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2nd March 2024

Joint meeting with the West Africa Study Circle

An all-day joint meeting with the West Africa Study Circle (WASC) held at the Royal Philatelic Society London, 15 Abchurch Lane, London EC4.  The meeting started at 11am but we met up at 10.30am for tea/coffee and biscuits in the ground floor Members’ Lounge (called The American Tea Room).  Unfortunately we found out on arrival that the lift was not working, so for some of us it was a long hard slog to reach the meeting room on the fourth floor!  The lift had been repaired earlier in the week but broke down again on the Thursday and it was not possible to get it fixed prior to our joint meeting.  Thankfully all our attendees were able to make it up the stairs (twice as we had to come back down to the lounge for lunch!).  In all there were 19 members present (8 FPHS, 9 WASC and 2 joint membership).  We had four apologies.  The meeting was largely organised by Tony Plumbe, President of the WASC and a member of the FPHS who produced an excellent programme which was nearly always followed!

 

First to show was Rob May (WASC) with his first display largely of a two-way correspondence between Signalman Peter Beer with 634 Signal Troop in the Cameroons and his fiancé who lived in Stowmarket; this Signalman was also attached to the Cameroon forces and used the address “℅ P.D. Dw Groupe D, B.P. 270” in Nkongsamba, part of the French Cameroon.  His second display was of naval mail and also the Anglo-French campaign in Kamerun 1914-16 while his third display was a selection of WW2 airgraphs featuring hand drawn aircraft from his late father-in-law who was a wireless engineer serving with 255 Squadron RAF and who had sent them back to his parents.

 

Barbara Priddy (WASC) gave a detailed talk and display on northbound mails from British West Africa during the inter-war period and the routes they took, including by Air France and Imperial Airways.

 

Peter Richards (WASC) showed West African military air mails (1939-45) including different printings of air letters and honour envelopes printed locally by the West Africa Printing & Stationery Services (WAPSS) with colour variations.  This included a selection of Christmas mail and also Red Cross letters.  He also showed a selection of mail from the West African Regiment in various campaigns

 

The first showing by FPHS members was Richard Berry, whilst not necessarily “forces” it was connected with West Africa!  He started with the Gold Coast 3d 1884-91 damaged ‘R’ overprint expertised by BPA in 2014 as genuine, but again expertised in 2018 but this time by the RPSL who considered it to be a fake; he had it re-expertised by the BPA the following year who still considered it genuine and then in 2020 the RPSL reconsidered their previous response and considered it genuine!  He also displayed a selection of 1937 Coronation stamps on covers showing the four types of Tristan da Cunha cachets as well as a reference collection of the 1937 Coronation stamps on cover from Ascension Island, including registered covers.  He then showed a small selection of Nigeria stamps mounted on pages with hand drawn enlarged flaws alongside the stamps and a selection of “Specimen” perfin of the Coronation stamps from all the West African colonies.  Lastly a forces item: an air letter from the 5th Battalion, Nigeria Regiment in Burma cancelled FPO 77 on 24 FE 45. 

 

After lunch it was the FPHS again, this time Geoff Hanney who gave a display on the United Nations operation in the Congo between 1960 and 1964.  This included the Tunisian contingent in 1960 and various UN postmarks and Nigerian cachets, most material being of philatelic origin, from the Nigerian contingent.  As well as a military contingent they also had a police detachment.  The RAF was also involved with a detachment in Nigeria as they were involved in flying the various contingents in and out of the Congo.  Other contingents included Ghana 1960-62 and Sierra Leone 1962-63.  The displays included covers, photos and other ephemera. 

 

The it was the turn of the WASC, firstly with a short display from John Mills who showed a selection of GB stamps (mainly mint) overprinted with “ARMY TELEGRAPHS” and then a selection of Gold Coast civilian mail from 1903 through to WW1, but mainly WW1 censored with various censor cachets and also some with censor labels “OPENED BY CENSOR ACCRA“.  He was then followed by Michael Round who showed WW1 postcards of the Cameroons and then into WW2 - the country issued different sets of stamps and these were shown used on covers, including one for the Spitfire fund including Valmy overprinted charity surcharged stamps and three 1947/48 covers which featured stamps with aircraft.  Next was John Powell whose interest was the 81st and 82nd (West African) Divisions and their FPOs in India and Burma 1942-46 during the conflict against Japan and which featured covers and accompanying pictures.  The Divisions were made up of both Nigerian and Gold Coast regiments.  The displays and write-up was in FPO number and date order - FPOs 696-699 were allocated to 81st Division and FPOs 770-773 were allocated to the 82nd Division.  Supplies to the Divisions were dropped by parachute and each type of supply (food, mail, ammunitions, etc) was colour coded by parachute colour.  Last of the WASC members showing in this section was John Hossack who displayed some Sierra Leone material including 1898 Hut Tax War items (see Cameo, Whole No 54, January 2001 for a detailed history of this war - free download at www.wasc.org.uk), Garrison mail 1913-14 and a WW2 Bo-Pendembu TPO cover and stamps.

 

The third showing by FPHS members started with Robert Hurst who showed material relating to Ascension Island; starting with some early aspects giving the history then onto its involvement in the 1982 Falklands war with covers with FPO 777 and the named SID cancels, registered mail, bag labels both to and from BFPO 677 as well as a registered mail form.  He also showed picture postcards featuring the Vulcan bomber deployment and a smilers sheet for the 30th Anniversary of Operation Black Buck and the Falklands war as well as a small selection of post-WW2 Gold Coast military covers sent at forces air mail rate from Gifford Camp.  Michael Dobbs had a one frame display showing two Army Signals covers thought to be from West Africa, official mail from 59 Field Squadron RE in British Cameroons 1961 and four sheets on FPO 777 used in Ascension Island in both red and black in 1982/83.  He also showed two monographs jointly published by WASC/FPHS: “West African Forces Air Mail Letter Cards, Air Letter & Honour Envelopes 1942-1945” by John Daynes & Nigel Lutwyche (2006) and “British Intervention in War-torn Sierra Leone, 1997-2015” by Michael Dobbs (2015).  Then it was Peter Burrows who showed two Field Service Post Cards with messages on back in Ibo and Yoruba, the local native languages, with translation by an English Captain serving with West African Engineers in Burma; two AFW3078 Green Honour envelopes printed by West African Printing & Stationery Service January and August 1943 and two Honour Certificate gummed labels used in Gambia and Sierra Leone.  Lastly he showed draft copies of the section of Gambia, Gold Coast, Nigeria and Sierra Leone from the Civil Censorship Book he is updating, and asked if anybody could help with any new information.

 

The last session was down to WASC members starting with Simon Heap showing a selection of WW2 Nigeria censored mail with mainly half-moon ‘CENSOR’ cachets but also various hexagonal ‘PASSED BY CENSOR / NIGERIA’ numbered censor cachets, all from places such as Calabar, Ibadan, Lagos, and Port Harcourt.  John Powell was next with a few forces ‘odds and ends’ from the Gold Coast including WW2 covers postmarked with FPOs 41 and 42 and other covers from FPOs to civil addresses in the Gold Coast.  Then it was Graham Mytton’s turn with 1960s mainly military mail or mail impacted by military activities ; “can you hear me” 1980s mail from US APOs in the Lebanon using French and UN army postal services; 1989 Liberia civil war mail sent during this period and 1991-2001 Sierra Leone civil war mail.  The very last person to show was WASC President and FPHS member Tony Plumbe who showed a range of material from Nigerian troops involved in UN peacekeeping operations, including Lebanon (UNIFIL) (from 1978) and Croatia (UNPROFOR) (1992-95), Cambodia (UNTAC) (1992-93), Somalia (UNOSOM II) (1993-95) with mail via Nairobi, Rwanda (again through Nairobi) (UNAMIR) (1993-96) and Namibia (UNTAG) (1989-90).


Photo of Meeting Attendees
Showing members present at the meeting - very happily smiling

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