Terry Hare-Walker visited Banbury Stamp Society on Tuesday 16th October and gave the members a taste of Indian philately by showing us eight possible collecting areas.
Early maritime mail went via the Cape of Good Hope, which meant that mail from India could take several months to transit due to the unfavourable winds. Mail marks were introduced in 1775 and Terry’s first cover was dated 1793, from Madras to London. Initially the East India Company carried the mail but in 1814 an act was passed so that the Royal Mail were paid 1s 2d to apply a handstamp to allow the mail to be put onto the ship – but the sender had to take the mail to the ship! The act was amended so that mail went into the system at the post office.
To speed mail up, sea and land routes were developed: by sea from India to Egypt, overland to the Mediterranean then either by sea to Great Britain or sea and then overland through France. The rates Terry showed dropped steadily up to the introduction of the Imperial Penny Postage rate in 1898.
Much of the mail between India and Great Britain was military and Terry showed correspondence from campaigns including the 1857-59 mutiny, North-West Frontier campaigns, the Boxer Rebellion in China as well as the two World Wars.
The next section that Terry presented was unexpected: Prisoner of War mail. During the Boer War the British took significant numbers of POW’s and 9,000 were sent to thirteen different camps in India. Terry had mail from all camps showing the camp strike and censorship markings.
The first stamp used in India was also the first circular stamp: the Scinde Dawk. This is an extremely rare stamp and Terry showed us an example of the lower value. In 1854, Queen Victoria stamps were issued, and there were mint, used and covers of all of these.
India claims to have the first official airmail flight when 6,500 pieces of mail were flown 6.5 miles at a trade exhibition. Terry also showed covers from a number of pioneering air mail flights between Europe and Australia or the Far East.
The final section was a thematic collection on Mahatma Ghandi. Born in India in 1869, he studied law in London then practised in India before moving to South Africa in 1893. It was there he developed his non-violent action, and he took this back to India in 1914 where he continued to press for independence – which was finally achieved in 1947. Ghandi was assassinated in 1948. Many countries have commemorated Ghandi’s life on stamps and Terry had a good selection on display.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday 6th November at 7:30pm at Hanwell Fields Community Centre when Alan Godfrey will show material on the topic ‘To the Ends of the Earth – Polar Exploration’. The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831.