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Ernest William Leppard

Ernest William Leppard, FRPSL

Ernest William Philip Leppard, FRPSL will be remembered as a keen, enthusiastic and knowledgeable New Zealand collector who was a valued and respected member of the Forces Postal History Society for many years and served as its Secretary (1996-2000) and Treasurer (2000-2002) until ill health forced him to retire. A cremation service at Leatherhead was held on Thursday 17 January 2008 and the Society was represented by Peter High, Michael Dobbs, Eddie Weeks and Bernard Atkinson (some were representing other societies as well).

1926-2007: an appreciation

Ernie Leppard died on the last day of 2007 after six months in hospital. Although unwell for several years he never complained and always made light of his troubles but the last time we met, some 4 months before his death, he was complaining for the very good reason that he found it impossible to be an active collector of New Zealand philately from his bed in the ward. Ernie had two hobbies - to both of which he devoted truly immense amounts of enthusiasm - the history of the Sherwood Rangers (his own regiment) in World War II and the philately of New Zealand. The first was clearly born of his distinguished wartime service as a tank radio operator but the second was unexpected since he never visited New Zealand nor had any family connections there. However the former did, I believe, give birth to the latter to the great fortune of the New Zealand Society of Great Britain.

The story he told me was that on arriving in Berlin in l945, (having had several of his tanks destroyed on the way from Normandy) as a non-smoker he traded his accumulation of cigarettes for a new Zealand stamp collection, which turned out to be almost valueless as all the stamps were stuck down. From this highly inauspicious beginning Ernie built up one of the worlds most diverse and broad-ranging collection of New Zealand stamps which he delighted in sharing with members. I do not recall even one meeting in the last ten years when Ernie was not only present but had something of real interest to display together with pertinent comments.

Not surprisingly the postal history of New Zealand's armed forces was a particular enthusiasm stretching from the Boer War to Korea. He had other areas of specialisation including notably the Penny Universal issue but the remarkable thing was his, 'strength across the board' as the experts would say. From an early date he was anxious to acquire artists essays, die proofs, plate proofs, and varieties as well the more usual items. He wanted to tell the story of each issue as fully as possible so he helped found the Waterlow Study Circle (with Cross-Rudkin) to learn more about the First Pictorial Issue. He was inquisitive and imaginative in his research and never failed to share it with others through publication. A quick glance at the Index to the first 50 years of the Kiwi will reveal how prolific he was - and as many editors will confirm, writing was not his forte. It was his deep commitment to collaborative action that propelled him to write, participate and serve the N.Z. Society of G.B.

It is as impossible to exaggerate his contribution to the Society over many years as it is difficult to describe it, mainly because he never sought recognition preferring to work behind the scene with inspired suggestions and genuine support of his fellow officers. His response to being awarded an ABPS medal and being invited to be President was "bloody heck". He was a cautious treasurer who has left the Society financially sound and he has placed in the Society archives digital copies of his First Pictorial and Penny Universal collections along with colour copies of his amazing accumulation of essays and proofs connected to the 1949 and 1952 Royal Visits that never were. It was he who got the RPSL to invite us to display around the time of our 50th Anniversary and it was he who promoted the idea of regional groupings. Indeed his influence was felt on every issue of substance and consequently he will genuinely be missed in the management of the affairs of the Society he was so obviously devoted to. Probably more important is our loss of his wonderful participation in meetings. He set a superb standard in all aspects of his interest in New Zealand philately from which we have all benefited immensely. Ernie thank you so much - we miss you.

Derek Diamond New Zealand Society of Great Britain


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