World Stamps

Denise McCarty

New British postage labels feature ships that have carried the mail

February 16, 2018 01:33 AM

  • Royal Mail issued new post & go self-adhesive postage labels Feb. 14 featuring six ships, representing the history of mail transportation by sea.

By Denise McCarty

A generic New York City skyline of the 1930s is pictured on a new self-adhesive postage label from Great Britain’s Royal Mail. The label is part of a set of six designs focusing on the theme of mail by sea.

Issued Feb. 14, Mail by Sea is the fourth set in the Royal Mail Heritage series with the theme of mail transportation. The previous three sets in the series were Transport (Feb. 17, 2016), Mail by Rail (Feb. 15, 2017), and Mail by Air (Sept. 13, 2017).

Royal Mail calls such labels “post & go.” The service inscriptions are printed at the time of purchase.

The label showing the New York City skyline honors RMS Queen Mary, which made its maiden voyage May 27, 1936. In announcing the new post & go labels, Royal Mail said that with the advent of Queen Mary, mail could be transported from England to New York to less than four days.

This flagship of the Cunard Line transported more than the mail.

The website said: “For three years after her maiden voyage, the Queen Mary was the grandest ocean liner in the world carrying Hollywood celebrities like Bob Hope and Clark Gable, royalty like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and dignitaries like Winston Churchill. During this time she even set a new speed record, which she held for 14 years. But when the Queen Mary docked in New York in September 1939 that would be the last time she would carry civilian passengers for many years.”

After serving as a troop ship during World War II, Queen Mary returned to passenger service in July 1947. Twenty years later, Queen Mary made its last voyage, arriving in Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 6, 1967, where it remains as a floating hotel, attraction, and event and wedding venue.

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The other five labels cover more than 200 years in sea mail history, from the packet Antelope in 1780 to RMS St. Helena in 1990.

Antelope was captured twice by the French, in 1781 and 1782. In 1783, the packet’s crew successfully fought off the French privateer Atalanta. Among other awards, the crew were praised for the “successul protection of the mail” by postmaster general of the United Kingdon, Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield.

St. Helena was “designed and built to carry mail, cargo and passengers to and from the remote South Atlantic island after which she is named,” according to Royal Mail.

The ship’s website reports: ”She is one of only two ocean-going vessels in the world still to carry the venerable title of Royal Mail Ship, held in the past by so many famous British passenger liners.”

The site also describes the range of supplies the ship carries to St. Helena as “wind turbines to automotive parts; sheep, goats, and Christmas turkeys to furniture, food and paint.”

The other three labels depict SS Great Western, 1838; SS Britannia, 1887; and RMS Olympic, 1911.

Designed by engineer Isambard Brunel, Great Western was the first steamship built for the purpose of crossing the Atlantic. In 1847, this steamship was sold to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.

The passenger liner Britannia set a record in November 1887 carrying the mail from Brindisi, Italy, to Adelaide, Australia, in 23 days and 10 hours.

The sister ship to RMS Titantic, RMS Olympic was the largest British-built passenger ship in regular service before the introduction of Queen Mary. Like the Titanic, Olympic included a dedicated post office and mail room.

Royal Mail Group Ltd. designed the labels, using illustrations by Andrew Davidson. International Security Printers printed them by gravure. Each label measures 56 millimeters by 25mm.

These postage labels are available from terminals in post office branches throughout the United Kingdom. The terminals allow customers to weigh their letters and packages, pay the postage, and print the appropriate label.

Royal Mail is offering a first-day cover franked with all six Mail by Sea labels. The labels also are packaged with a carrier card that includes additional information about the history of carrying mail by sea.

For additional information, contact Royal Mail.