprinted SOUDAN (which we were told were often forgeries). These were followed by copious Camel Postman stamps (apparently on the order of General Kitchener) and then many more definitive or commemorative sets.

Palestine and Iraq were both British protectorates arising out of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Palestine stamps appeared first under the guise of EEF – the (British) Egyptian Expeditionary Force. These were soon followed by the 1927 pictorial issue which continued in use for two decades until the formation of Israel and Jordan. Iraqi stamps were first the large Ottoman pictorials overprinted IRAQ IN BRITISH OCCUPATION and surcharged in Indian currency. Then followed Iraq’s own stamps showing Kings Faisal I, Ghazi and the infant Faisal II from 1942 (crowned in 1953). The Iraq display concluded with a sheet of rare stamps including a ‘double toghra’.

A very enjoyable evening was made all the more convivial by a selection of scrumptious food and drink provided by David, Clare, Anne and others. 

Visit to Henley & District Philatelic Society
by Wayne Cox

27 November  2019

Victorian Letter Boxes

12 members welcomed Wayne Cox to Bix. His display comprised a commentary on a comprehensive collation of postcards, photos, stamps and covers concerning the development of pillar and wall letter boxes in Great Britain in Victorian days. 

Previously letters were handed in at post offices or other mail handling centres like coaching inns. Postage rates were complex and high and had to be paid by the recipient. There may have been some more familiar letter-receiving boxes; one is known at Wakefield cast in 1809 and perhaps there were earlier, probably unofficial, versions. Those of the pillar type were believed to be in use in continental Europe some years before those produced in Britain.

When the universal 1d and 2d post was introduced, posting letters became much more practicable for ordinary people and, with the advent in 1840 of prepaid postage stamps, much more convenient. So the volume of postage soared and better methods of collection had to be sought. Sir Rowland Hill, Secretary (effectively Chief Executive) of the Post Office, sent Anthony Trollope – then his Surveyor for the Western District – to the Channel Islands in 1852 to seek a solution there. Trollope throughout his long career as a post office surveyor was also a prolific writer (apparently he got up daily at 8 a.m. and wrote for three hours before going to work). He recommended, perhaps invented, pillar boxes of which there may have been porotypes in France; and the first were installed in Jersey and Guernsey in 1852 and 1853 respectively. Others followed in mainland Britain from 1855. 

Cast iron pillar boxes then developed in a series of steps of which typical stages were
various designs  of octagonal or fluted columns in the 1850s – according to the plain or ornate taste of each district surveyor and the capability of local iron foundries;
the First National Standard boxes in 1859, mostly in two sizes but with some variations like the extra-large and ornate ‘Liverpool Specials’;
the ‘Penfolds’ – octagonal boxes in three main sizes produced from 1866 to 1879;
the ‘anonymous’ boxes, so called because the Handyside foundry omitted the royal cypher and ‘post office’ words, an error not corrected for many years;
new boxes ordered for Queen Victoria’s 1887 Golden Jubilee.

Wayne’s imparted enthusiasm for pillar boxes calls for comparison with stamp collecting.
Design variations, watermarks and perforations are more than matched by the different posting apertures, embellishments, VR and crown cyphers and coats-of-arms. Stamp ‘reprints’ correspond to 1989 Penfold replicas.
Colours are greatly simplified in that letter boxes are all red (and have been since 1874 after which unobtrusive greens were replaced by prouder bright red.
Most of us cannot collect letter boxes personally like we hoard stamps (nor can train spotters keep locomotives at home); but some of that rich heritage remains for all to see on the streets, some is in museums, and Wayne himself lifted a small but very heavy VR wall letter box onto our table for our inspection!

A Visit to Henley & District Philatelic Society
by Peter Pugh

13 November 2019

16 members welcomed Mr and Mrs Peter Pugh from Rugby who displayed Part I of their three part series devoted to the Trans-Siberian Railway. Whilst centred on the mail services between China and Europe, this comprehensive review of the circumstances from the end of the 19th century up to 1912 explained many other aspects of the period. Fully illustrated by contemporary photographs, these aspects included the foreign trading ports along the Chinese coastline, the construction of railways and bridges, the locomotives and the trains which carried passengers, freight and mail.

The ‘treaty’ ports, as they were known, were trading concessions granted by China as a consequence of defeat by the British in the First Opium War. Whilst the island of Hong Kong became a permanent British colony, five other city ports granted residential and trading rights to Britain in 1842 and soon to French, German and other nations. Most of these foreign enclaves survived until the Second World War.

Construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway was initiated by Czar Nicholas II from the Vladivostok end in 1891 and the line from the West had reached the shore of Lake Baikal by 1893. With ice-breaking train ferry services across the lake traffic from the West could reach into Manchuria and northern China soon after, although the pan-Russian connection to Vladivostok was not completed until 1916. So the trade and mail in the period described was aimed at or originated in China through the northern port of Dairen (or Dalry, later Dalian) and serving particularly the foreign communities and their postal offices.

The actual mail exhibits collected by Peter were mainly envelopes from British post offices in China to a variety of countries in Europe and beyond. Most bore Hong Kong Edward VII stamps – commonly 4 cent values being the cheap UPU rate from the Far East to Europe but delivered about ten days more rapidly than by ship through the Suez Canal. However in the early days one had to be aware of this new route. So mail still went by the long sea route unless one worth via Siberia’ above the address. Later this policy was reversed and letters had to instruct another route or they would be sent through Siberia.

Meanwhile, besides a number of interesting cachets and postal instructions, a key feature of this westward mail was the post-marks cancelling the Hong Kong stamps. Some were from Hong Kong itself, many from Shanghai, others from various other locations of British post offices, some very scarce because of low foreign populations or because of the short periods during which post offices operated.

Turning to railway construction, this was mainly undertaken by Russian agencies (across Siberia) or foreign companies (in China), most using military, convict or cheap coolie labour. Illustrations showed us construction along the difficult steep shores of Lake Baikal and many completed wooden trestle or steel truss bridges, stations and trains. Train speeds were low over mainly unballested track or limited to 10 mph over bridges used on foot by the local inhabitants.

There was a rich variety of steam locomotives of Russian, British, Belgian or US origin with many of the variations favoured in those countries as well as common features like wide spark arrestors on the chimneys or Westinghouse steam pumps operating the braking systems.

The final years of this opening period of trans-Siberian train and mail operations saw the special measures taken to combat and restrict the Manchurian (bubonic) plague based on the city of Harbin in 1911, as well as disruption of services during hostilities (e.g. with Japan in Manchuria) and consequent upon the subsequent overthrow of the Chinese imperial regime and founding of the Republic of China.

A Visit to Henley & District Philatelic Society
by High Wycombe Philatelic Society

23 October 2019

High Wycombe’s Tim Harrison and (also a Henley member) Alan Druce entertained 11 of us.
Tim displayed a rich variety of the stamps of the constituents of what became the Union of South Africa. These colonies or states comprised
Cape of Good Hope: from the triangulars, through the ‘Hopes’ to Table Mountain.
Griqualand West: the once remote region around Kimberly where diamonds were found and Cecil Rhodes made his fortune selling mining pumps; some of the Cape G overprints were later elsewhere in Cape Colony.
Natal: including the very scarce 1857 embossed stamps.
Orange Free State: a Boer farming region later taken over by the British as Orange River Colony.
The New Republic, a Boer enclave which sided with the Zulus against the British, became the northern part of Zululand ad ended u as part of Natal.
The South African Republic (or ZAR), which became Transvaal from 1879 to 1884 (after the ‘First British Occupation’ or ‘First Boer War’) and again after the second (main) Boer War. The profuse heart of Tim’s collection. 
The Boer War itself and the earlier revolts can be ascribed to Boer resentment of Rhodes himself and at British pressure to move them ever northward and out from gold and diamond bearing lands. Philatelic features are the VR, VRI and ERI overprints, outposts of retreating Boer government such as Pietersburg, and the opportunity for soldier philatelists to create interesting stamps and covers after the precedent at the Siege of Mafeking – an unnecessary incident arranged by the British to keep up morale at home. 

Some general features of these early southern African stamps were
the many varieties of surcharges necessary because of changes in postal charges
the common, often illegal, issue of reprints such as by Adolph Otto, a German printer who retained his plates after his role as official printer was terminated

Whereas Tim’s display comprised postage stamps from 1853 to 1913, Alan Druce showed us only GB letters or covers in the earlier years before stamps were invented. His first letter, in beautifully handwritten Latin, was dated 1403 – in the reign of King Henry IV! Others were from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, including a number from the Blair (Athol) papers which also went up to celebration of the retirement of Captain Wm Blair RN in 1859. Many letters were from the early Restoration years including one from a property in the Cornhill district which must have been destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London. Also from that period is a series of letters from Sir Richard Stevens of Henley to John Morris, a scrivener at Old Jewry, London, some concerning purchase of a property on the Thames at Hambledon. 

After introduction and development of Bishop cancellations, a large proportion of the 18th and early 19th century letters bear HENLEY or HENLEY-ON-THAMES postmarks; and letters were posted or arrived at Nettlebed, Fawley Court, Park Place, Marlow, etc. The descriptions of the routes, distances and charges for all these letters represent loads of valiant research.

Members’ Evening

9th October 2019

11 members gathered at Bix for displays from two of their number. Colin Richards showed us a comprehensive explanation of Canadian stamps issued during the reigns of King Edward VII and King Georges V and VI. First was the definitive set of King Edward VII which followed the format of the previous Queen Victoria set, followed by the Quebec Tercentenary pictorials of 1908.

George V stamps included a great variety of issues comprising
definitive sets informally named the ‘admirals’ from 1911 to 1931, followed by the ‘scrolls’ and the ‘arch and leaves’; all the later definitive series adopted small monarch’s heads for the lower values, larger pictorials for the higher ones;
similar pictorial commemoratives celebrating anniversaries such as that of the Confederation (1917 and 1927) or occasions such as various conferences. 
King George VI stamps started with his 1937 Coronation stamps, immediately followed by the first of several more king’s head/pictorial sets such as the ‘muftis’ with a civilian king and in 1942 with the king as top naval, army and air force ranks – finally, again as a civilian – in 1949 and 1950 with POSTAGE/POSTES and without respectively.

Other stamps shown included the Postage Dues (one issue lasted 30 years) and the fine SPECIAL DELIVERY labels. Colin also displayed varieties of colours, plates, watermarks and perforations and stamp booklets. A digression from the latter concerned the much decorated World War One fighter pilots Billy Butler and Billy Barker.

Simon Richards displayed St Kitts and Nevis, starting with the cover of a 1663 letter from Nevis to London, then showing other early covers with line or wiggly hand stamps, then place-o- origin marks to which were added date stamps from 1709, partly to avoid insurance fraud. These two islands, separated by a narrow straight, both had postal services in the late 18th century and used GB stamps from 1858. However, although it was the smaller island,  Nevis was the first to issue [Nissen & Parker] postage stamps – showing a ‘medicinal spring‘ -in various issues in use from 1862 to 1879 until replaced by a De la Rue image of Queen Victoria from 1879. Meanwhile in 1870 St Christopher adopted an early key-plate design which was subsequently adopted by Dominica (1874) and then by Tobago (1879).

The Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands (which included these two islands as well as many others) was constituted in 1871 and was not dissolved until 1956. In 1890 the Leeward Islands issued their own stamps and terminated the use of stamps for each of the lesser colonies. This action was unpopular, not least among philatelists who by now were swelling postal revenue. Eventually the limitation was withdrawn. So from early in the 20th century, although the Leeward Islands continued to produce stamps to the same design through the reign of five British sovereign’s until 1956, the lesser colonies resumed production of a wealth of definitive and commemorative symbolic, monarch and pictorial stamps. The 1903 issue of new Crown Colony of St Kitts Nevis featured alternately Columbus and the Nevis ‘medicinal spring’.
Fortunately, both their own and the Leeward island stamps were thereafter valid in each island group; and Simon showed examples of both sorts on single covers. 

Members’ Evening

25th September 2019

12 members gathered in Bix Village Hall to present displays related to the Letter T. These concerned

Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Tristan da Cunha and Tuvalu – thematic sets of stamps.
Tango dancing, singing and musicians from South America.
Tea production in Argentina and Paraguay.
Tonsberg, an ancient trading and whaling port in southern Norway; whilst its population increased from 12,000 in 1950 to 35,000 in 2000, it had considerable earlier history, in 1971 celebrating 11 centuries since its foundation.
Trieste and the variety of stamps issued after both world wars. Trieste, whose population had always had an Italian-speaking majority, had been the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but - with the rest of the province of Istria  - passed to Italy in 1919; Italian stamps were used thereafter until 1945. Towards the end of World War II some stamps were issued by partisan groups, then official Italian sets overprinted AMG PTT. In 1947 what became a free zone of Trieste was divided into two zones. Zone A, including the city itself, was administered by an Allied Military Government until it became part of Italy; the more rural Zone B was controlled by a Yugoslav Government, before becoming part of Yugoslavia and subsequently Slovenia or Croatia; stamps were overprinted Italian or Yugoslav sets accordingly. [As a further complication, Fiume** for many years issued its own stamps or overprinted Italian ones and Istria itself used the latter for a short time in 1945]
Trains (or Tourism) – actually Swiss mountain railways, some standard gauge main lines, mostly narrow gauge, with many steep rack sections and occasionally steam but usually electric traction. 
‘Transports of delight’ – recent GB issues including sets of toys and machines drawn by children and printed by Enschede of the Netherlands (now being passed for GB stamps to a French security printer). The products of using different print cylinder blocks were shown.
Post-Turkish domination – stamps of the independent Kingdom of Montenegro
Tzars, i.e. Shahs, of Persia – monarchs’ heads on early or middle period stamps; plus an Indian Edward VII stamp, postmarked MOHAMMEDARRA, probably a post office in southern Persia; plus tales of groundwater development for an iron ore mine in empty country in the district of Kerman.

** Fiume is easily confused with Trieste in sorting the stamps of early 20th century northern Adriatic ports. Both were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1919. Whereas Trieste on the western Istrian coast was Austria’s main port and had an Italian-speaking population, Fiume was mainly Croatian but had been regarded as the port of the Hungarian part of the dual monarchy; it was situated on the other (eastern) side of the Istrian peninsular. It is now called Rijeka and is in Croatia.

Members’ Evening

11th September 2019

11 members gathered at Bix for the first meeting of our 2019-20 season. Loosely related to our Recent Acquisitions, topics touched upon were of the usual broad scope including:

Austrian stamps of a wide range, mainly early 20th century and with several sheets devoted to Austrian stamps posted in the Ottoman Empire and Crete.
A brass statue of an angel. 
Canadian bears on stamps and photographs depicting many types of North American bears and many colours even in the same family.
Early stamps issues, mainly from the 1840s and 1850s from Europe, Brazil and several British possessions overseas.
German states, also early issues
Gold and other mining stamps, covers and memorabilia
GB D-Day commemorative stamps depicting many aspects of sea and airborne landing, fighting and the part played by Southwick House, near Portsmouth, as a naval college and ultimately the headquarters for the whole Overlord operation.
GB 1d reds and 2d blues – a wide range arranged by plate numbers etc.
GB pre-1840 covers: a 1771 Bishop mark, a 1783 Dockwra mark and an 1831 handstamp.
Greenland: Many variations of sets of similar stamps issued in 1905, 1915 and twice in 1937. 
HMS Shannon, an unsuccessful British ‘ironclad’ warship which operated in the Pacific Ocean in the late 19th century and posted letters from Panama.
Royal Niger Company late 19th century postal covers including a possibly unique example of an Akassa postmark.

A Visit to Henley & District Philatelic Society
by Barry Hobbs

26 June 2019

16 members welcomed Barry Hobbs who had driven up from Ferndown in Dorset. His display comprised two very different and unusual subjects, similar only in the huge amount of research needed for each and in the historical period involved – mostly between the late 19th century and the First World War.

Bolivian travelling posts offices (TPOs, correo ambulante), except for those on ships crossing Lake Titicaca, were all in railway coaches on passenger trains. The first line, conceived in 1870, was constructed from the port of Antofagasta in Chile to reach over the Andes by 1888 and to two mines on the Bolivian Altiplano by 1892. Its purpose was to carry minerals from the mines to the Pacific port in 2½ days, a journey that had taken llama or mule trains several weeks. A demand for passenger traffic followed and then for mail.

The first postmarks on this ‘main line’ were personal to the postal clerks responsible. There followed a variety of different marks – rectangular, oval or with train emblems – and eventually dates of sorting were incorporated. Other numbers had been added as soon as spur/branch lines were completed by each spur operator. La Paz was first reached by Chilean TPO to Lake Titicaca, by steamer across the lake and thence by Bolivian TPO train to La Paz. Such mail might receive post marks from all three operators.  

Further rail extensions followed. On the long line running south from La Paz to the Argentine border, postmarks had consecutive numbers (up to at least 17) related to the railhead which the track had reached and where the mail was passed to traditional transport. 

A great variation of postmarks, some very scarce, were profusely illustrated in Barry’s display. Incidentally he described how conditions for the sorting clerks had got more and more unpleasant as the volume of mail increased in the same confined space. He also told us of the hazards of extreme weather conditions and, in the early, days, of banditry en route.

Medical advertising on US mail was illustrated by appropriate envelopes and some of the letters. Before the reforms of 1906 to 1912 there was no restriction of any sort on what could be claimed as to the benefits to be gained from medicines. Broadly there were three categories of those advertised
Medicines which had some beneficial effect for at least some of the ailments mentioned; some of these were continued for many years after the reforms
Medicines which had no effect either way, other perhaps than psychological; a few of these no doubt also continued later
Dangerous or poisonous drugs.
Most of advertised medicines contained alcohol, typically from 25% up to 70%. Others were based on traditional native (Indian) remedies.

Some advertised medicaments were veterinary –such as horse liniments. A few claimed to suit both animals and people (possibly they did and still do!). Finally Barry showed a panel of covers advertising prosthetic equipment – artificial legs and a variety of elastic stocking and belts [similar to advertisements in my late 19th century Bradshaw GB railway timetables.

Visit to Henley & District Philatelic Society
by Gerald Mariner

12 June 2019

13 members welcomed Gerald Mariner, a distinguished philatelist from Market Harborough. On this occasion his display concerned the German Occupation of the Channel Islands 1940-45 and the stamps, envelopes, letters and anecdotes of that period.

By June 1940 German successes in France made it seem inevitable that they would soon occupy the Islands. Accordingly, 5000 school children and mothers with under-school-age offspring were among those who evacuated by ship to England. Actual invasion took place on 1st July. By then mail boats from England had evidently ceased as a letter dated 29 June was already returned to sender. Immediately on arrival the German authorities took control, using the existing local authorities where practicable. In the case of postal services
all mail to Britain was terminated and that to other non-allied countries strictly controlled and censored; but
the administration of the existing postal authorities in Jersey and Guernsey was allowed to continue, including continued use of GB stamps or issue of new Island stamps (notwithstanding the first German commander initially issued his own hand-stamps showing a swastika and INSEL KOMMANDANT GUERNSEY).

In Guernsey, the stocks of GB stamps had mostly run out by Christmas. Those that were used were largely of the 1940 double-head centenary issue although there were many ordinary George VI issues and a few (gleaned from albums?) of George V. To help cope with the shortage the Guernsey post office authorized bisected 2d stamps to meet the demand for 1d stamps. This was only for 2d stamps and any other bisects were rejected. To meet the shortage, new Guernsey stamps were issued for 1d (February 1941), ½d (April) and 2d (in 1944). These stamps were copied by Jersey from April 1941 (1d, later ½d). They were printed on each island, rouletted in Guernsey and perforated in Jersey. They depicted three lions, which the Germans probably assumed were a local emblem, whereas in fact they denoted England as still worn on our national team’s football shirts. By 1943 in Jersey a German suggestion was taken up with the issue of a pictorial set with six values from ½d to 3d, designed in Jersey but printed in France. 

With a few anomalies Sark – whose population, led by the stalwart German-speaking Dame of Sark, did not evacuate - generally followed Guernsey postal practice. However Alderney was completely evacuated of its resident population and the post office there closed for the duration. By 1944, the German garrison was practically starving and young men were brought from Guernsey to grow vegetables. One managed to correspond by post with his girlfriend on his home island. Meanwhile the post office on the tiny island of Herm had been closed in 1938. However Herm’s surplus registration labels found their way to Sark; there they were sorely needed and re-inscribed by (or not) for Sark.

Gerald’s display encompassed a very wide range of postal circumstances – smuggled mail, mail sent  through neutral agencies, inter-island mail (some sent between Jersey and Guernsey via the censor in Paris) and variously censored mail from or to Germany (free for soldiers), Ireland, China, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy and even Argentina. Locally, some remnants of luxury seemed to remain (golf, hairdressers) but hardship also peeped through – hand-sewn envelopes and mail from deported people and prisoners-of-war.

Members’ Evening
22nd May 2019

15 members attending the AGM stayed on to view their displays either of five sheets of philatelic interest or else describing their ‘other collections’.

Of particular postal history interest were some covers mailed during the transition period of 1839 and 1840 in preparation for the 1d post. During that period high and widely ranging charges for letters weighing up to ½oz. were reduced to 4d in anticipation of the further cut to 1d on 6th May 1840. 

Postage stamp displays included
those of Bohemia and Moravia
different shades of GB QEII mint stamps
big enlargements of the GB QV ½d lilac and the ‘jubilee’ 6d and 9d stamps.

Some large Australian postcards depicted facsimiles of commemorative or thematic stamps together with enlargements of the pictures in them. Issues concerned The Early Years and The First Fleet sets and issues of birds and other wildlife.

Artistic skill was very evident in a displays of Steve’s ‘other’ enthusiasm. Seven reductions of his landscape paintings were complemented by a large watercolour-pencil drawing of fish-heads drying out on a wooden structure.

Other displays in this category included
military vehicle dinky toys
Bradshaw and other railway timetables: a selection from 1839 to 2019 and some accompanying description of the train operations concerned and the social implications of the advertisements
A display of military, shooting and other neck ties presented by Ian in appropriate  regalia including rifle shooting blazer, belt and buckle and tartan trews.

Members’ Evening
8th May 2019

Eleven members collaborated to make a full evening dedicated to Autobiographical Displays. Many of these displays were full biographical records illustrated by stamps (for countries and events), postcards (of places, ships, architecture or historic occasions) and photographs (including of families). Some were confined to particular periods of life – such as a honeymoon in Argentina – and most tended towards memories of younger life including schooldays and early enthusiasms.

Schooldays included recollections of football, rugby and cricket as well as high jinks and such misbehaviour as letting down the tyres of masters’ bicycles or removing a bubble-car up to the third storey of the school building. 

Enthusiasms often included the first stamps collected at a tender age; GB examples were the 1940 centenary of the 1d black, the 1948 Silver Wedding, 1949 commemoratives and the 1953 Coronation. A host of sports were illustrated as well as mountaineering, sailing and cycling. Mention of cycling recalled the days when anybody could enter a dockyard on a bike with no challenge at the gates. Cyclists were assumed to be authorized workers (when people left school at 14).

Some brief mention was made of professions we pursued in our prime – these included civil, nuclear and hydrocarbon engineering, international sales direction and management of a London Directors’ dining room – but quite as interesting were shorter term occupations such as
national service, places visited on troop ships and the Far East,
life as an ‘English nanny’ in New York including journeys by Greyhound Bus around the rest of USA.
Places visited in the United States and elsewhere by various members included 
Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate, the Statue of Liberty and new York waterfront in the days of liners
the Falls at Iguaçu and Niagara,
Persepolis, the Elburz mountains and the Caspian Coast of Iran

In GB we were entertained by recalling early days in Reading, Ealing (with its many parks and All Saints Church) and Cardiff. The latter included early 20th century 6-inch to 1-mile maps, many views of the then very active docks and their steam railway connections, and a remarkable collection of local railway tickets.

The evening proved a rare opportunity to recall moments of our lifetimes, things we always meant to do but probably would not ever get around to; and we all learnt more about each other – a quite unusual and fascinating evening.

Visit to Henley & District Philatelic Society
by Simon Richards
24 April 2019

Simon Richards entertained 14 other members at Bix with presentations of subjects unfamiliar to many of us. First was A Commissioner’s reflections on Overseas Exhibiting. At large international stamp shows, the national federation of each participating country appoints an eminent philatelist to the challenging post of ‘commissioner’. He or she has ‘to be even-tempered and able to solve problems’ and perform a lot of considerable tasks before, during and after the shows, competitions and exhibitions. After doing all they can to publicise the forthcoming event, commissioners collect entry material approved by their national federations, receive and pass on various charges, convey, safeguard and display the material and return it in due course. Individual entrants can perform some of these functions themselves if they wish, but often find it is easier to work through the experienced commissioner, especially if it involves crossing borders and passage through Red Channels.. 

Among the documents displayed were numerous announcements of international stamp conferences, statements of value (£millions) of the items being despatched and returned – rules of competitions or variations, certificates of appointment of commissioners, certificates of competence to judge competitions at national level, award of gold and other categories of success and a variety of medals, including an elaborate post-horn design for a city in southern Germany.

Simon’s second display was completely different but equally fascinating in its detail. This concerned the Classic Stamps of Victoria. In fact Victoria was actually part of New South Wales until July 1851 but its independence as a separate British colony was already anticipated when postage stamps were being contemplated in 1849; and the postal authorities in New South Wales agreed that Melbourne should produce its own VICTORIA stamps. So the different sets of stamps were issued for each colony at the beginning of January 1850.

The classic stamps of Victoria were all those issued from 1850 to 1854 plus a few extending into the first rouletted versions of 1857. Some of us global collectors have three or four of those issued from 1850 to 1854, Stamps of the World list eight, SG’s Commonwealth catalogue 35; Simon’s display with all his identified variations must be hundreds.

Perhaps the most notable of these classic stamp types are the 1850 Queen Victoria ‘half length’ and the 1852 ‘Queen on throne’. Both were engravings by Thomas Ham who was himself the contractor for supply of the colony’s stamps until 1853. Thomas was 21 and already an established engraver when his family emigrated to Melbourne in 1842 and he and his many brothers soon made use of their talents in the thriving community there, which burgeoned rapidly as the colony of Victoria after gold was discovered at Ballarat in 1851. Thomas himself, besides being the stamps contractor, made accessories – like cancelling tools – produced bank notes and was involved with many printed publications.

The earliest stamps were printed on small sheets from single dies engraved for each value. However soon intermediate ‘stones’ were introduced – pieces of polished Bavarian limestone for more prolific printing. Cracks and other faults could develop on the face of these ‘stones’ and part of Simon’s display was of the correcting steps taken by the printers. Fascinating explanation of many other variations in the early 1850s were inherent.

Visit to Henley & District Philatelic Society
by Peter Wood
10 April  2019

15 members welcomed Peter Wood to Bix. His display was entitled Troubles and Transition – Ireland 1900-1930. The troubles had persisted for over a century arising mainly through movements to secure the independence of the island of Ireland from the United Kingdom. The first frames of Peter’s display were letters posted, from about 1908, when that independence (‘Home Rule’) was seriously intended, being delayed only by the  First World War. Ordinary GB stamps continued in use as they had been since 1840. The letters on which they were posted were adorned firstly with labels supporting Irish independence and then by the substantial protestant majority in Ulster – strictly six particular counties which became Northern Island - who called for ‘No Home Rule’. These various labels included
plain labels, clearly indicating their propaganda purpose and of no postal significance
stamp-sized perforated labels, occasionally mistakenly accepted as valid for postage.
Probably as a result, all British commercial or propaganda labels were soon allowed only on the back of envelopes. Another aspect of pre-Home-Rule troubles concerned the Easter Uprising of 1916. Among the consequences were
loss of equipment in the Dublin General Post Office which was the nationalists’ HQ but was destroyed by British naval shelling; other cancelling equipment had to be used or adapted, such as from the separately located Parcels Office;
imprisonment, mostly as prisoners-of-war, of those rebels forces who were not executed; and a plethora of interesting national and international mail, some of it censored.
In 1918 there was a British parliamentary general election. In Ireland Sinn Fein swept the board; the successful members refused to sit at Westminster; they made their own deliberations in Dublin, perhaps preparing for Home Rule which was soon to follow. 

Transition was the process of changing from GB to Irish postage stamps from February 1922. Official stamp issues made at that time were
February to December 1922: GB stamps overprinted (in Irish) Provisional Government of Ireland;
December 1922 and most of 1923: GB stamps overprinted Irish Free State 1922;
December 1922 onwards: Irish (Eire) definitives from ½d to 1/-; higher values (2/6, 5/-, 10/-) from 1937.
That is perhaps enough scope for interest of many general collectors. But for enthusiasts there is a plethora of legal and illegal variations as regulations were altered by British, Irish and even some foreign post offices, and whenever postal charges were reduced or increased. There was an Irish postal strike and such occasions led to numerous anomalous uses of postage or revenue stamps. Peter displayed a comprehensive set of these official and unofficial variations. He also showed and explained the parallel complications which arose in 
levying Postage Due in a wide range of circumstances;
postal stationery including treatment of embossed values;
OHMS (government mail): various adaptations, usually without defacing the King’s head (Ireland was not a republic until 1940.
In thanking Peter Wood, our Chairman described his display as a remarkable example of real Postal History. 

Visit to Henley & District Philatelic Society
by Bob Hill
27 March 2019

17 members welcomed Bob Hill to Bix. His display concerned Aspects of South Africa. After an opening spoof parodying the obsessions of philately, Bob’s display related mainly to a remarkable collection of covers posted in South Africa and bearing a wide variety of postmarks or cachets. These included
‘postage paid’ and ‘to pay’ hand stamps in the days before postage stamps,
date/location cancellations in a wide variety of circles, triangles and hexagons,
obliterations, usually oval, defacing the stamps – much as was once common in North Borneo,
occasional crude ink scribbles as is often an unfortunate practice in modern Britain.

The dated cancellations displayed the location of posting in a variety of ways – Cape Town or CT, EL for East London, a diamond for Kimberly, various numbers meant to relate to particular post offices but subject to considerable anomalies. Actual colonies were also often shown such as Cape Colony or COGH, Natal etc. In many cases particular post offices or particular cancellations were short-lived, giving rise to some very scarce postmarks. Bob displayed many of these, some almost unique. These, collected over about 30 years, included
post offices like East Wolmar, which was only open for 5 months in 1907,
ship or port cancellations like those issued at Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, on ships plying up the coast to a copper mine (reached much more quickly by sea than overland) and – far way in Europe – such a cancellation of the Austro-Hungarian light cruiser Zenta, later sunk in World War I ;
mail from Verneukpan ‘speedway’ in early 1929.

The latter post office was set up in a tent by Mr Grey, regional post office chief, to deal with mail on the occasion of the attempt at the world land speed record by Captain (later Sir) Malcolm Campbell. It was staged at the Verneuk Pan a dry salt flat - not perhaps the best site in the world compared with similar flats in USA or Australia as there considerable numbers of stones which even painstakingly removed left holes in the ground. Campbell shipped out his car Bluebird on the ship Caernarvon Castle to Cape Town from where he seems to have commuted, mainly by aeroplane, to the salt pan far off in remote Northern Cape. The official world speed record was increased elsewhere even whilst Campbell was in Africa and he failed to beat the latest figure. On one return to Cape Town Campbell was given the local; mail for that city (12 letters); and these covers constitute another very scarce occasion – the first plane crashed en route south; Campbell’s own plane was sent out to rescue him and continue the journey and that plane with Campbell and the mail still in it was blown over by the wind on arrival in Cape Town. Fascinating and rare civer cachets resulted from all this.

Such was the interest in these remarkable covers and cachets and the anecdotes attached to them that these notes are necessarily random. As Eric Morecombe asserted when playing a piano concerto all wrong, ‘the Notes were right but not necessarily in the right order’. So with these Notes; this must conclude by mentioning Bob’s opening spoof display comparing a set of real and adapted Kit-Kat labels illustrating all their characteristics of varieties, special version for different regions, small sizes in paper shortages (like the South African WWII bantam War Effort stamps) and even perforations. Only watermarks were absent!

Members’ evening
9th January 2019

18 members gathered in warm Bix Village Hall on a cold evening. The themes for the first meeting of the New Year were Forgeries and Fiscals whilst a late addition of matters related to the letter F was invited for members who neither held fiscals nor were aware of forgeries in their collections.

Of various displays of forgeries, an outstanding case was that of Victorian Dominican stamps, illustrated by examples of both the genuine and the forged stamps. Several members showed stamps or covers they believed to be or were possibly forgeries. Examples of European forgeries were from Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Montenegro; and British Empire items came from other West Indian islands, Malta, Gibraltar, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast and Cape of Good Hope (triangulars).

The forms of forgery included faked postmarks and overprints, incorrect perforations or inversions and doubtful colours or shades. The colour fakes included a red example from a Argentine province where no such colour was in the original set. Considerable discussion arose concerning different shades and whether they should be recognized in catalogues. Examples of genuine Victorian GB stamps were displayed.

Fiscal stamps covers a wide variety of priced labels, some originating long before postage stamps were introduced. A fine example was attached as a fee for De la Rue’s application to Somerset House for authorization to produce playing cards. These cards had to guard against 18h century gambling cheats and were the main initial product of that company which went on to produce revenue stamps (their first key plate examples were shown) and postage stamps. Numerous other fiscal stamps or documents displayed included
all sorts of fees or receipts on numerous transactions
transfer of stocks, foreign bills, court fees
long, high or square Indian revenue stamps
beside a variety of cancellations including penned manuscript, handstamps or combinations of both, embossed stamps, perfins or round or diamond-shaped holes, and much scruffier finger-prints or ink blobs.

F subjects displayed included
Flight – Canadian stamps showing aviation from Montgolfier’s balloon ascent and the first Canadian flight by Silver dart, through the aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1991 to recent space travel. Also stamps of Audubon’s bird paintings.
Correspondence received by Franci Fee?ling in 1811 from politicians and noblemen.
A Scottish landscape painting unsigned by the English painter Falconer.
Fish on stamps of Ascension and Malta; and tourist labels from Barra, Pabay and the Summer Isles.
Miscellaneous were twelve Singapore stamps with different cancellation cachets; also two references to the Danube Steam Navigation Company.