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Saturday 17 December 2022

New Acquisitions & Queries + A Chat over coffee & mince pies + Members’ displays (Christmas theme) at Banstead

Well despite the train strikes and the severe cold weather with plenty of snow still hanging around we managed to attract 13 members to Banstead for our all-day Christmas meeting! This included three members who drove some distance to get here (130, 90 and 85 miles respectively) - well done and thank you. We would have had more but those who sent their apologies had either other commitments, unclear and thus unsafe roads to travel on or apparently hungover from the previous nights festivities! It was a laid back easy going meeting giving those who attended a chance to warm up with a hot drink and mince pies or biscuits and to have a chat with each other before we started the displays.

Colin Tabeart was first to show with a selection of German submarine material from WW1 in the Mediterranean as part of the Dardanelles campaign. The display featured a number of photos of submarine commanders who had been awarded the Iron Cross, including one who had received the highest award, the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross, as well as mail from the various U-boats. Included was a postcard from the U-35 which ended up being the most successful U-boat participating in the war, sinking some 220 merchant ships - most of which was through the use of its deck gun. Austria also had a few submarines in the Adriatic and he included a number of postcards from these vessels. A number of the items shown were postmarked with Deutsche Marine Schiffspost (MSP) 204 cancellations, from the Second U-boat Flotilla based at Pola in Croatia. This included a card from the submarine UC-27.

Chris Grimshaw was next with a selection of WW1 silk postcards, following on from his display and talk given at our Zoom meeting held two days previously on Thursday 15th December. He showed a selection of silk postcards that had either been hand or machine embroidered and said that such cards were first produced around 1900 but took off during WW1. There were many patriotic or regimental postcards and others with various flags and in total some 4 to 5,000 different cards were produced. Many related to anniversaries such as birthdays, Easter, Christmas, etc. Also there were a number of designs which had slots along the embroidered line for the insertion of a separate smaller card. Included in the display was a selection of gunners in all its guises (RA, RFA, RGA, RHA and HAC).

Fig 1 - A typical silk postcard from Chris Grimshaw’s excellent selection of displays on the subject. This one is inscribed “Until the end” and has the flags of the various Allied nations.

Third to show was Frank Schofield, due to mobility problems we are only likely to see Frank at our Banstead meetings and so it was a pleasure to see him and we look forward to seeing him at Banstead in 2023. His display related to WW1 postcards from Italy, in particular those posted at APO S.100 at Toranto which was designated as a Rest Camp. Most of those featured were typical tourist picture postcards, but they were from various different units and Frank had identified the writer and / or censor (using the shield Type CM8 or oblong Type CM6 censor cachets) where he could. All were from Army units, although he did show a couple of cards from RAF personnel.

Julian Bagwell started off the next display session and his display was something completely different – not really military related but definitely fitted into the Christmas theme: his research and using criteria he set on “What was the first Christmas commemorative postage stamp”! This was a fascinating display which he had previously given to another society via Zoom, starting with Canadian stamps printed with “XMAS 1898” at the bottom. Whilst it is correct to say that this was the first stamp anywhere in the world to show the word Xmas, it did not meet his criteria for a commemorative Christmas issue! Although there were a lot of candidates, if you were looking for the first stamp or set of stamps that were issued only two sets that met his criteria to commemorate Christmas: Hungary in 1943 and Cuba in 1951. Now he turned to a few items of Forces material relating to Christmas: a Sudan telegram of 1884 “Wish happy Christmas from Rifles Korti to Rifles Limk” (Limmerick); two WW1 Christmas cards from POWs (one going to Germany and one from Germany) and one from the Royal Navy Division in 1917.

He was followed by Geoff Hanney who showed a selection of postcards of British war cemeteries from the late Keith Tranmer’s collection; they had all been produced by photographer Léon Caron. His next selection were of hand-drawn Christmas and birthday greetings cards by Bandsman Leonard Roberts in 1917-18, some of which were when he served in Salonika. Geoff had only recently obtained these from John Shaw MBE FRPSL, who sadly passed away in late November.

Peter O’Keeffe was next with a selection of fair new acquisitions – a showing of WWII Swedish army postal stationery (Militarbrev). These were printed with no value on the printed stamps and comprised both postcards and envelopes. There were also stamps on the reverse of envelopes to be cut-off and re-used by the family writing back to their family member in the army. His other showings were from a pack of replica wartime postcards of HMT Empire Windrush used as racing cards and menu in its voyages to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean in October 1951 and a selection of comical Christmas postcards used in WWI as well as various WWI ration books for a child, National and demobilization.

Chris Grimshaw showed a further selection of silk postcards, this time from various Corps such as the Army Service Corps (including one from the Canadian ASC), Royal Engineers and Royal Army Medical Corps.

Then it was the turn of Michael Dobbs who showed a selection of WWII unit Christmas cards, mainly from North West Europe, but also including some from the Middle East (including a recent example from RAF Middle East) and the British Military Mission to Greece in 1947; a Post Office leaflet on Forces Christmas posting dates for 1957 and a Christmas card from RAF Gan from around 1968. This was followed by a few recent acquisitions from the former LSI Otranto; a 1940 Night Letter Telegram from the Sudan in 1940, an example of MoD redirection Army Form Z18 in 1973, RAF recruiting cachets in 1958 and various commemorative BFPS handstamps, including one on 24 September 2022 which marked the disbandment of the Postal & Courier Service Reserve Forces and which also marked the last commemorative handstamp as the BFPS closed at the end of November. He then went on to show a selection of mail from Christmas Island which by its name had a Christmas theme, but which was used for Britain’s first megaton bomb trial in 1957.

Fig 2 – From Michael Dobbs’ display - a recent acquisition – a 1944 Christmas Greetings card from the Royal Air Force in the Middle East.

Fig 3 – A further recent acquisition by Michael Dobbs: a commemorative cover and British Forces Postal Service 3242 postmark commemorating the Disbandment of the Postal and Courier Service Reserve Forces; it was also the last commemorative postmark produced by the British Forces Philatelic Service before it closed down following the retirement of the two individuals who ran it.

We then went into a third and final showing, starting with Nick Colley who showed a number of naval items, including his only Christmas item of the display which was an airgraph from 1944. He also showed and explained the Helenic Navy query he had posted on our Forum - he had a cover from the Greek naval vessel HHMS Elli but could not find any such named vessel. The response came that it was HHMS Helle (as an alternative spelling of Elli), which was a Greek naval base in Egypt. He also showed a US item from HMS Formidable.

Peter High had only one item to show – a 1916 Christmas card from the hospital ship Lanfranc which was sunk by the German submarine UB-40 at about 19:30 hours on 17 April 1917 after having left Le Havre with both British and German wounded aboard; there were 34 lives lost from amongst the British and German wounded and crew. Continuing the silk card theme Chris Grimshaw put up a third showing of silk cards, this time from the following Corps: RAMC, Machine Gun Corps, Royal Flying Corps, Army Ordnance Corps as well as the Royal Navy and the RNAS. Last to show was Geoff Hanney who put up a display outlining the (British) Army Postal organisation in 1918 with a variety of mail showing the different types of postal markings according to formation structure; the display included honour envelopes, “I am well” postcards and “On His Majesty’s Service” envelopes.


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