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9th September 2023

Members’ Displays - Up to 15 sheets and a Story

Despite the open title allowing members to display anything with a story, our attendance at this meeting was the lowest for as long as I can remember - only six members turned up. This was not helped by absences with one member unable to walk due to a painful ankle injury and two other members prevented from coming due to engineering works closing down two train stations they tried to go from. Attendance at our London meetings has been slowly going down mainly as a result of the sad loss over the years of what was once a thriving group of London attendees - what can we do to try and improve attendance and encourage YOU to come along? We have started to hold a number of all-day Banstead meetings as an alternative to London to try and encourage those who may have concerns about travelling into London, particularly as a result of the pandemic and its consequences and also the more recent train strikes. We are a friendly and informal society whose members have a wealth of knowledge ready and willing to try and answer any queries you may have - so do please consider coming to one of our meetings, especially if you are within easy travelling distance of either London (Waterloo) or Banstead.

Michael Dobbs started proceeding by showing Post-War Undated Rubber Handstamps - one of his many ongoing projects is to complete a type listing of post-WW2 British Forces postal markings. An original listing was first compiled by the Forces Postal History Society in an article by John Daynes entitled “British Forces Post Office Cancellations Standard Types 1950-1972” in FPHS Newsletter 116 (July-August 1972) (p.51). One of the hardest types to revise was the undated Field Post Office and Army Post Office handstamps, but purchasing a rather badly torn piece with the Field Post Office variety from Peter Harvey at MIDPEX this year started him off. He wanted to mount it and to describe it in his revised listing and had quite by chance come across reports on this handstamp by the late John Smith, our founder Chairman, in other philatelic magazines. All this is set out in our Autumn Society Journal.

This then led him on to sorting out the undated Army Post Office handstamps. He used Crouch and Hill as the basis and then tried to find other markings in our Newsletters/Journals (but without success). The rest of the type-listing is comprised of items in his own collection which were either awaiting mounting or in some cases were remounted. This is not yet completed as he is sure there are other varieties out there, in particular those inscribed simply ‘A.P.O.’.

Lorraine Maguire displayed and told the story of Featherston Military Training Camp, the largest in New Zealand at the time. Her story told of her father, George Fairbairn, who did his final military training here before being shipped to the Western Front for service in early 1916. His training started at Trentham Military Camp, north of Wellington, where troops were then marched over the Rimutaka Hills (nearly 2000ft high) to Featherston Camp. Following the outbreak of WW1 the camp was built by the Public Works Dept in 1915, opening in January 1916. Over 60,000 soldiers (nearly two-thirds of N.Z. servicemen) went through the camp before going to the Western Front and Palestine. The camp had its own Post Office, railway link, hospital, bakery, butchery, kitchen messes, shops, clubs and places of worship. The local community provided funds for the ANZAC Club and YMCA Soldiers Club. On completion of basic training each intake was marched back again over the Rimutaka Hills to Wellington. Women from the Wairarapa met each march at the summit with a cup of tea and a meal. Facts about the camp: 60,000 trainees passed through the camp, at full capacity 9,850 were accommodated in huts and under canvas, 500 horses were stabled, 21,337kg of food consumed daily, 727,360 litres of filtered water daily, but of most interest was well over one million items were sent from the Post Office (1,134,140)

A small selection of comically drawn black and white postcards depicting daily life at the camp, drawn by Mence and O’Halloran were also shown.

Shown is a modern postcard relating to the Featherston Heritage site, together with two comical black and white postcards by J.A. O’Halloran and finally a postcard showing the main street of Featherston Camp.

Rhodesian ‘Special Forces’ - to complement his Rhodesia Bush War collection and add more context Richard Berry showed a variety of photographs from both private sources and the Rhodesia Herald on:

- Rhodesian SAS Wings parades where para wings were presented.

- Parachuting in the Rhodesian Light Infantry and Rhodesian African Rifles.

- The Selous Scouts ‘Wafa Wafa’ Fort on the shore of Lake Kariba. Also shown were some original Selous Scout emblems cut from pennants that the Scouts used as unofficial tracksuit badges.

Richard’s second display was very different! He showed 45 silhouette postcards from the First World War - they gave an alternative comedic viewpoint of camp life.

In his second display Michael Dobbs showed material relating to Ben Ferguson who joined the Society in 1983 (Membership No 762); he was a Senior Executive Officer in the Home Office. Ben took on the editorship of our then Newsletter in 1991 following the death of the late Alan J Brown and was responsible for our Newsletter until he stood down in 2002 - the Winter edition being his last issue. However, he continued to run our ‘live’ auctions (at that time we had two auctioneers - postal and live. He carried on in this role until he died on Sunday 27th February 2005. I bought this material after coming across it by chance at what was the annual War and Peace Shows held at The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood. The material displayed related to when Ben was called up for National Service on 7 June 1945 and reported to Queen’s Barracks in Perth (the Depot of the Black Watch). After his training he found himself serving with the Royal Engineers (Postal Section) no doubt as a result of his GPO experience and latterly with 13 Infantry Brigade Postal Unit in CMF and BAOR. The display included various forms regarding his service, photographs and covers addressed to him from other FPOs.

A photo of Ben and his colleagues with Cpl Ben Ferguson bottom left, taken at Lammie Transit Camp, Naples A suitcase or bag label (CMF Form 94) for when going on leave. This shows that it was used by Ben whilst still at HQ Army Troops North Africa (ATNA).

Last to show was Robert Hurst who displayed covers relating to the seventh vessel to bear the name HMS Challenger, a survey vessel launched in 1931. Mail sent to and from the vessel was displayed from Challenger’s time operating in the North Atlantic prior to the Second World War through to the move to South Africa and into the Indian Ocean when the ship was tasked with producing marine charts. In addition to the covers Robert included a number of press clippings that incorporated images of the ship to help illustrate the story.

Two pages from the display by Robert Hurst relating to HMS Challenger, a survey vessel launched in 1931 - the first being a WWII cover from Baragwanath Military Hospital addressed to the Fleet Mail Office Durban and then redirected to HMS Beaufort and then again to HMS Challenger. The second page shows a cover from an officer aboard HMS Challenger in November 1939 and also a certificate of posting for a registered item sent to the officer onboard HMS Challenger in March 1943.


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