Royal Mail commemorates contributions of women during WWII in May 5 issue
By David Hartwig
Royal Mail recognizes the vital contributions women made to Great Britain during World War II in a May 5 issue of 14 stamps.
“World War II changed the lives of women everywhere,” Royal Mail said. “Women were subject to conscription in Britain, working in industry, agriculture and the women’s auxiliary services as well as in medicine, transport and the secret services.”
The Unsung Heroes: Women of WWII issue presents 10 nondenominated stamps valued at the first-class rate (95 pence) in two se-tenant (side-by-side) strips of five.
Additionally, four stamps appear on a souvenir sheet; two nondenominated first-class stamps and two £1.85 stamps. The £1.85 denomination pays the rates for letters to Europe weighing up to 100 grams and for letters to other countries weighing up to 20 grams.
Two of the stamps in the set of 10 show photographs of women working as part of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, which is made clear by small text at the bottom of the designs. Each stamp has larger text relating to the action being performed. For these two stamps, the actions are described as “Repairing Army Vehicles” and “Lighting The Way To Victory.”
The Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British army, was established in 1938. The service was granted full military status in 1941, according to Britain’s National Army Museum. But while women in the Auxiliary Territorial Service were given vital roles during WWII, they were not permitted to serve in combat roles.
In 1939, Britain established the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and the Women’s Royal Naval Service (created during World War I and disbanded in 1919) was re-established. One stamp shows members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force maintaining Royal Air Force aircraft. The photo on another stamp depicts members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service appearing to move a weapon on a cart.
The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force separated from the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1939, according to the Royal Air Force Museum, and in the next six years, a quarter million women served in its ranks.
Membership in the Women’s Royal Naval Service numbered 3,000 in 1939 and reached 74,000 by 1944, according to the BBC.
Britain began female conscription in 1941, and the majority of women worked in wartime employment by the middle of 1943, according to Royal Mail. Wartime employment included factory work, as shown on the stamp inscribed “Powering the War Effort.”
Factory work is one method of meeting demand for goods during wartime, and a stamp with members of the Women’s Land Army working a saw across snow-covered logs also shows how women worked to meet demand during the war.
The Women’s Land Army was established in WWI and was reintroduced in WWII to provide agricultural labor. A section of the Land Army, called the Timber Corps, employed 6,000 women in chopping down trees and running sawmills, according to the BBC.
Other stamps in the set show how women played important roles more directly related to Britain’s safety. One stamp shows a woman standing amid a large pile of rubble. Text on the stamp explains that this is related to protecting civilians as a part of air-raid precautions.
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