The Falkland Islands, as with Ascension featured last month, came to the attention of much of the British public in 1982 following the invasion by Argentina. Perhaps considered by some to be part of Antarctica, in fact the islands are roughly as far south of the Equator as the United Kingdom is north. However, their exposure means that they can enjoy, if that is the word, four seasons in one day.
Roughly the size of Wales, there are two main islands, East and West Falkland, surrounding by nearly 800 smaller islands. While the capital, Stanley, on East Falkland, is busy, the population (excluding military personnel) of around 3000 means nowhere is densely populated. Indeed, on many of the smaller islands, there is little more than a single sheep farm. Although most are happy to welcome tourists, they can rarely accommodate more than ten visitors. For many, the attraction of the islands are their wildlife, from several breeds of penguin, the sea lions and elephant seals, to sitting on a cliff top surrounded by albatross.
Until the runway at Wideawake Airport on Ascension became unusable by large aircraft, the easiest way of reaching the islands from the UK was to fly from RAF Brize Norton to RAF Mount Pleasant on East Falkland. That itself is quite an experience, as is flying between the principal islands. The Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS) provides what is virtually a taxi service: there is no timetable as such – flights are scheduled to meet the needs of those travelling. Many cruise ships include the islands in their itinerary, but passengers usually go no further than the main streets of Stanley, so miss much that is to offer.
There are, of course, reminders of the 1982 Falklands War: the locations of the key battles and the cemeteries, including one for the Argentinians who lost their lives. A memorial to the war stands in Stanley – the islanders will long be grateful to Margaret Thatcher.
During the reign of King George VI, the Falkland Islands had two definitive series. The first was issued on 3 January 1938, recess printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson in a range of designs. These featured the sheep on which the islands have been so dependent (mainly for their wool), plus other forms of wildlife from Gentoo Penguins to a Southern Sealion, Turkey Vultures, Magellan goose and a Black-necked Swan.
Two vessels that served the islands, namely Discovery II and William Scoresby, also featured, along with a view of Deception Island, Mount Sugar, plus two landmarks in Stanley; the memorial to the Battle of the Falkland Islands and the whalebones outside Christ Church Cathedral. The top value of a £1 shows the arms of the islands.
Varieties take the form of changes of colour and shades. The 1d. went from black and carmine to black and violet on 14 July 1941, while the 2d. went from black and deep violet to black and carmine-red on the same date. At the same time, the designs of the two stamps switched, with the 1d. now featuring the Battle Memorial and the 2d. a Black-necked Swan. Also, on the same date, the 3d. value, in black and blue, was first issued. The 6d. changed from slate-black and deep brown to black on 15 June 1949. A 1s.3d. value was added on 11 December 1946. In addition, shades are found on the 1d. (black and vermilion), 1d. (black and purple-violet), 2d. (black and red), 3d. (black and deep blue) and 6d. (black and sepia). Shades on the 1s., 5s. and 10s. values are mainly the result of the use of either greyish paper or thin paper.
The Specialised Stamp Catalogue of the Falkland Islands and Dependencies records other shades throughout the set. This same catalogue also records the 2d. in black and deep violet with the top margin imperforate. The stamps as initially released exist perforated ‘Specimen’. A stamp booklet, selling at 2s.4d. and containing eight each of the 1d. and 2½d., is recorded as being released in 1940.
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