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Europe/Great Britain : Great Britain covers

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Bob Ingraham (Bobstamp)
30 Dec 2004
05:15:10pm
I was pleased to find this cover in today's upload of new covers on Roy Lingen's Buck-a-Cover web site and immediately ordered it:

BCMI cover

I learned about this particular slogan cancel a couple of days ago when I was reading through some material I obtained from the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL). Although I wasn't sure of the origin of the slogan, it seemed like it simply had to fit somehow within my under-construction WWII British war-economy exhibit for VANPEX. Just now I Googled this interesting and even amusing information from the University of Brighton:

"The Britain Can Make It (BCMI) exhibition was held between September and November 1946 at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, London. It was organised and held under the auspices of the Council of Industrial Design (COID) which had been established by central government in 1944 ‘to promote by all practicable means the improvement of design in the products of British industry’.

"In an announcement released to Trade Associations in September 1945, the aims of the exhibition were declared:

'The Council of Industrial Design will hold in the summer of next year a national exhibition of design in all the main range of consumer goods – clothing, household furnishings and equipment, office equipment and civil transport…It will represent the best and only the best that modern British industry can produce…[it will be] British industry’s first great post-war gesture to the British people and the world.'

"BCMI would display the consumer goods which, the government intended, would form the basis on which the economy of post-war Britain would be renewed. Six years of war had left the country in severe debt. The government’s main concern was to ensure that income could be generated through trade, particularly with countries overseas. Hence all effort in production was aimed at the export market while the British market remained subject to a rationing even more severe than in wartime. This situation was made clear at BCMI where all the goods on display were for purchase only by the export market and would not be available, at least in the short term, to home consumers (hence the popular nickname for the exhibition, Britain Can’t Have It)."

The APRL, by the way, has proved to be a wonderful resource, even at a distance. The staff was very friendly and easy to work with, and provided me with some very useful information about British slogan cancellations from various philatelic journals and monographs. The total cost was a bit more than US $7.00, which I thought was a bargain.

You'll find information about the APRL on its home page.

Bob
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Jeffrey Wallace
31 Dec 2004
08:05:35pm
re: Great Britain covers

Bob,

Nice cover and solid research. Typical english wit, 'Britain Can't Have It'. :-) An interesting side-bar for your WWII British War economy exhibit, could include the occupied Channel Islands, since they are part of Great Britain and British Isles, but not part of the United Kingdom.

The idea came to mind because I recently acquired a commerically used, Guernsey bisect (windowed envelope no less). There are no slogans, but English stamps became scarce after the islands were occupied in July 1940. From late December 1940 thru February 1941, 2d issues were bisected by Guernsey to pay the local 1d island rate. I think from an economic perspective, it speaks to resourcefulness in the face of short supply. The bisect (on cover) is legitimate because it was authorized by the local Post Office. Gibbons subsequently recognized the use by listing this example as 482a.

cover

Anyway, we're all pretty aware of the occupation because the Channel Islands are beginning the 60th anniversary of their Liberation. Two days ago, they celebrated the arrival of the Red Cross vessel 'SS Vega', 60 years ago on December 30th, 1944. Most of the Red Cross packages were packed with Canadian goods and the food helped break the starvation that was setting in. You see, after the Allies liberated Britany and Cherbourg, they decided to bypass and isolate the islands, instead of taking them. The Islands became a fortress and were cut off from the mainland. Very little food and supplies could through (let alone letters, which is why 'fortress mail' is so rare and sought after). So by Nov/Dec 1940, the islanders were facing starvation and the arrival of the Vega is considered the most important vessel St. Helier harbour has received.

I could go on and on because I find it so fascinately, but I'll leave it there. Best of luck with your exhibit and if the occupation angle interests you, send me a note and perhaps I could locate some material for you.

Happy New Year,
Jeffrey

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Bob Ingraham (Bobstamp)
03 Jan 2005
11:24:13pm
re: Great Britain covers

Thanks for your interesting response to my "Britain Can Make It" posting, Jeffrey. I can't take much credit for the "research," however. The young geniuses at Google.com made it easy!

I am familiar with the Jersey bisects, and in fact have a nice example of one of the bisected KGVI definitives on cover. You are certainly right that they would be a nice sidebar to my war economy exhibit, although I don't think that it could be argued that the act of bisecting the stamps had anything to do with paper conservation! It seems to have been a purely philatelic pastime; the examples I have seen appear to be contrived and without practical purpose.

My understanding is that throughout the Occupation, civilian mail couldn't get into the Channel Islands or leave them (except for packets of Red Cross letters), and it seems that the primary hobby of the Channel Islanders was to collect stamps! I'm pretty sure from the evidence of the covers that exist that collectors did a great deal of posting of letters to each other and to themselves.

One of my web pages, concerns the "philatelic sabotage" that took place on Jersey during the war, but in reviewing it recently I realized that it needs a big update and rewrite, so I won't point it out now.

Bob

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Jeffrey Wallace
04 Jan 2005
05:01:39pm
re: Great Britain covers

Hi Bob,

I've previously read your 'Jerseyman Protests' article and thought it was informative and interesting. In fact, it was one of the first page's I bookmarked about the occupation. It was only about a year later that I joined Stamporama and made the connection! Small world.

A minor point of clarification, bisects were officially allowed by the Guernsey Post Master, but not Jersey. So if you have a bisect with a Jersey cancel, it's probably philatelic. However, if the KGVI 2d was bisected AND cancelled in Guernsey between 27 Dec '40 and 18 Feb '41, it could be a proper commercial cover.

Civilian mail from the Allied countries were not exchanged (save the Red Cross letters), however, one letter from Ireland did get through somehow. That being said, civilian mail could be sent to and from the islands between Axis controlled/over-run countries, such as occupied France.

As for philatelic games, they occured a lot. The local dealer, George Robbe has told me that all the dealers knew each other and would write back and forth, even between occupied countries. They made covers and since the Germans were quite the collectors themselves, philatelic letters were allowed to pass.

Here's a neat little cover, about as philatelic as they come; German, Jersey (mix of KGVI & local pictorial) and French stamp mailed from Jersey to Paris! 25 RM was the civilian off-island rate, 1d was was local island rate. Unfortunately, I don't know what the 30c French rate paid for, probably local, eh? The sender, Le Genril, was a well-known dealer during the occupation. Apparently, he was the only Jersey civilian allowed to send Registered Letters off island.

What sparked your interest with the occupation period?

JSY_Occupation_cover

Jeffrey

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Jeffrey Wallace
04 Jan 2005
05:07:43pm
re: Great Britain covers

Here's the backside with censortape, 'X' beneath the Eagle indicates it was reviewed in Paris.

JSY_BS

Good luck with your exhibit,

Jeffrey

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Bob Ingraham (Bobstamp)
08 Jan 2005
10:16:00am
re: Great Britain covers

I sent the images of Jeffrey's Jersey cover to a friend of mine who is a specialist in German censored civil mail, and he returned these comments:

"A piece of commercial mail from the Islands to Europe would have required only the German franking ( first tier letter rate: 25pf ), the other stamps are purely 'decorative'.

"The British and Jersey adhesives could be used only to pay for LOCAL service in Jersey.

"The French stamp was clearly applied on receipt by the addresser as a hand back item as the French domestic letter rate at this time was 1.50 Francs.

"I think I saw this cover ( or its identical twin ) on eBay.

"It was censored by the Germans at their civil censor office
in Paris ( as indicated by the office code letter "x" on the tape and handstamp. ). A scarcer office."

Bob

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stamperdad
Members Picture
08 Jan 2005
12:32:18pm
re: Great Britain covers

Never the less this is a beautiful and very interesting cover - in my humble opinion. I especially love all the interesting postal markings.

Steve

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Bob Ingraham (Bobstamp)
08 Jan 2005
03:26:54pm
re: Great Britain covers

It is a good example of a "philatelic" cover which provides a glimpse of times, places, and circumstances which no other artifact is apt to do in quite the same way. Censorship regulation, military occupations, and the "collecting imperative" are all evident.

It's been my experience that "philatelic" covers may alone represent some facet of history. In the 1970's, a Canadian Army major, Richard Mallott, was a member of the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS), which was created at the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 to help bring about a "peaceful" end to the Viet Nam War. He and a Canadian doctor who served with him created hundreds, maybe thousands, of philatelic covers, using a variety of handstamps, mailing some with Canadian stamps and some with South Viet Nam stamps; others were free franked. Here's an example of one of the free-franked covers (front and back):

mallott 1

mallott 2

My understanding is that these covers represent the only philatelic evidence of Canada's military presence in Viet Nam during the war. (I'm proud to say that Canada was there in a peace-keeping role.)

Bob

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Jeffrey Wallace
18 Jan 2005
12:12:32pm
re: Great Britain covers

Bob,

Thanks to your friend for the rate info, especially the 30c French reply rate. I suppose that explains how it found it's way back to the islands. I wouldn't be surprised if a similar item was offered on eBay. The sender was a local stamp dealer and was probably responsible for a lot of this interesting material. Mine was purchased from a dealer in Guernsey.

As for non-civilian mails, the rate for soldiers was 15 RM, significantly less than 25 RM for civilians. that said, it's interesting that letters home were not free, as they were for Allied (non-air mail) letters.

I take your point about philatelic letters being more than just a cover. While purists would likely reject it because it was manufactured, others see the social and historical significance beyond the letter itself. Very compelling story.

cheers,
jeffrey

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Jeffrey Wallace
18 Jan 2005
12:14:42pm
re: Great Britain covers

Bob,

Just re-read your friend's comments again. Missed the part where the rate was in 'pf', not RM.

jw

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Bob Ingraham (Bobstamp)
18 Jan 2005
12:26:12pm
re: Great Britain covers

Jeffrey,

I'm curious about your comment that soldiers had to pay 15pf for letters sent home by surface mail. That is odd; I have a several German feldpost covers sent from various places in Europe. Surely the Germans wouldn't have had different rules for different occupied areas. Can you tell me more?

Bob

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Jeffrey Wallace
19 Jan 2005
02:06:27pm
re: Great Britain covers

Bob,

I spoke with Robbe this afternoon and realized my comment was in error. To be precise, German soldiers could send mail through the feldpost, free of charge.

The 15pf rate was for civilian workers (many of them French) working for the Organization Todt, sending mail off the island. OT was responsible for building the fortifications around the island and often used Russian slave labourers as well.

jeffrey

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