Friday 17 May 2019

75th Anniversary of D-Day - the Normandy landings of World War 2

Royal Mail is marking the 75th Anniversary of the Allied Landings in Normandy in World War II with the issue of a set of stamps, a miniature sheet and a retail booklet.

Although we were told that we could not publish any details or pictures until 2 June, Royal Mail has now made the products available for pre-order on their website here.  

The anniversary is marked on 6th June 2019 of D-Day, 75 years on since the largest combined naval, air and land operation in the history of warfare. On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. Codenamed Operation 'Overlord', the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation. Early on 6 June, Allied airborne forces parachuted into drop zones across northern France. Ground troops then landed across five assault beaches - Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold along the coast and could begin their advance into France. Royal Mail is marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and its indelible impact on the outcome of WW2 with this set of stamps and products.

5 June - This post is now updated with detaials of the stamp images and technical information.

Set of six stamps
A pair each of 1st class, £1.35 and £1.60 stamps.  The £1.60 pays the rate for European letters up to 100g, and the £1.35 pays for European letters to 20g, Postcards and Worldwide letters to 10g.

The stamps in detail:

1st Class - Men of No. 4 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, are briefed by their Commanding Officer, Lt Col R Dawson, just before embarking for Normandy.
1st Class - HMS Warspite, part of Bombardment Force ‘D’, shelling German gun batteries in support of the landings on Sword on 6 June 1944.
£1.35 - Paratroopers of the British 6th Airborne Division synchronising watches prior to take off at about 23:00 on 5 June 1944.
£1.35 - Commandos of HQ 4th Special Service Brigade leaving their landing craft and wading ashore on Juno.
£1.60 - An American A-20 Havoc light bomber with D-Day ‘invasion stripes’ provides air support following the D-Day landings.
£1.60 - Troops from the East Yorkshire Regiment take cover as an enemy shell explodes nearby on 19 July 1944.

Miniature Sheet

1st Class UTAH: More than 23,000 men of the US 4th Infantry Division landed on Utah on DDay. Strong currents swept the first wave of troops into a more lightly defended sector 1,800m to the south of their original target. Airborne troops had already dropped into the area behind Utah in the early hours to secure beach exits and river crossings, providing a route for troops on the beach to move further inland. By the end of the day, the 4th Infantry Division had advanced approximately 4 miles

1st Class OMAHA: Casualties at Omaha were higher than on any other beach. Preliminary Allied air and naval bombardments failed to knock out strong defence points and the Americans had difficulties clearing the beach obstacles. Allied intelligence failed to realise that the German 352nd Infantry Division had earlier reinforced coastal defence units on anti-invasion duties. With the German defences largely intact, the first wave of troops from the US 1st and 29th Divisions were cut down at the water’s edge, and follow-up units struggled to gain a foothold.

1st Class GOLD: Nearly 25,000 men of the British 50th Division landed on Gold on D-Day. Their objectives were to capture the town of Bayeux and the Caen–Bayeux road, and to link up with the Americans at Omaha. High winds caused the tide to rise more quickly than expected, concealing the beach obstacles underwater. Troops battled to overcome strongpoints that remained intact after the initial bombardment, delaying progress inland. However, by the end of the day, British troops were successful in joining up with Canadian troops from Juno.

1st Class JUNO: The Canadian 3rd Division’s objective was to secure Juno and link up with British forces on Gold to the west and Sword to the east. Juno was heavily defended and casualties were high, especially among the first wave of infantry. Rough seas delayed the landing and the rising tide reduced the width of the beach, which eventually became jammed with incoming vehicles and equipment. By midnight, the Canadians had yet to link up with the British at Sword but had succeeded in joining the British at Gold.

1st Class SWORD: Bad weather and strong German resistance hindered the British 3rd Division’s assault on Sword. Rising tides and the geography of the assault area created a narrow front, causing congestion and making it difficult to land the armoured support needed to advance inland. Although the British 3rd Division successfully repelled a German counterattack, it became impossible for it to take the strategically important city of Caen – its key objective for D-Day. The capture of Caen became a focal point of British strategy in the weeks after D-Day. 

Background Map of the Assault Beach Areas with their respective assault times

The stamps and miniature sheet were designed by Baxter and Bailey.
The 60 x 30 mm stamps was printed by International Security Printers in litho, 36 stamps per sheet in se-tenant pairs.  The 192 x 74 mm sheet contains five stamps 37 x 35 mm.

Acknowledgements: briefing troops © IWM (B 5098); synchronising watches © Imperial War Museum [IWM] (H 39070); light bomber © Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images; HMS Warspite © IWM (A 23916); wading ashore © IWM (B 5218); taking cover © IWM (B 7683). 
Utah © IWM (EA 25902); Omaha © Bettmann/Getty Images; Gold © Galerie Bilderwelt/Bridgeman Images; Juno © IWM (A 23938); Sword © IWM (B 5114)

Retail booklet
(Publicity picture)

Actual booklet


Interestingly, with the stamps and background all grey-scale monochrome, the cylinder numbers (all W1) show that the booklet is printed in 4-colour process litho (CMYK), plus

the red (deep scarlet) for the Machin,
the iridescent (invisible security) ink,
the slate/grey (the head, value and captions), and
the phosphor.

Makes you wonder why they didn't just print the captions etc in black, and ignore the colours completely.  The booklet is printed in gravure by ISP Walsall.

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