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Saturday 12 November 2022

70th Anniversary meeting

October 2022 marked the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the Forces Postal History Society - our inaugural meeting took place on 18th October 1952 at The Lawns Hotel, South Kensington, London SW7. Colonel Guy R Crouch was appointed as President with John A Smith as Chairman. Unfortunately due to a national rail strike we had to cancel our October meeting at the Union Jack Club (UJC) as we would have had zero attendance! Instead we hi-jacked Peter High’s afternoon booking on 11th November and converted it into an all-day meeting to celebrate our 70th Anniversary. Peter gave his display on Italian Hospital Ships in the morning. We had a celebratory lunch in the Auberge, just across the road from the UJC, and then returned for the afternoon’s activities - this was the 9-sheet President’s Cup Competition (the winner voted for by the members present) and displays by three other members, the details of which are given below. Due to continued disruption of transport services in and around London for various reasons, and peoples continued reluctance to travel into London following the coronavirus pandemic attendance was not as great as we had hoped. Nevertheless, we did welcome back some members whom we hadn’t seen for a very long time and we may even gain two new members who attended.

Peter High gave a well illustrated and very informative talk and display of “Italy’s Wars 1911-1945: The Hospital Ships that served the Troops”. Peter commented that Italy was involved in a number of conflicts which made it interesting to delve into its history. The display, in two halves, comprised covers with a variety of cachets, postcards and telegrams to and from those serving on such ships as well as photographs or picture postcards of the vessels themselves with ephemera such as booklets on a religious service or photographs of nurses. A detailed report will appear later.

Peter High happily pointing out an item in his display and below we see various telegrams from his display.

The photo shows a group of members enjoying Peter’s display

Members enjoying lunch at the Auberge

For the afternoon session - the winner of the President’s Cup Competition for 2022 was Tony Stanford FRPSL with his entry on “British Forces in the Crimea”. The entry consisted of covers from the British forces in the Crimea featuring the various cancellations applied both in the Crimea and on receipt in London. The exhibit included scarce covers from the Black Sea Fleet and the Scutari Hospital. Second was your Secretary, Michael Dobbs, with his entry on “Allied Censorship Netherlands”. The entry explored the short period of time in which censorship in the Netherlands took place under the overall control of the Allied Forces following the liberation of that country and the end of Martial Law. The period in question was April 1946 and November 1947. Whilst censorship by the Dutch authorities had ceased, SHAEF wished it to continue for mail from the Netherlands and its colonies addressed to the former enemy countries of Austria and Germany. As a result SHAEF took over the Nederlandsche Censuurdienst and re-named it Allied Censorship Netherlands (ACN) - hence the ACN prefix in the numbered censor marks. The entry explains the history and shows a few examples of such censored mail. Third was our Immediate Past President and Librarian, Richard Berry FRPSL, with an entry titled “South Africans on the Western Front in the First World War”. The South Africans were on the Western Front from 1916 onwards. They arrived in England in late 1915 and were based in Bordon in Hampshire. They initially deployed through Egypt in early 1915 to take part in the Senussi Campaign before being sent to France. This short display shows some elusive material and shows the FPOs used during the South African Infantry Brigade’s existence.

The other two entrants were: Robin Davis FRPSL (our President) with an entry on “UNFICYP The First Peace-Keeping Mission In Cyprus: The Irish Contingent March 1964 to early 1974” which covered outgoing and incoming mail in respect of the Irish contingent of the peace-keeping force. They never established a FPO system so outgoing mail in particular is very, very hard to find as they used the normal Cyprus Republic postal service using Cyprus Republic stamps. The other entry was from Simon McArthur on “1942 Concession labels for air mail Feldpost”. The entry showed a number of covers which had been sent through the air mail service which was intended for German units in the east, Scandinavia and other faraway places. Included in the display was a cover showing that the intended recipient had been killed. Another cover had been returned because the recipient did not qualify for the air mail service.

Members viewing the entries for the President’s Cup Competition

Following the competition and award of the Cup to Tony, all the entrants then gave a small talk about their display. With time to spare we then had displays from three other members. First was Peter O’Keeffe who showed a selection of military mail (both covers and postcards) mainly from the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium or France, under the title of “Remembrance 1914” - this included delayed mail, Field Service postcards, how items were censored for example by striking through or cutting out names of locations, a selection of FPO datestamps including skeleton datestamps or cancelled Official Paid, and official mail including one notifying that an individual had been taken a POW. Nick Colley was next with a mixture of Naval Mails from World War Two and later. This included two Fleet Air Arm items with detailed accounts of the officers involved, mail from, HMS Erebus in 1943 and British and Australian mails from the Korean War (HMS Amethyst and HMAS Condamine); also USS naval mail addressed to Gibraltar as well as from US naval personnel based on USS McLanahan in Gibraltar. Lastly he showed two 1940 covers from HMS Elfin, the Submarine Training Base at Blyth. Our last showing of the day was from Peter Burrows who put on display a collection of covers and ephemera relating to our 21st Anniversary Convention aboard HMS Belfast in 1973. The material came from the late John Daynes collection, for it was he who was responsible for organising and producing special covers and a commemorative postmark for the event. Peter showed proof designs of the postmark which were sent to the Post Office for approval. At that time HMS Reclaim was moored alongside the Belfast and John managed to get some souvenir covers with the Reclaim datestamp. Other material from HMS Belfast included air letter sheets on which John had overprinted the Belfast coat of arms.

Our President, Robin Davis (on the left) presenting the President’s Cup to the winner, Tony Stanford (right) in front of his entry


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