GB Postal Strike 1971: Railway / Tram stamps.

1971 Strike Post Trains Trams

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A Brief History. In 1971, Royal Mail, an arm of the General Post Office (GPO), enjoyed a monopoly of the letter post - and continued to hold it until 2006. Whilst, for example, railway companies (by this date in practice only the preserved / heritage railways) could, under a GPO licence, carry letters on their own system, these letters still had to be franked with the full Royal Mail postal rate as well. Basically then, there were no purely private letter services operating in Britain, except on a few small islands not served by Royal Mail.

An industrial dispute at the Post Office in Britain resulted in a postal strike which commenced on January 20th, 1971. The Government suspended Royal Mail's monopoly and hundreds of private individuals and small organisations arranged their own private or public postal services, starting at varying dates during the period of the strike; some issued stamps, others did not. These services varied from the very local to the regional (usually through co-operation with other private carriers) to the international, and many of these continued until the end of the strike on March 7th, although a few days' grace was permitted to clear undelivered privately-run letter mail up until March 11th, when the monopoly was re-instituted.
Note: Private postal service organisers were, in theory, supposed to get approval, probably from the Postmaster General, to run a service during the strike, but some people operated without such authority, so far as we are aware without any legal repercussions.

Overseas mail was typically carried by a courier and taken by ferry or by air to a post office abroad, most often in France or Belgium, where those countries' stamps would be added to pay for onward transmission. However, mail to, from and via a very large number of countries circulated during the strike in varying quantities and using a myriad of intermediaries. The face value on the Strike Post stamps is generally much higher than the Royal Mail cost at the time (until February 14th 1971 5d First Class, 4d Second Class; from February 15th 3p first class, 2½p second class). These higher strike mail rates are easily explained by the lack of economies of scale in a small postal organization and, for international mail, the need to include the cost of purchasing, on behalf of the sender, foreign stamps to be affixed to the envelopes abroad.

Status of Stamps. Some carriers issued no stamps; some issued stamps with little thought to philatelic interest; some operated a service where the stamps were genuinely used by the public but where the operator was also conscious of the opportunities offered by the philatelic market. One final group aimed their stamps entirely, or in major part, at the philatelic market, carrying few genuine items of mail or sometimes none at all. Bespoke First Day and Last Day covers may be found, mostly from those in the last two categories of carrier; private collectors may also have produced their own, of course, but they would usually have needed to be present in the exact, and usually very small, geographical location to do so.

Now, nearly 50 years on, the majority of the Strike Post on offer online is the 'mass-produced for collectors' material. As a result, opinion about Strike Post stamps is frequently cynical and/or dismissive. However, there are many scarce stamps, not infrequently with fewer than ten or twenty copies thought to have been produced and/or survived. There are also company handstamps, with or without date-stamps, used on mail by organizations which did not use stamps and some of these, too, are very rarely seen. Indeed, a significant proportion of the scarcer strike post material is from such purely commercial carriers. Certainly the breadth and variety of activity, ingenuity and totally different methods of operation make this a particularly interesting, and often quite demanding, field of study.

In the text below, we have sought to describe the typical usage of each issue (commercial, philatelic or both) and its location; for this information we have used several (sometimes contradictory) sources, and have found that much of the most reliable information is to be found in the 13-volume catalogue of these stamps produced by Clive Smith in the late 1990s. Catalogue-style listings with check-boxes are in green throughout.

Old Currency (£.s.d.) and Decimal Currency. Older British readers can skip the next paragraph or two! On February 15th 1971, the United Kingdom moved from its centuries-old currency of Pounds(£) shillings(s) and pence(d) to Pounds(£) and (new) pence(p). In the old currency, there were 12 pence to one shilling and 20 shillings to 1 Pound. The Pound itelf remained the same in value at the changeover. On February 15th, however, the only postal services in Britain were those of the private operators, so the new decimal Royal Mail postage stamps could not be used on the first day of issue.

Some private carriers had foreseen that, if the strike lasted more than four weeks, which it did, they would require new face values on their stamps and they therefore printed their stamps from the outset with dual currency; other operators either issued new decimal stamps or surcharged existing stocks. Given that 1 (new) penny was equal to 2.4 old pence, not all surcharges could be precise conversions; a shilling was exactly 5p; one shilling and six pence (usually written 1/6) was equal to 7½p (new pence) but an old value of 5d or 9d, to give examples, had no exact equivalence in new coinage.
Linguistic Note : The word 'new' before 'pence' was dropped fairly quickly by most speakers, but so, in many cases, was the word pence, with most people just saying the letter 'p', an inelegant development of the language which persists to this day.

Scope of this Article. Only quite a small number of the hundreds of different 1971 Strike Post mail services issued stamps, or generated covers with or without stamps, which have any railway or tramway interest. In most cases where the railway interest lies solely in the routing of the mail, the covers will usually be philatelically-inspired but they are interesting nonetheless.

Preserved / Heritage Railways :
At the time of the strike, only FOUR heritage railways carried Railway Letters under a Post Office Licence: Festiniog Railway, Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, Talyllyn Railway, Vale of Rheidol Railway. Their activities during the postal strike are covered separately at the end of this article.

Finally, it is worth remembering, when looking at the designs and quality of all these stamps, that in 1971 the simplest pocket calculator was just about to amaze the world; personal computers, which today could print and overprint stamps with ease, did not exist, so printing, especially emergency printings at short notice, often required considerable ingenuity or ready access to the production of printing plates and a printing press. Other, faster, methods of producing stamps were used, mostly with very primitive results.

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Alphabetical LIST OF ISSUES of Railway or Tramway Interest

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AUTHORISED SERVICE

Main Organiser's Location : London N.10
Main Area Covered : North London and South Hertfordshire
Authorised by the Post office? : YES
Type of Service : Commercial : Extensive local and international coverage in association with others.

This is, unfortunately, a particularly difficult issue with which to begin. The service operated from January 20th to February 18th and then closed. Next day, a new service was begun, now re-named 'Authorised Service (World Courier's), which had acquired the stocks of the 'Authorised Service' the night before. This second service was highly philatelic in nature.

The 'Authorised Service' only had a few stamps and proofs, as shown below, which were available Imperforate or cut with pinking scissors. Authorised Service did NOT roulette these stamps. The remaining stocks, mostly imperforate, but including some of the quite scarce pinking-scissor stamps, became the property of 'Authorised Service (World Courier's) on February 19th and, as far as we can deduce, they rouletted most of the remainders that they received and then printed new values from the printing plates.

Imperforate 6d and 3/- : Whether World Courier's ever sold any imperforate stamps is unknown to us. They may have rouletted them all. To avoid double-listing of imperforate stamps which would mostly be impossible to distinguish between the two services (if they both issued them, which is not clear), we have listed the imperforate 6d and 3/- values under Authorised Service and all the rest under Authorised Service (World Courier's).

Pinking-Scissor cut issues : The date of the cover illustrated lower down, February 19th, is one day after the closure of this service (Authorised Service) and the first day of operation of the service which succeeeded it, Authorised Service (World Courier's). However, we think it quite likely that the pinking-scissor cut was a method of separation ONLY used by Authorised Service. Until we have any evidence that World Courier's used anything other than Authorised Service remainder stocks for any pinking-scissor stamps, we have listed them only in this section.

The design for these stamps (and those in the next section) is 'borrowed' straight from the printed stamp design used on some USA Postal Stationery envelopes of 1876.

1971 Strike Post Authorised Service 1971 Strike Post Authorised Service 1971 Strike Post Authorised Service

A brief digression: These 3c USA postal stationery envelopes of 1876, the Centenary of Independence, are found in two styles, both of them issued in two colours, green and red. In one type, the line below POSTAGE is solid; in the other type there are two poorly-defined lines, one thick, one thin, below POSTAGE. The 3c Red in the double line type is rare. A green version of this postal stationery envelope appeared for the Bi-Centenary with the lower date altered from 1876 to 1976.

Concentrating now on Authorised Service :
This service operated with only a 6d Carmine and a 3/- Pale Blue, but also produced several proofs, as per the list below. Stamps of this issue are found Imperforate (normal) or separated with pinking scissors (scarce). We have not seen the 6d cut with pinking scissors, but have assumed it exists in the listing below.
Stamp sizes : These are given for all the stamps below and measurements are of the printed area of the stamp only, not the overall dimensions. As many of the rouletted stamps (see next section) have large margins, identifying genuinely imperforate single stamps requires stamps with huge margins! For example, the 3/- blue in the second scan below could be a cut-down rouletted stamp from the World Courier's stock.
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1971 Strike Post Authorised Service

1971 Strike Post Authorised Service

6d Pale Claret Imperf 30 x 34 mms [ . ]
- ditto - cut with pinking scissors [ . ]

3/- Light Blue 45 x 49 mms [ . ]
- ditto - cut with pinking scissors [ . ]

1971 Strike Post Authorised Service Proofs

Proofs
6d Black 30 x 34 mms [ . ]
6d Black 30 x 34 mms (printed from the defaced plate - cross-hatch of obliterating lines [ . ]
3/- Black 45 x 49 mms [ . ]
3/- Black 45 x 49 mms(printed from the defaced plate - cross-hatch of obliterating lines) [ . ]
3/- Light Blue 21 x 23 mms [ . ]

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AUTHORISED SERVICE (WORLD COURIER'S)

The apostrophe in the name is as per the postmarks, although other evidence suggests the apostrophe should be after the 'S'.

Main Organiser's Location : North London
Main Area Covered : No postal service thought to have been offered.
Authorised by the Post office? : Not known.
Type of Service : Assumed to be Philatelic Sales only.

The previous 6d Black, 3/- Black and 3/- Light Blue were re-printed from new plates; additionally new values and colours were produced. Most stamps were rouletted, which distinguishes these reprinted stamps from those of the Authorised Service. The problem is with imperforate stamps without huge margins; see the section above.

Stamps are again in two main sizes, large (45 x 49 mms) and small (30 x 34 mms) The very small 3/- (21 x 23 mms) was apparently not reprinted. The scans below are in roughly correct proportions.

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1971 Strike Post Authorised Service World Courier 1971 Strike Post Authorised Service World Courier
1971 Strike Post Authorised Service World Courier 1971 Strike Post Authorised Service World Courier

6d Black (small format) Rouletted [ . ]
6d Bright Red (small format) Rouletted [ . ]
6d var. Rose-Red (small format) Rouletted [ . ]
1/- Pale Blue (small format) Rouletted [ . ]
1/- Grey-Blue (small format) scarce shade variety Rouletted [ . ]
2/6 Royal Blue (small format) Rouletted [ . ]
3/- Black (large format) Rouletted [ . ]
3/- Pale Blue (large format) Rouletted [ . ]
5/- Yellow-Green (small format) Rouletted [ . ]
7/6 Chestnut (large format) Rouletted [ . ]
10/- Red (large format) Rouletted [ . ]
£1 Black (large format) Rouletted [ . ]
£5 Lilac (large format) Rouletted [ . ]

Also seen, possibly proofs

£1 Venetian Red (large format) [ . ] scan seen.
£1 Orange-Yellow (large format) [ . ] not seen, to be confirmed.

Also, produced no doubt for publicity purposes in a very small quantity :

£1,000,000 Blue, Gold and Red (large format with a crown and bird silhouetted above the stamp) [ . ]

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CITY OF LONDON MAIL DELIVERIES (2)

Main Organiser's Location : Possibly Arlington Supplies in Green Lane, London N.13
Main Area Covered : Doubtfut that there was any.
Authorised by the Post office? : Not known.
Type of Service : Probably Philatelic Only.

There is a City of London Mail Deliveries(1) and (2) in Clive Smith's catalogue. The (1) listing is extensive but the (2) listing is limited to cds cancellations on stamps of other organisers/carriers. It is the latter which has railway interest, solely for the 2/- and 10p Manchester Express stamps on cover.

Readers may find it easier to refer to the Manchester Express section further down and then return to this point, as, for convenience, these two stamps (as mint stamps) are listed under Manchester Express, rather than here. However, any covers bearing these stamps with their London-based cancellations are listed below.

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Manchester Express 1971 Strike Post 10p cover

Cover : Manchester Express 2/- with cds Overseas Mail / 29 JAN 1971 / First Day of Issue [ . ]
Cover (with ½p coin) : Manchester Express 10p with cds Overseas Mail / 15 FEB 1971 / First Day of Issue [ . ]

Cover : Manchester Express 10p with cds City of London / 15 FEB Decimal Day 1971 / Mail Deliveries [ . ]

There may be other cancellations applied to these stamps on cover from this organiser. Information on this would be most welcome.

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CORNISH NATIONAL POST (KERNOW)

Main Organiser's Location : St. Austell
Main Area Covered : Cornwall
Authorised by the Post office? : YES
Type of Service : Commercial : Extensive coverage throughout Cornwall.

Although it is approaching half a century since the strike took place, by no means everything is clear, and this applies to the Cornish National Post, amongst others.

So far we have seen four sheetlets/8 stamps as follows:

8 different values on White Paper - format per scan below
8 different values on Yellow Paper - format per scan below (2 sheets seen - identical)
Sheet of 8 stamps with 4 x Map stamp and 4 x 'Puffing Billy' stamp on Yellow Paper (see scan below)

This last sheet/8 has only recently come to light. There may be other formats and/or combinations. Please let us know (and send us a scan) of anything else you may have / find. Thank you

Cornish Post Kernow 1971 Strike Post

6d Richard Trevithick on White Paper [ . ]
9d Trevithick's Puffing Billy on White Paper [ . ]
sheetlet/8 including one each of 6d and 9d above on White Paper [ . ]

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Cornish Post Kernow 1971 Strike Post

6d Richard Trevithick on Yellow Paper [ . ]
9d Trevithick's Puffing Billy on Yellow Paper [ . ]
sheetlet/8 including one each of 6d and 9d above on Yellow Paper [ . ]

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Cornish Post Kernow 1971 Strike Post
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Sheet with 4 x 9½d Map & 4 x 9½d Loco on Yellow Paper [ . ]

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EXPORTER LETTER SERVICE (LONDON) / (EXPORT LETTER SERVICE)

Main Organiser's Location : A group of Central London stamp dealers.
Main Area Covered : Foreign Mail only
Authorised by the Post office? : Not known.
Type of Service : Significant commercial use and extensive philatelic sales also.

There are two items of railway interest from this major strike post stamp produder, both based on a reproduction of a classic and well-known 1890 GB Postal Stationery Envelope (PSE) for the Penny Postage Jubilee (50 years since the Penny Black), which shows a steam train running along the bottom. The original envelope was drawn by Harry Furniss, an illustrator of the period. Below, we first show the original 1890 Royal Mail envelope that Furniss designed, on which Exporter Letter Service drew for both a Postal Stationery Aerogramme and a Postal Stationery Card (PSC).

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GB 1890 Envelope
The 1890 Royal Mail PSE, used with special postmark.
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Next, below, are two images reproduced here Courtesy of John A. McCulloch, showing the Exporter Letter Service(London) aerogramme and PSC based on the 1890 envelope. These images come from John's very interesting article on Furniss's 1890 caricature envelope, the first four pages of the article being devoted to the 1890 issue, and the final page, Page 5, to the Exporter aerogramme and card. For anyone interested, immediately below is a link to Page 1 of John's article.
Link to First Page of Harry Furniss article on John A. McCulloch's website (opens in new tab) .

1971 Strike Post Exporter Aerogramme

1971 Strike Post Exporter PS Card

4/- Postal Stationery Airletter. [ . ]
4/- Postal Stationery Card. [ . ]

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GOTT'S PARK C.S. SCHOOL EMERGENCY DELIVERY SERVICE

Main Organiser's Location : Harrogate (limited service), mainly in Leeds
Main Area Covered : Initially school / education matters only, later opened to the public
Authorised by the Post office? : NO
Type of Service : Internal and some Commercial, including some mail sent through other operators.

Railway-related stamps were issued inscribed Gott's Park School during the Postal Strike. At first, the service was intended solely as a private service and for handling some local educational mail. In the wake of newspaper publicity, it was made available to the public.

The designs are hand-drawn and were printed on the school's spirit dupicator (per Clive Smith catalogue). Colours fade with time or may even be changelings, so any colours given may be subject to variation.

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1971 Strike Post Gott's Park School stamps

1971 Strike Post Gott's Park School offset

1p Middleton Railway locomotive on White Paper (only issued in sheetlet, printed in 3 colours) [ . ]
Sheetlet with above stamp and 2p Road, 3p Canal and 5p Airport stamps [ . ]
- ditto - strong offset on reverse of two stamps. (see smaller scan above) [ . ]

Note on the above stamps, printed in THREE COLOURS. Clive Smith gives the colours as Green, Red and Black but the few sheetlets that we have seen have the colours Pale Turquoise, Magenta and Black. Inscription at foot of sheet inverted.
Note that, on the Gott's Park C.S. School sheetlets, there is no train on the 3p Canal stamp, just some rough lines of shading between the barge and the power station (but see Benjamin Gott school further down).

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1971 Middleton Railway Gott's Park School stamps

Above : This is not a Strike Mail item, but a 1970 label commemorating the 10th anniversary of the re-opening of this Leeds area wagonway/railway, located about 5 miles from the school. Although it does not appear to be source material for the Gott's Park locomotive stamp (there are several design differences), this label may well have been one of the inspirations for the school's stamps and/or postal service. Note: The label above exists with and without description below the design.

The Gott's Park sheetlet was redrawn in many important details and re-issued a few days later, being printed this time in only TWO COLOURS, Red and Black, but on GREEN PAPER.

1971 Strike Post Gott's Park School stamps

1p Middleton Railway locomotive (only issued in sheetlet) [ . ]
Sheetlet with above stamp and 2p Road, 3p Canal and 5p Airport stamps [ . ]

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Twenty copies of the 1p Middleton Railway on the original White Paper were overprinted ST DAVID'S / DAY /1ST MARCH; the majority of these were used on fdc.

1971 Strike Post Gott's Park School St David's Day

1p Middleton Railway (on white paper) optd St David's / Day / 1st March [ . ]

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Shortly before the end of the strike, Gott's Park School was re-named the Benjamin Gott School and a small number of new issues were produced during the last three days of the strike inscribed with the new school name; none of the new stamps are of railway design. For interest, we illustrate below a Last Day strike cover with one stamp inscribed with the old school name, one with the new, each bearing the appropriate cancellation. This cover links us neatly into the following section.

1971 Strike Post Gott's Park / Benjamin Gott School

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THE BENJAMIN GOTT SCHOOL EMERGENCY DELIVERY SERVICE

Main Organiser's Location : Harrogate (limited service), mainly in Leeds
Main Area Covered : Educational matter only, never open to the public
Authorised by the Post office? : YES
Type of Service : These are NOT Postal Strike issues, but a local postal service authorised by the GPO for local schools in June 1971, which permitted the use of the school's 'stamps' on the front of envelopes carried by Royal Mail (with normal Royal Mail franking).

Although strictly-speaking outside the scope of this article, the fact that modified designs of the stamps used during the Postal Strike were employed endows these stamps with much of interest. Indeed, but for the strike, it is highly unlikely any such postal service would have existed.
The new designs are more detailed and there are also several variations in the fonts and printing methods for the figures of value. The (now) 4p Canal design clearly shows a train. We have simply listed (and illustrated) what we have seen; other combinations of colour, size, font and printing almost certainly exist. Please let us know if you have any.

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1971 Strike Post Benjamin Gott School stamps

1971 Strike Benjamin Gott School Educational stamps

2P Middleton Railway in Black - Value handstamped in large letters [ . ]
4P Canal and Train in Black - Value handstamped in large letters [ . ]
Sheetlet with the two above plus 1p road and 5P Airport - all in Black [ . ]

When we first examined the damaged 4P above and the 4P in the sheetlet, there were obvious differences in the outer frame lines, suggesting that these stamps were printed in sheets of perhaps 2 or 4 sheetlets and then separated, as we do not think the stamps were issued in sheets of individual values, based on what we have seen. Having been sent a scan of another of these sheetlets, there are clear differences between them, notably in the outer frame lines and the figures of value, which are in a lighter ink in both cases. We are not sure whether these figures of value were handstamped each time or, more probably, inserted by running the sheets through the printing apparatus again. Below, we reproduce the sheetlet already shown above, alongside the second scan we have received, for ease of comparison.

1971 Strike Benjamin Gott School Educational stamps 1971 Strike Benjamin Gott School Educational stamps

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Italic figures of Value. We have not seen these stamps, shown below, except as singles and do not know whether they are perhaps from a second printing of sheetlets or a printing of individual stamps. Information welcome.

1971 Strike Benjamin Gott School Educational stamps

2p Middleton Railway in Black - Value printed in small Gothic letters [ . ]

We do not know whether the 4p Canal with Gothic figures of value exists in black; it seems probable, as does the sheetlet of 4 values; can anyone confirm this please?

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1971 Strike Benjamin Gott School Educational stamps 1971 Strike Benjamin Gott School Educational stamps

4P Canal and Train in Blue - small Gothic figures of value [ . ]
- ditto - Shading to right of value at left; bottom left corner frame lines differ [ . ]

Yet again, we do not have all the information we would like, such as whether the 2p Middleton Railway with Gothic figures of value exists in blue or maybe as a sheetlet of 4 values in blue.

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1971 Strike Benjamin Gott School Educational stamps

2P Locomotive with Tender ( 93 x 48 mms printed area ) Figure of Value handstamped in Magenta [ . ]
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We have not seen any other values in this larger format. The school closed in 1999.

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LOCAL SCOOTER MAIL (SOUTHPORT)

Main Organiser's Location : Southport, Lancs.
Main Area Covered : Within a radius of 15 miles of Southport but countrywide also using the British Rail Parcels Letter Service (source : Clive Smith catalogue)
Authorised by the Post office? : NO
Type of Service : Limited local mail carried and even more limited using the British Rail service. A modest amount of International Mail also carried. Philatelic Sales were significant.

This is quite a complex area. There are two forms of railway interest for this operator.

1. Letters were accepted for transmission and handed to British Railway Parcels for delivery to another station in Britain. The covers below were sent to himself by the organiser and therefore did not travel far! However, it is indicative of the opportunities afforded by the British Railways parcel system. Note that no British Rail stamps were affixed, even though some newspaper and parcel stamps would probably have been available at certain larger stations at least.

Local Scooter Mail southport Front Scooter Post Southport Back

Front and Back of Cover consigned to British Rail.

Local Scooter Post Southport via British Railways Parcels £sd [ . ]

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Local Scooter Mail southport Sample

As shown in manuscript on the envelope, this is a sample cover created by the organizer after the strike, but it shows typical decimal currency markings.

Local Scooter Post Southport via British Railways Parcels £p [ . ]

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2. The other, and important, type of railway interest lies with the poster stamps / publicity labels of The Interlaken Railway Company (Switzerland).

Rather than try to show everything on this webpage, we have just shown one cover and one stamp below. To see more, please click on the link below the images, which takes you to another webpage, which is devoted solely to these issues.

Scooter Post Southport Swiss Scooter Post 2s railway

To see the 24 poster stamps and all Scooter Mail stamps and covers we have seen. Click here (opens in a new tab)

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LONDON VIEWS

Main Organiser's Location : London W.6.
Main Area Covered : Not applicable (see text)
Authorised by the Post office? : Not Required
Type of Service : None (see text)

There are some strange things in philately and this is one of them. There were EIGHT strips of views of London Buildings produced, seven of them measuring about 13 x 2.5 cms, but one only measuring about 6 x 2.5 cms. They were apparently intended to be used for a Strike Post service but have no face value or name of operator and must be seen as unfinished proofs. Amongst these eight strips, two include line drawings of underground stations.

The strip inscribed The Strand (13 x 2.5 cms) shows Aldwych Underground Station (no longer open, incidentally) and the name of the station is printed above it.
One of the other long strips, without inscription below it, shows Tottenham Court Road Underground Station at the right side of the 'stamp'.

Printing: It is reported that they exist Imperf and Perforated, but we have not seen any perforated examples of any of the strips. Further, there is a problem with colours with up to eight colours having possibly been used, but we have not seen that number, nor do we know whether all colours exist for all the designs.
Clive Smith reports seeing examples in (single colours) Bistre-Brown, Orange, Black and Salmon-Pink. We have listed below only the colours that we have seen or which are in the Clive Smith catalogue; others almost certainly exist and, again, please share any information you have. Many thanks.

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1971 Strike Post London Views stamps - The Strand-Aldwych Station

1971 Strike Post London Views stamps - The Strand-Aldwych Station

The Strand strip - Aldwych Tube Station - in Bistre-Brown (Imperf) [ . ]
The Strand strip - Aldwych Tube Station - in Black *(Imperf) [ . ]

* Only seen with double print, out of alignment, as shown.

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First scan below shows the Stand / Aldwych Station strip printed together with the Tottenham Court Road Station strip.

1971 Strike Post London Views stamps Strand and Tottenham Court Road Station

1971 Strike Post London Views stamps - Tottenham Court Road Station

1971 Strike Post London Views stamps - Tottenham Court Road Station

The strip with Tottenham Court Road Station in Bistre-Brown (Imperf) [ . ]
The strip with Tottenham Court Road Station in Orange (Imperf) [ . ]
The strip with Tottenham Court Road Station in Black (Imperf) [ . ]
- ditto (in Black) Triple Printing [ . ]

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MANCHESTER EXPRESS

Main Organiser's Location : Manchester
Main Area Covered : None
Authorised by the Post office? : NO
Type of Service : Philatelic Sales only

The railway interest is limited to one design of a steam train, issued in sheets of 24 (4 x 6) with the train value in the third vertical row. The £sd and Decimal stamps were printed in the same sheet, the £sd stamps being the top three rows.

Based on the consistency of colours of the stamp, the most likely explanation of the varieties found is that a large printing was made of the sheets/24, undenominated. Face values were later added to the sheets, involving a complete re-setting of the surcharge plate.

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1971 Strike Post Manchester Express stamps

1971 Strike Post Manchester Express stamps

- Express Train with no value indicated [ . ]
- ditto- in a strip of 4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]
- Sheet/24 with no value indicated (not seen but assumed) [ . ]

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1971 Strike Post Manchester Express stamps

Full sheet/24 with both £sd and Decimal currency stamps. Detailed listing below.

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For the 5/- values listed below, we believe the first two to be the commoner types.

1971 Strike Post Manchester Express stamps

1971 Strike Post Manchester Express stamps

5/- Express Train (thick figure of value, rows 1 and 2) [ . ]
- ditto - in strip/4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]
5/- Express Train (thin figure of value, row 3) [ . ]
- ditto - in strip/4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]
- ditto - both the above types in sheet/24 [ . ]

5/- Express Train value inscribed as 5!- [ . ]
- ditto - in strip/4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]
5/- Express Train, very thin stroke between 5 and - in value [ . ]
- ditto - in strip/4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]
- ditto - both the above types in sheet/24 [ . ]

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1971 Strike Post Manchester Express stamps

25p Express Train (thick figure '2' in value, Row 4) [ . ]
- ditto - in strip/4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]
25p Express Train (thin figure '2' in value, Rows 5 and 6) [ . ]
- ditto - in strip/4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]

Note 1: the 25p values in sheets/24 would be included in the full sheets listed below the 5/- values above and are therefore not 'catalogued' again here.
Note 2 : It seems likely that there were further variations in the figures '25p' in other printings.

There are two further denominations of the train stamp, 2/- and 10p, which we have only seen singly, not in strips, although we imagine that they were probably surcharged along with the other three designs in sheets/24. Info please. These two stamps are a little mysterious. Every piece of new research makes it appear more likely that these two stamps were not used or issued by 'Manchester Express', but they may have been printed with their new values by Manchester Express on behalf of CITY OF LONDON MAIL DELIVERIES (2). Please see under that carrier higher up for the use of the 2/- and 10p stamps on cover.

Despite the foregoing comments, we list the stamps, though not the covers, here for ease of reference. Presentations Pack were produced containing several stamps from these sheets plus, often, one or two United Nations stamps, these probably produced by a different carrier, Overseas Mail of Tonbridge. However, the packs do not always contain the same stamps and are frequently found without either the 2/- or 10p Express Train. Scans of two Presentation Packs, one containing the 2/- train, the other with the 10p train are shown below. Mint copies of the 10p train seems particularly elusive. We think this could be because many (perhaps most) of the 10p train stamps were used up on philatelic covers.
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1971 Strike Post Manchester Express stamps

1971 Strike Post Manchester Express stamps
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2/- Manchester Express [ . ]
- ditto - in strip/4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]
2/- Manchester Express in Presentation Pack [ . ]

2/- and 10p in sheet/24 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]

10p Manchester Express [ . ]
- ditto - in strip/4 with stagecoach, football shields, Kennedy & Churchill [ . ]
10p Manchester Express in Presentation Pack [ . ]

Note: We have not yet seen the 2/- or 10p express train in strips or sheets.

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MIDDLESBROUGH RELIEF POST

Main Organiser's Location : Middlesbough
Main Area Covered : Middlesbrough and local area
Authorised by the Post office? : YES
Type of Service : Genuine local postal service; modest philatelic sales.

The design shows the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge; there are very few transporter bridges in the world (see Wikipedia). This is not a railway, but the cabin is transported by a cable-way, which some railway thematic collectors include. Close scrutiny of pictures online also suggest that some weighted or anchoring points are attached to double-flanged wheels to allow some stretching and shrinking with temperature change, although these are not visibly running on a rail.

Clive Smith reports that the stamps were printed in a strip/6 but the scans below indicate that the format was much more complex.

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1971 Strike Post Middlesbrough Relief Post stamps

1/- Transporter Bridge (sewing machine perf) [ . ]
- ditto - Interpanneau (gutter) Pair [ . ]
- ditto - Tête-Bêche pair [ . ]
- ditto - 'Cube' Flaw on Cabin *** [ . ]
- ditto - 'Bucket' flaw on Cabin *** [ . ]

*** These 'cube' and 'bucket' flaws may be found in a tête-bêche pair; the 'bucket' (larger) flaw is on the inverted stamp in the image above. They are shown in more detail, now both upright, below:

1971 Strike Post Middlesbrough Relief Post stamps

1971 Strike Post Middlesbrough Relief Post stamps

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We have not seen many of these stamps, whether perf or imperf, but, to date, we do not have evidence that the same varieties are common to both perf and imperf stamps. Whilst it seems unlikely that they were separate printings, we have, for the present, listed the imperforate issue and its varieties separately.
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1971 Postal Strike Post Middlesbrough Relief Post stamps

1/- Transporter Bridge Imperf [ . ]
- ditto - Flaw above 1/- (dot in circle) - not illustrated.[ . ]

There are minor varieties on these stamps,such as a small dot at the bottom right of 'I' of 'RELIEF' or a similar dot above the top right of 'E' of 'RELIEF' which we have seen on both the Perf and Imperf stamps. The Imperf pair shown above displays both these varieties. Given the number of flaws, it might be possible to plate these stamps through minor varieties, but, as so often with Strike Post material, it is hard to find significant study quantities of the stamp.

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NORTH WEST LONDON POSTAL SERVICES ( BHAWAN )

Main Organiser's Location : London NW2
Main Area Covered : London and Abroad
Authorised by the Post office? : YES
Type of Service : Genuine postal service; significant commercial mail carried; quite extensive philatelic sales.

There is only one basic design of railway interest, but it has many incarnations.

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1971 Strike Post NW London Bhawan stamps

4/- Diesel Train Green - shilling stroke between the '4' and the '-' is very short. Rouletted. [ . ]
4/- Diesel Train Green - shilling stroke between the '4' and the '-' is long. Rouletted. [ . ]
4/- Diesel Train Green - shilling stroke between the '4' and the '-' is very long. Imperf. [ . ]

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1971 Strike Post NW London Bhawan stamps

20p Diesel Train. Pale yellow-olive. Rouletted. [ . ]
- ditto - variety: top horizonal rouletting double. [ . ]
20p Diesel Train. Pale yellow-olive. Imperf [ . ]

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1971 Strike Post NW London Bhawan stamps

m/s of 4 values including 20p Diesel in distintly deeper olive colour. Imperf. [ . ]

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PEPPER'S COURIER SERVICE

The information we have on this service comes solely from a note attached to the item when offered for sale. Of the 6 reported surviving covers, we do not know whether they are all on first day cover envelopes, nor whether they were also sent, as here, on the first day of the strike, January 20th.

1971 Strike Peppers Courier Service Dover

The railway interest is the typed instruction as to the exact train, the 09.48, to be taken between Dover and London by the courier carrying the mail. Many trains from Dover terminate at London Charing Cross, one of the most centrally-located of all the London termini and only a 10-minute walk from the Inns of Court, probably convenient if solicitors were the main users of this courier service.

The 1969/70 timetable shows the 09.48 from Dover Priory arrived at Charing Cross at 11.20, a journey time 9 minutes faster than the fastest rail service today, and, even to achieve that, you must pay a fare supplement for travelling by the new high-speed line to St Pancras - and then endure crossing London on the tube!

1971 Strike Peppers Courier Service Dover

Pepper's Courier Service handstamp on a cover with train departure time. [ . ]
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PUBLIC MAIL

Main Organiser's Location : London N1 (by Gerald Rosen, well-known for his Strike Post catalogue)
Main Area Covered : London and Channel Islands
Authorised by the Post office? : YES
Type of Service : Much mail carried, but the vast majority was philatelic. Stamps also keenly marketed to philatelists.

Huge numbers of Public Mail stamps are on the market, and many stamps appear with all sorts of overprints, altered formats and new colours. However, the only stamp with a train apparently comes in one simple form.

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1971 Strike Post Public Mail

2/6 Blue : Diesel Train and Map of Europe [ . ]

A philatelic cover franked with the above stamp and bearing both hovercraft and rail-routing pre-printed instructions, or perhaps rather 'assertions', is shown below:

1971 Strike Post Hovercraft

2/6 Blue : Diesel Train on Hovercraft Cover inscribed 'Conveyed by Rail'. [ . ]

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SOUTH EASTERN POSTAL SERVICE

Main Organiser's Location : Mayfield and Crowborough, both in East Sussex
Main Area Covered :Inland and Abroad
Authorised by the Post office? : YES
Type of Service : A major operation, with bases in Kent, East Sussex and West Sussex, covering national and international destinations through links with other operators. .

None of the stamps have railway interest, but one printed souvenir cover was produced, in a limited edition of 250, illustrated with a locomotive and with a handstamp showing that it was carried on a British Rail train. It is illustrated here and, so far as we know, all the covers bore the same South Eastern Postal Service stamp, handstamp and cancellations, although the Post Office stamp varies.

We presume the Post Office stamp was added as they wished to have a Hartfield P.O. cancellation applied. We do not not know whether the covers were accompanied by an agent of South Eastern Postal Service (SEPA) or all shipped as a single package, perhaps as a British Rail Red Star Parcel. The SEPA would not have been signatories to the Post Office (Royal Mail) Railway Letter Stamp agreement and British Rail handled only parcel post, not letter post, so this is not in the strict sense a 'Railway Letter'.

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1971 Strike Post South Eastern stamps

10p East Sussex stamp on illustrated Cover with locomotive and special handstamp [ . ]

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WILLPOST (LIVERPOOL)

Main Organiser's Location : Bootle
Main Area Covered :Inland and Abroad
Authorised by the Post office? : YES
Type of Service : A large operation, principally commercial and efficient. Some philatelic covers produced, but the collector was not a significant target market.

An appropriate design of a Liverpool Post Tram was produced for the Decimal stamps of this service. The stamps were printed tête-bêche in sheets of 10 stamps (5x2) producing 5 tête-bêche pairs. Although the blue stamps were printed first, the organizer of the service did not like them and ordered some more, but in red. These red stamps were used first and the supply exhausted, at which point he turned to the blue stamps. There were some remainders of these blue stamps at the end of the strike. Currently, we only have a monochrome scan of a (blue) sheetlet/10 to display.

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1971 Strike Post Willpost Liverpool Tram stamps 1971 Strike Post Willpost Liverpool Tram stamps

10p Blue (on Blue Paper) : Post Tram [ . ]
- ditto - tête-bêche pair [ . ]
- ditto - sheet of 10 stamps [ . ]

10p Red (on Blue Paper) : Post Tram [ . ]
- ditto - tête-bêche pair [ . ]
- ditto - sheet of 10 stamps [ . ]

We have assumed the existence of the red stamp in complete sheets/10 but have not seen either a tête-bêche pair or a full sheet in this colour.

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OTHER:

British Rail(ways) ran a parcel / bulk newspaper service which continued uninterrupted during the strike period. British Railways newspaper stamps were still in use at the time. Both old and new currency stamps were used during the strike period, to a limited extent. Examples of both are shown below.

BR Newspaper Strike £sd

BR Newspaper Strike £p

BR £sd Newspaper stamps used in strike period [ . ]
BR £p Newspaper stamps used in strike period [ . ]

Other options available included the high profile express parcel service offered at main railway stations, known as 'Red Star Parcels'.

Below are shown two examples of Red Star Parcels labels dating from the 1971 Strike period, both sent from Plymouth to Paddington. We are informed that these particular packages would have been collected from Paddington by an agent of the solicitors Messrs Stiles, Wood & Co. of Harrow, acting on behalf of a client.

Red Star Parcels
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Red Star Parcels

Red Star Parcel label date-stamped within the Strike Peiod (Jan 20 - Mar 7) [ . ] .

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Preserved / Heritage / Narrow Gauge Railways

The four railways mentioned earlier, Festiniog, Talyllyn & Vale of Rheidol in Wales and the Ravenglass & Eskdale in the Lake District are all narrow gauge railways and all were already running a letter service under Post Office licence and continued to do so during the strike. Letters normally had to be franked additionally with British Post Office stamps at the current letter rate. We are not sure whether the obligation for covers to bear Post Office stamps would still have applied during the strike, but, so far as we are aware, the railways in question did not dispense with the GPO stamps during the strike period.

Usually, when covers posted on the railway were marked 'to be called for' at a station on the same railway, the GPO stamp was cancelled with a railway company postmark. If the envelope was for onward transmission beyond the railway, the stamps would more commonly, and correctly, receive a Royal Mail cancellation. However, variations on this practice are not particularly unusual, as displayed by certain covers below.

Covers during the strike period show little or no change from the norm; none of the railways appear to have made any provision during the strike for onward transmission by private carriers of letters entrusted to them. Any Royal Mail stamps cancelled with dates within the strike period would presumably be either favour cancels at a post office or backdated when normal postal services resumed. Covers from these four railways during the period of the strike are of interest because they are an active postal service for letters during the strike period; it is simply that they are not a new service.

Stamps

None of the four railways issued any new non-decimal (£sd) stamps between January 20th and February 14th 1971. Earlier issues continued to be used on covers until February 14th. All four railways issued decimal stamps on February 15th 1971, in every case by surcharging £sd issues. We have listed these new issue stamps during the strike, as they saw immediate use on the railways; we have also provided scans of a representative range of covers for both old and new currency covers during the strike period.

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FESTINIOG RAILWAY

£sd Issues (Covers) :

Festiniog Feb 14 1971

Festiniog Railway stamps with GPO 5d cancelled by the Railway [ . ]
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Decimal Issues (Stamps):

There are four decimal surcharges on Festiniog £sd issues, but only two were issued during the strike:
Festiniog Feb 15 stamps Festiniog Feb 15 stamps

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Festiniog Feb 15 stamps

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5p/1d (surcharge in claret) [ . ]
- ditto - sheet/12 [ . ]
10p/1s3d (surcharge in cornflour blue)
- ditto - sheet/12 [ . ]

Note: The 10p/1s2d and 15p/1s2d were issued on May 28th and July 7th 1971 respectively.
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Decimal Issues (Covers):

Festiniog Feb 15 1971

Festiniog Feb 15 1971

Festiniog Railway stamps with GPO 3p cancelled by the Railway (+ Portmadoc British Railways cachet in Black) [ . ]
- ditto - but Portmadoc cachet in Red [ . ]
Festiniog Railway stamps with GPO 3p with GPO cancel (Portmadog) [ . ]

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RAVENGLASS & ESKDALE RAILWAY

£sd Issues (covers) :

Strike period £sd covers exist.

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Decimal Issues (Stamps) :

Ravenglass Feb 15 1971

Ravenglass Feb 15 1971

10p/1s3d (surcharge in black) [ . ]
- ditto - Sheet/12 [ . ]

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Decimal Issue (Covers) :

Ravenglass Feb 15 1971

10p/1s3d on Cover with GPO 3d, both stamps cancelled by the railway. [ . ] .

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TALYLLYN RAILWAY

£sd Issues (Covers)

The Talyllyn Railway issued covers between February 12th and February 14th with decimal railway letter stamps (RLS) but with GPO £sd stamps, a strange combination. Those of February 12th are First Day of Use of the decimal RLS.

Talyllyn Feb 12 1971

Talyllyn Railway (decimal) stamps with GPO 5d cancelled by the railway at Welshpool [ . ]

Talyllyn Feb 12 1971

Talyllyn Railway (decimal) stamps with GPO 5d cancelled by the railway at Towyn [ . ]

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Decimal Issues (Stamps):

Talyllyn Feb 12 1971 Talyllyn Feb 12 1971

Talyllyn Feb 12 1971 Talyllyn Feb 12 1971

Talyllyn Feb 12 1971

10p/1s7d (surcharge in red) [ . ]
- ditto - sheetlet/10 Plate 1B [ . ]
- ditto - sheetlet/10 Plate 1D [ . ]

The stamp above was issued on February 12th, 1971, three days in advance of the currency change, as mentoned in the £sd cover section above.

The stamp below is usually reported as being issued on March 8th, the first day after the strike. There is a question as to whether the stamps may have been available for purchase a day or two before this date. Although we know of no covers dated earlier than March 8th with this stamp, we have illustrated them in the scans above and also listed them below. We leave it to the individual collector to decide whether to include it in his/her collection.

15p/1s3d (surcharge in blue) [ . ]
- ditto - sheetlet/10 Plate 1A [ . ]
- ditto - sheetlet/10 Plate 1C [ . ]

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Decimal Issues (Covers):

Talyllyn Feb 12 1971 Talyllyn Mar 8 1971

Talyllyn Railway (decimal) stamps with GPO 3p cancelled by the railway at Welshpool [ . ]

Also shown (right) is an example of usage the day after the strike, for comparison.

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VALE OF RHEIDOL RAILWAY

£sd Issues (Covers) :

We have not seen any pre-decimal covers from this railway during the strike period.

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Decimal Issues (Stamps):

There are two basic surcharges, a 5p/1d and 10p/1s3d. However, the dates of issue of the various printings of these two values are far from clear and, whilst we know that at least one is later than the strike period, we have chosen to scan and list them all and to leave any decisions as to collectability to the individual collector.

Vale of Rheidol Feb 15 1971 Vale of Rheidol stamps
Above : 5p sheets with narrow spacing between 5p and X, the normal format showing the 5p of the surcharge on the stamps in the middle vertical column approximately placed vertically above the 'X'. Two sheets shown, the right sheet with entire surcharge shifted on the sheet, resulting in the original value (1d) not being obliterated by the 'X'.

Vale of Rheidol Feb 15 1971 Vale of Rheidol stamps

Above : 10p sheets with narrow spacing between 10p and X, the normal format showing the '1' of '10p' of the surcharge placed vertically above the 'X' in all positions. Two sheets shown, the right sheet with entire surcharge shifted on the sheet, resulting in the original value (1/3) not being obliterated by the 'X'.

Vale of Rheidol stamps Vale of Rheidol 1971 10p/1s3d
Above : A small number of sheets of each surcharged value were from a re-set surcharge plate, resulting in two varieties:
5p/1d : The four stamps of the centre column of stamps have the figure '5' to the right of the 'X' below. The two lines of surcharge are also further apart.
10p/1s3d : (strip/3 shown) : The '1' of the '10p' is now to the right of the 'X' below it. Possibly true of all positions in the sheet; only about 20 sheets (of 12) in this format were ever printed. We are not sure that any full sheets of this later printing have survived.
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Vale of Rheidol 1971 Decimal Issue
Above: Singles showing (TOP ROW, left to right) : Narrow setting 5p; narrow setting 5p with damaged 'X'; wide setting 5p (5 over X); wide setting 5p (figure 5 to right of X). . . (BOTTOM ROW) : Normal 10p ; 10p to right of 'X'; 10p to right of 'X' and 'X' broken

5p/1d Narrow Spacing between 5p and X of the surcharge [ . ] Presumed date of issue 15/2/71 [ . ]
- ditto - shortened bottom right bar of 'X' (position 12) [ . ]
- ditto - sheet/12 including variety above [ . ]
- ditto - surcharged misplaced such that 'X' does not obliterate old value (1d) [ . ]

5p/1d Wide Spacing between 5p and X of the surcharge [ . ] Issue date probably October 1971
- ditto - shortened bottom right bar of 'X' (position 12) [ . ]
- ditto - 5p wholly to right of X in surcharge (posns 2,5,8,11) [ . ]
- ditto - sheet/12 including both varieties above [ . ]
- ditto - surcharged misplaced such that 'X' does not obliterate old value (1/3) [ . ]

Vale of Rheidol Broken X variety
Above, detail of the Broken X variety in Position 12
For illustrations of the narrow and wide spacings, please see other scans above.
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10p/1s3d -'1' of '10p' placed above left or centre of 'X' [ . ] Presumed date of issue 15/2/71
- ditto - shortened bottom right bar of 'X' (position 12) [ . ]
- ditto - sheet/12 including variety above [ . ]

10p/1s3d - '1' of '10p' in line with extreme right edge of 'X' [ . ] Date of Issue unknown
- ditto - shortened bottom right bar of 'X' (position 12) [ . ]
- ditto - sheet/12(?) including variety above [ . ] Whole sheets of this stamp may no longer exist.
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** Note : Only about 20 sheets of this printing were produced. They are thought to be sheets with serial numbers between 2032 and (approximately) 2051 (source : Neill Oakley / Railway Philatelic Group 'Railway Letter Stamp' catalogue). Our illustration in a lower marginal strip/3 is of the bottom row of sheet 2045, which falls within the range given, as does the single stamp with broken 'X' variety from sheet 2035.

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Decimal Issues (Covers):

Rheidol Feb 15 1971

Vale of Rheidol Railway decimal stamp with GPO 3p cancelled by the railway [ . ]

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Rheidol Feb 15 1971

Vale of Rheidol Railway decimal stamp with GPO 3p cancelled by the GPO (back-dated or favour?) [ . ]

Note that the 10p surcharge is the style with the figures of value to the right of the 'X', date of issue unrecorded. Either this stamp was brought into use on February 15th, i.e. during the strike period, if the cover received its GPO cancellation on that date, or else it was in use by the time, at the end of the strike, that any covers might have been backdated by the GPO. More information on GPO policy at the end of the strike with regard to cancellations would be welcome. However, it does seem fairly certain that the second style of 10p surcharge was issued during the strike period, as was the original surcharge.

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OTHER : 1974 Postal Strike in France. Paris - Jersey (Channel Islands) Strike Post

During research into the 1971 postal strike, we discovered a Jersey-related strike item with modest railway interest, an airletter of Jersey, showing the site of the former railway station at Mont Orgueil. The imprinted 5p stamp on the airletter is the same design as the earlier 1/- and contemporary 5p definitives on the island. Although strictly-speaking outside the scope of this article, we have included it because of the British connection to a postal strike.

The images below show a postcard (in happier times, when there were trains!) and two scans of the Jersey 5p (uprated +1p) airletter with boxed surcharge : Courrier Familial / Paris-Jersey / 5F00 / Transport Privé / Grève des Postes / Octubre 1974.

The strike started on October 17th 1974 and work only resumed on December 2nd 1974. The two airletters appear philatelic in nature, one with the boxed surcharge inverted. Jersey Mont Orgueil Station Postcard with Train

1974 Paris-Jersey Postal Strike

1974 Grève des Postes Paris-Jersey

1974 : 5Fr00 / 5p+1p airletter, surcharge upright [ . ]
- ditto - but Surcharge Inverted [ . ]

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