World Stamps

Second set in Britain’s World War I series focuses on 1915

May 10, 2015, 1 PM

Great Britain’s Royal Mail will continue its World War I commemorative stamp series May 14.

The six new stamps and a booklet comprise the second set in the five-year series that began July 28, 2014.

Royal Mail says of the series: “Each year of the war will be explored through a stamp [issue] which covers six key themes: Poppies, Poetry, War Art, Memorials and Artefacts. These themes combine to form a beautiful and poignant collection which serves as a fitting way to commemorate this tragic conflict.”

The stamps representing poppies, poetry and war are nondenominated. The inscription “1st” indicates that they pay the first-class rate, currently 63 pence.

British painter and printmaker Howard Hodgkin created the abstract carborundum print Poppies, which is reproduced on the first stamp.

Royal Mail reports that he “was inpired by poppies from Normandy in France.”

The second stamp includes lines from the final stanza of Charles Hamilton Sorley’s poem All the Hills and Vales Along: “On, marching men, on/To the gates of death with song.”

While serving as a captain in the Suffolk Regiment, Sorley was killed by a sniper Oct. 13, 1915. The poem was found in his kitbag and published in 1916.

Sorley’s name is inscribed on the memorial stone commemorating poets of WWI in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.

The third stamp pictures Kulbir Thapa, the first Nepalese Gurkha to be awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valor.

Thapa’s photograph is included in the National Portrait Gallery’s “The Great War in Portraits” exhibition.

The gallery’s website,, says of his heroism: “ … As Rifleman in the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, British Indian Army, Kulbir Thapa (1889-1956) participated in the Battle of Loos. On 25 September 1915 he was wounded and became stranded behind the German lines.

“Noticing a wounded comrade, he comforted him for an entire night and then, concealed by fog, carried him over the German trenches to a shell hole for cover.

“After carrying back two other wounded men to his own lines, he returned and rescued the first man. This gallant action was observed by the German troops who responded with applause.”

The other three stamps each bear a denomination of £1.52, paying the rate for letters to Europe weighing more than 100 grams.

One stamp features a detail of The Kensingtons at Laventie, painted in 1915 by Eric Kennington.

The Imperial War Museum,, describes this reverse painting on glass: “Eric Kennington served in the 13th Battalion, The London Regiment, popularly known as ‘The Kensingtons,’ from 1914 until June 1915, experiencing front-line duties during the bitterly cold first winter of the war. The painting depicts men in his unit, Platoon No. 7, C Company, and includes a self-portrait.

“He shows a moment when his platoon, exhausted from four days and sleepless nights in the fire trench in twenty degrees of frost and almost continuous snow, have made their way through the deep mud of a communications trench to the comparative protection of the ruined village at Laventie … ”

The next stamp remembers the bloody fighting April 25, 1915, at Cape Helles, Gallipoli, Turkey.

The design depicts a photograph by British war photographer Ernest Brooks of a British soldier, shown in silhouette, at the grave of a fallen soldier.

The final stamp pictures the soccer ball used by Pvt. Frank Edwards of the London Irish Rifles during the Battle of Loos.

The London Irish Rifles Association, website, explains the significance of the ball: “On 25th September 1915, the London Irish gained their most famous battle honour at the Battle of Loos, where they led their Division into action, and where Rifleman Frank Edwards and his comrades dribbled a football across No Man’s Land before kicking it into the Germans’ trench with a joyous shout of ‘goal.’ The battalion were able to lead their Division to overcome two lines of German trenches into the village of Loos, before withholding a massive enemy counterattack … ”

The booklet is a prestige booklet, including stamps, illustrations and text by Imperial War Museum historian Matthew Brosnan. The center pages fold out to form a composite image of Gallipoli.

The three new first-class stamps are in one pane in the booklet, and the three £1.52 stamps are on another.

A third pane includes a block of four of first-class Army Uniforms stamps of 2007 showing an observer of the Royal Field Artillery in 1917 (Scott 2510).

The fourth stamp pane in the booklet is comprised of a block of eight definitive stamps with a central label inscribed with words from Canadian John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields.

Six of the stamps are Queen Elizabeth II Machin definitives: two each denominated 1p, 5p and £1.33. The other two are first-class stamps showing poppies on barbed wires. These 2012 definitives are based on a design first used in 2006 on stamps marking the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme (Scott 2418).

The firm Hat-trick designed the new WWI stamps.

International Security Printers printed them by offset in six sheets of 50, sold in panes of 25 at most postal outlets. Each stamp is square, 35 millimeters by 35mm, and is perforated gauge 14.5.

Other products to be offered in conjunction with the WWI set include first-day covers, six postcards reproducing the designs of the stamps, and a presentation pack including the stamps and text by Imperial War Museum historian Ian Kikuchi.

The stamps can be ordered at Royal Mail’s shop on the Internet. Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland.

Royal Mail’s two agencies in the United States are Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557; and the British Stamp Service in North America, 1 Unicover Center, Cheyenne, WY 82008.