Thursday 20 June 2013

Merchant Navy issue also honours Arctic Convoys

The subject of the Autumn Stampex issue on 19 September is the Merchant Navy, and consists of a set of 6 stamps, and a miniature sheet.  We believe that there will also be a prestige stamp book, and would not be surprised to see a mixed retail booklet.
If you are a veteran or descendant of the Merchant Navy? Royal Mail want your help celebrate their 200th anniversary!   Click here for more.
This stamp issue looks at 200 years of the British merchant fleet, from the age of sail to the modern bulk carrier and marks the contribution made by the Merchant service. Some famous ships are included such as the Cutty Sark and the Queen Elizabeth. Also featured are Royal Mail Ships, including the renowned Britannia, propelled by both steam and sail, it famously made inaugural voyage for the Cunard line which had the contract to convey the mail.

The stamps show:
1st class - East Indiaman Atlas 1813; Royal Mail Ship Britannia 1840; Tea Clipper Cutty Sark 1870
£1.28 - Cargo Liner Clan Matheson 1919; Royal Mail Ship Queen Elizabeth 1940; Bulk Carrier Lord Hinton 1986.

The stamps will be printed in sheets of 30, being 2 pairs of se-tenant strips of 3 x 5 rows, and individual stamps can be ordered from Royal Mail in vertical strips of 5.

Update 19 August.  We have been told by Royal Mail each stamp is, in fact, printed in separate sheets.

The miniature sheet, titled The Atlantic and Arctic Convoys, focuses on the Merchant Navy’s vital role and sacrifice during the Second World War, when military supplies, foodstuffs and people were transported in large convoys to avoid being sunk by the enemy.

Four black-and-white photographs offer a look at the daily life at sea during this time.  2013 is Year of the Convoys – noting the year when the Battle of the Atlantic reached its height and the German U-boat menace began to be defeated. The mini sheet will be a tribute to the courage of the personnel of the convoys and the harsh conditions and terrifying risks they faced.

The quote on the minisheet, from Winston Churchill, is a chilling reminder of these risks – The only thing ever that really frightened me during the war was the U Boat peril.
The four 1st class stamps depict:
- Escorting destroyer HMS Vanoc in an Atlantic convoy;
- merchant ship passing the Naval Control Base in the Thames Estuary;
- naval convoy of 24 merchant ships in the North Sea;
- sailors clearing the decks of HMS King George V in Arctic waters.

Technical details:
Stamps printed in lithograhy by Cartor Security Print, 41 x 30 mm in sheets of 60 (2 x 30)
MS by Joh Enschede in lithograhy, 115 x 89 mm with stamps 41 x 30 mm.

A prestige stamp book will be included in this issue. Click on the images to see much larger versions. 

Pane 1 contains 4 x 50p and 4 x 5p Machin definitives - we don't know at this stage whether they will have conventional gum or be self-adhesive, but all panes are printed by Enschede, which will mean new stamps with security codes MA13 and MPIL

UPDATE 30 August:
Royal Mail have confirmed that FDCs will be accepted bearing just the 50p, or 5p and 50p stamps from the PSB.  (See further down for scan of actual pane)


Panes 2 and 3 have 1st class and £1.28 Merchant Navy stamps - we believe pane 2 will have the 1st class stamps.


As you can see Pane 4 has the miniature sheet stamps but with a new background which means that these stamps should be listed individually in the catalogues - and preprinted albums.

There will also be a retail stamp booklet containing 4 x 1st class red Machin definitives, and the 1st class Cutty Sark stamp - and, for the first time, a stamp from a different stamp issue, the 1st class Postal Van from the British Auto Legends issue on 13 August

In case anybody hadn't noticed, this is Royal Mail's 2013 Europa stamp, so the self-adhesive version will be a must-have for all collectors of Europa/CEPT stamps!

Official first day of issue postmarks are available from Tallents House and Clydebank:

There will be many special postmarks for this issue, the first will be added to our webpage soon.

UPDATE 28 August 2013
We can now show details of the retail booklet and the Machin pane in the prestige stamp book.  The colours of the Post Van stamp in the retail book are quite different to those on the original MS.  As is not uncommon, colour registration on the Walsall-printed booklet is also a bit hit-and-miss!

This is a scan of the actual Machin pane, but it shows the stamps darker than they are.  However, the elliptical perforations are at the upper end of the sides of the stamp, rather than the lower.  This suggests that the perforating frame was set up inverted in error.   But all the ones I have seen are the same, so I'm not expecting that this will be a scarce variety.

Royal mail have confirmed that the error affects all production:
"Enschede made a late perforating equipment change – they have two different machines. However, each feeds the sheets in different ways i.e. 180 degrees in opposition. They didn’t consider the impact of the change on the product anddidn’t identify the error during subsequent checking operations. The only ‘fortunate’ part is that all production was affected in this way rather than a small volume."


  1. Not more prestige books and retail books! These add on so much to the cost of collecting - and are happening far too often now. Each set is now costing a substantial amount to collect the variations.

    1. Retail booklets are sometimes the only time the general public - buying stamps from supermarkets and newsagents - get to see special stamps.

      But these details are not confirmed, just speculation.

    2. I used to see posters up in the post offices of upcoming nice stamp issues but I haven't seen these for a while except for Dr Who, I think the last one I saw was for the Album Covers. I don't think I have even seen a stamp calendar in the post office this year to pick up, instead using this lovely site for info.

      My main complaint, as a sender of international mail, is that yet another stamp issue without an 88p/first rate of airmail stamp. I do hope there'll be some with the dinosaurs, or a single stamp to make up the difference from first class to 88p

  2. Not another Miniature Sheet cover, plus the Xmas set, that's 8 Miniature Sheet covers in 1 year. Usually they are limited to 6 per year, is it really necessary to have a miniature sheet cover for this set. RM have announced an extra Xmas set, with a set of Childrens Xmas stamps designed by children which will have its own first day cover along with the official xmas stamp set.

    I must admit the main 6 stamps of the Merchant Navy stamps are beautiful and should be left as a stand alone set, but the miniature sheet is hardly warranted.

    1. I suppose Royal Mail could have honoured the men of the Arctic Convoys with a set of 6 and that would have generated more complaints. It's only £2.40 - and nobody forces anybody to buy anything!

  3. I for one enjoy all the mini-sheets they produce as they are cheaper to buy than the main issue which I find ever more expensive!I wish they would issue more sheets!

  4. Come on, get the quote right!
    Clue- it's on the miniature sheet.

    1. You see this is what happens when you rely on press releases and other official information.... thanks for pointing out Royal Mail's error. (I suppose I ought to check the official record of WSC's utterances and confirm that the MS is right!)

  5. It is worth checking, as the the quote often attributed to WSC in relation to the Arctic Convoys (that it was "the worst journey in the world") cannot be located.

    I don't mind miniature sheets, but it can be annoying to have to buy the whole sheet when your interest is in only one or two of the stamps. Will RM offer the option of purchasing single stamps from the sheets?

    1. No, miniature sheets are sold 'as is'. But being only 1st class stamps they are not expensive and you can always hold the spare ones over for Christmas (if you are in the UK).

  6. Didn't Royal Mail offer the option of buying single stamps from the Olympic Gold Medal Winner miniature sheets? If so, what's the difference here?

  7. The problem with 'Anonymous' posts is that I don't know whether you are the same person, or another one following up. But the answer to your question, as you already know, is Yes, they did.

  8. As someone with family members who served on the Arctic Convoys I have a particular interest in this issue, and would have quite liked the option of buying just the individual Arctic Convoy stamp (bottom left stamp of the miniature sheet) in large numbers rather than have to buy the whole miniature sheet (probably several times over). From my point of view, it's a shame that this issue wasn't the other way round, with the Convoys as the separate stamps and the ships as the miniature sheet. But I recognise that won't be to everyone's tastes ...

    1. Until we get details we won't know for sure which stamps show Arctic and which Atlantic but I get you rpoint.

  9. The bottom left stamp is a photo of sailors clearing the decks of snow on board HMS KING GEORGE V whilst she was in Arctic waters. The top right photo is a British sailor signalling a merchant ship as it passes the naval control base in the Thames estuary. Top left and bottom right I'm less sure about ... I would say Atlantic convoys, but unsure which (maybe one to Malta / North Africa?).

  10. The Year of the Convoy (2013)

    A MERCHANT NAVY STAMP of approval:

    Defeat was mighty close in the second greatest war,
    Five thousand ships with cargos sent to the ocean floor,
    Merchant men were slaughtered sustaining our lifeline,
    The Country issued ration books so desperate was the time.

    A crisis at the home front, foodstuff very short,
    Rations and provisions scarcely making port,
    Convoys steaming steadfast under Red Ensigns,
    Faced demise from U-boats, the bombers and the mines.

    There were many heroes on land and sea and air,
    And thirty thousand Seamen gave their lives out there,
    Transporting reinforcements, resources and supplies,
    And fuel to fly the spitfires fighting in the skies.

    Perhaps we should commend them by illustrating stamps,
    The freighters and the liners, the tankers and the tramps,
    It would be a special tribute, rather overdue,
    To mariners who manned them and a way to say thank you.

    J.S.Earl Nov. 2009

    Captain Joe Earl penned the above in tribute and commemoration and in hope for a stamp of approval. Any reproduction in remembrance / tribute and commemoration is welcomed:

    Regard's Keith at Tregenna:

  11. I think RM have missed a trick or two here! We have not yet had a smilers/generic sheet. Nor a set of mugs, tea towel, pin badge, model ships or pencil case. The number of issue variants is out of control.
    This is only one of the Stampex issues.

  12. new placement for machin ellips.?

  13. My opinion is that the Merchant Navy stamps are very nice.

    I may buy my first PSB ever.

    Why doesn't Royal Mail issue more stamps with lower face values, so that everyone can afford them?

    I may have to get a loan from my bank if I want to continue collecting GB stamps.

  14. These are really wonderful stamps and although I have more ties with RAF than Naval, I think the choice of ships has been perfect. But then what do I know - female and once blond!!
    I do however agree with the comments 'not more prestige and retail books'. I moved to Holland back in 1979 but have kept my British stamp collection going, both mint and cancelled, even though it's much more expensive for me here than the general collector in the UK. Yeap - that's my choice and nobody is twisting my arm to continue with my 56 year old hobby. Buying musical instruments is even more expensive (my other passion) but the cost of new recorders tends to be spread over a number of years. Anyway - I fear that Royal Mail may be slowly following, if not overtaking, her Dutch counterpart PostNL who nowadays brings out 4 sets of singles stamps or thereabouts with the remainders on sheets of 10 (20 at Christmas). Maybe it's easier to print and produce sheets but I found them boring as hell and stopped my Dutch stamp collection at the end of 2012. I will continue my quest to fill the gaps but have saved over €400 each year for something which has gotten out of hand. I suppose I don't notice the costs of the GB stamps as these are spread over 12 months as I tend to purchase the issues via eBay from a couple of reliable sources. I'd probably frighten myself if I added it all up!! hahaha I wonder if the people making choices of what each stamp should depict are running away with themselves in creating way too many choices. If only one naval ship was depicted, would this really put so many noses out of joint? Shouldn't the people who design and choose each issue start making life simpler for themselves and go back to perhaps 4 instead of 14 including the Machins? Again - this is female logic - no apologies to the men reading this!! Sorry - have to sign this in as anonymous but you may all call me Sue ;-)

    1. Hello again Sue. I understand your problem! You can buy most of the stamps direct from Royal Mail (even via eBay) although there are many specialist items that they do not recognise, so dealers are the only option.

      I don't think RM will ever go to printing stamps purely in sheets of 10 as so many countries have - Germany, for example is another. But I don't think you can mark several hundred years of Merchant Naval history with just one stamp. Maybe they should have marked just the Convoys (this year has been designated Year of the Convoy) and left the rest of the Merchant Navy for another time, but even the 1969 set had 6 stamps in!

  15. iIt was nice see these stamp brought, back memories of my dad and uncle, it must be said, it was not only north and south atlantic but the russian conveys,mediterranean and indian oceans. Told by the ones who had done these dangerous runs.


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