Tuesday 4 February 2014

An Issue Is Born - Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Stamps)


THE preparations for this new commemorative issue were begun early in 1961 and towards the end of the year Mr. J. Snell of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland High Commissioner's Office in London very kindly sent us the art-work and photographs used in the production of the three stamps which appeared on February 6th. In all cases the finished drawings (not shown) were prepared by Mr. V. Whiteley of Harrison's, of which, of course, the stamps are replicas in miniature. These  were dated " 30.1.61 " for the 6d. and 1s. 3d. stamps, and "  16.3.61 " for the 2s. 6d.

The source of design for the 6d. stamp was an original photograph (Fig. 1) of the actual De Havilland 66 Hercules aircraft which brought  the northbound mails into Salisbury on the inaugural flight in 1932. This was the Imperial Airways machine G-AAJH, City of Basra, one of the great veterans of aviation. Fig. 2 shows a pencil sketch taken from the photograph by an artist (unnamed) of the Federal Department of Printing and Stationery in Salisbury. It was on the sketch that the final design of the stamp was based, a design which included the artist's imaginative trees and native-huts but virtually eliminated the crowd of well-wishers seen in the photograph, leaving the plane with a servicing team of five. The colourful scene is enhanced by a bright vermilion sunrise. The sketch is evidently a tracing of  the machine in the photograph but quite acceptable for all that.

Fig. 1. Photo, of the arrival of the inaugural flight in 1932.

Fig. 2 Pencil sketch based on the above photograph and reproduced on the stamp.

The issued 6d

In marked contrast of flying machines, the 1s. 3d. stamp shows an Empire " C " Class Flying-boat just after take-off from the Zambezi River. The main source of design was the B.O.A.C. photograph " A 80 " (Fig. 3) showing the Qantas Empire Airways (Australian) machine VH-ABB Coolangatta rising from the water on take-off. The picture was reversed on the stamp and the plane's registration letters were altered to G-ADHL, that of the Imperial Airways " C " Class Flying-boat Canopus, which operated Rhodesian airmail's over part of the route in 1937. There was a photograph of Canopus supplied by B.O.A.C., Salisbury. The characteristic background of the Zambezi River in the Victoria Falls National Park comes from a Federal Information Department photograph No. 2918 taken by R. D. K. Hadden (Fig. 4). As can be seen, the foreground trees and foliage have been omitted, while the water has been made to look decidedly choppy.

For the 2s. 6d. stamp the Rhodesian Philatelic Advisory Committee desired to produce something different and unusual, not simply another aircraft, and it was decided to show a night scene of a B.O.A.C. Comet 4 on the airport tarmac, this machine representing the latest developments in airmail transport. An unsigned black-and-white drawing (Fig. 5) was the basis of the design, but though the stamp picture of the aircraft looks very much the same there are differences of detail revealed in a coloured rough drawing prepared by Mr. Whiteley (" 25.1.61 ") with shade samples suggested by the Postmaster-General's Department. In the sketch the wheels below the near- side wing are oddly shaped, as also is the nacelle close to the wing-tip.

In the final drawings these matters were put right and the open mouths of the jet engines were considerably flattened, probably on the authority of some other picture or photograph. For Post Office purposes black is not a favourable colour for stamps as the cancellation does not show up well, and so a compromise was effected. The scene became a twilight one with the rosy remnants of a lush sunset still in the sky and a velvet tinge over the airfield at Salisbury, Rhodesia. The Queen's formal portrait is uniform on all three stamps as also is the  lettering " RHODESIA & NYASALAND ",the inscriptions and the figures of value.

Fig .3. The B.O.A.C. photograph before reversing and altering the registration letters for reproduction on the 1s. 3d. value.

Fig. 4 . Photo, of Zambezi River used for background.

The issued stamp.

The three stamps have the bright colours and superficial " prettiness " which we have come to expect from the photogravure process of printing. And that implies no criticism of Harrison and Sons! The colour registration is immaculate as usual and the subtle nuances of an  airfield at dusk are remarkably well done.

Fig. 5. Original design on which stamp was based.
The issued stamp.

Extracted from 1962 Stanley Gibbons Monthly Magazine. by Eddy Norris. Material made available by Iain Harper (RhArmy)  - thank you Iain

The article refers to the issue of stamps by the Federation Rhodesia & Nyasaland to Commemorate 30 Years of Air Mail Service, London-Rhodesia.

Comments are welcome  please mail me on orafs11@gmail.com.
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