Covering just 34 square miles, Ascension Island is a small volcanic island in the South Atlantic, about 1000 miles from the coast of Africa, and 1400 miles from the coast of Brazil. It is governed as part of the British Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. Georgetown is the capital and the only town on the island. The island is named after the day of its recorded discovery, Ascension Day on 21 May 1503. It played a role as an important safe haven and coaling station to mariners, and for commercial airliners during the days of international air travel by flying boats. During World War II it was an important naval and air station, especially providing antisubmarine warfare bases in the Battle of the Atlantic.
A century ago, when the sun never set on the British Empire, India was its biggest and brightest jewel. Although vast areas were governed directly by the British Raj, there still remained hundreds of Indian states that were permitted to exercise some form of independence. A favoured few were even allowed to have standing armies, mint coins and print their own stamps. One such princely state was ruled by an Amir who quite literally embodied the adage that philately was ‘the king of hobbies and the hobby of kings’.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation marking the schism within the Roman Catholic Church which led to the formation of the Protestant faith. As part of the events planned for the anniversary, Germany issued a single stamp on the theme of Luther’s German Bible on 2 January. A German stamp to commemorate the Reformation itself is planned for later in the year, along with stamps from a number of other postal administrators such as Lithuania, Austria and the Vatican.
On 14 March Royal Mail’s Music Giants series will make an encore with a set of ten stamps honouring one of the most influential music and cultural figures of all time – David Bowie. In July 2016 Royal Mail released a similar set dedicated to the music and live performances of progressive rock legends Pink Floyd. In a similar format to the Pink Floyd issue, the David Bowie release will comprise six sheet stamps depicting some of his most admired and defining albums, along with a four-stamp miniature sheet showing Bowie performing live on stage across four decades.
1917 marked the start of what became known as the Russian Revolution. Imperial Russia, with the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, was thrown into chaos; what followed was a long, bloody and bitter struggle which led to the creation of Soviet Russia. The world was not prepared for the bitter conflict and the Allies sent a large number of troops to Russia in order to stop the spread of Bolshevik power.
Spring Stampex 2017 featured a special display devoted to the stamps of the Ottoman Empire and the countries emerging from it after the end of World War I. The display had a special emphasis on Iraq to mark the centenary of country’s first stamps, which were issued in Baghdad in September 1917, following the occupation of the region by British and Indian troops in March of that year.
2017 brings with it two very notable and celebratory occasions and with them are bound to be some stamp issues of interest to readers of this column. The first of the two is imminent, and is the 65th anniversary of the accession to the throne of Princess Elizabeth (which occurred when His Majesty King George VI died unexpectedly on 6 February 1952).
There may come a time when dwindling finances, leisure, enthusiasm or even health bring our main collections to a halt, even if only temporarily. We may then look around for something simple to collect by way of light relief.
Might the French Territory of the Afars and Issas, whose issues spanned only around ten years and whose catalogue listings seem to pose no difficulties, fill the bill?
Guernsey Post’s first stamp issue for the year, issued on 18 January, draws inspiration from the animals of the Chinese zodiac, an ancient system based on the Chinese Lunar calendar which dates back almost 4000 years. Today, Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations including Hong Kong, Indonesia and Mainland China.