Royal Mail Marks WWI Centenary Fourth Year With Six New Stamps

A shattered poppy, an exploded Bible, and a pair of life-saving nurses are among the images shown on six stamps issued Monday, July 31, by Royal Mail. The set is the fourth in Great Britain’s five-year commemorative series marking the centennial of events of World War I.

Across the series, the stamp images have provided a range of themes showing how artists, including writers and painters, interpreted the events; the role of non-combatants and civilians; the role of the armed services; the role of women; and the contribution of the Commonwealth.

The imagery on the stamps features historic memorials and artifacts that have become synonymous with the conflict, portraits of some of the participants, art showing some now famous and moving scenes, poems composed during the war and newly commissioned artworks of poppies — the symbol of Remembrance.

The 2017 stamps (shown below) feature:

Shattered Poppy, by photographer John Ross. Using a microscope in his work, Ross manages to reveal aspects of subjects not normally visible.

An extract from the poem, “Dead Man’s Dump,”by British poet Isaac Rosenberg. The poem graphically depicts the horrors of the war. Rosenberg himself died on April 1, 1918, during the German spring offensive.

Nurses Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, who travelled to Belgium to join a small ambulance corps where they worked transporting casualties to base hospital. They established a front-line first-aid post at Pervyse in Belgium, where they would eventually treat 23,000 casualties. In 1917 they were awarded the Military Medal.

Also featured is an image of a warship with its hull painted in a geometric, abstract style. The design was created by British painter Edward Wadsworth, who was engaged to create “dazzle camouflage” patterns for British ships, which were intended to confuse attacking German U-boats.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele, which commenced on July 31, 1917, a stamp features an image of the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, where fallen soldiers from the battle were buried. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, a total of 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen from WWI are buried or commemorated there.

Private Lemuel Thomas Rees’ life-saving Bible was specially photographed for the stamp issue. During the Battle of Passchendaele, an exploding German shell landed close by, and although Rees was hit, he was saved by the small Bible that he kept in his breast pocket. Rees was conscripted into the 6th Battalion in 1917.

Here is Royal Mail’s Summary of the stamps:

POPPY: To create Shattered Poppy, photographer, John Ross, needed a supply of fresh poppies and so he set up a temporary studio in a barn next to a poppy field, where he froze freshly cut poppies using a vat of liquid nitrogen, before breaking the brittle petals with a metal rod. Backlit to maximise the flower’s color and fine structure, the resulting image suggests a sudden, devastating act of violence, an impression that is heightened by the poppy’s natural delicacy.

POEM: Isaac Rosenberg was a British painter and poet. The son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, but also maintained an interest in writing poetry. By the time of his arrival on the Western Front with the 11th Battalion in the summer of 1916, he had published three volumes of poetry. In “Dead Man’s Dump,”Rosenberg depicts a shocking scene as mule-drawn wagons laden with coils of barbed wire pass by the dying and crush the bodies of dead men lying in their path.

NURSES: Shortly after the outbreak of war, friends Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm traveled to Belgium, joining a small ambulance corps where they worked transporting casualties to base hospitals. Realizing that many men were dying from untreated wounds, they established a front-line first-aid post at Pervyse in Belgium where they would eventually treat 23,000 casualties. In 1917 they were awarded the Military Medal. The stamp image shows the “Madonnas of Pervyse” wearing the Order of Leopold II, a Belgian decoration that they received in 1915. In 1918 both nurses were affected by a gas attack. Chisholm recovered sufficiently to return to the front.

DRY DOCK: Working in a geometric, abstract style British painter Edward Wadsworth was interested in technology and the new perspectives it might offer. After being invalided out of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1917, he was engaged to design “dazzle camouflage” patterns for British ships, which were intended to confuse attacking German U-boats (submarines).

CEMETERY: Tyne Cot Cemetery in Flanders, Belgium, was designed by Sir Herbert Baker. A total of 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War are buried or commemorated there. Of the burials, 8,373 are unidentified. Visiting the cemetery in 1922, King George V remarked: “I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”

LIFE-SAVING BIBLE: In 1917, Lemuel Thomas Rees was conscripted into the 6th Battalion, South Wales Borderers. During the Battle of Passchendaele, an exploding German shell landed close by, and although Rees was hit, he was saved by a small Bible that he kept in his breast pocket. After spending four months in a field hospital, he was sent home on leave where he suffered terrible nightmares, reliving the horrors of trench warfare. Following his return to the Western Front, Rees was wounded in a gas attack. He died from bronchial pneumonia and the effects of gas on November 13, 1918, only two days after the Armistice was signed.

The stamps and stamp products are available at: www.royalmail.com/firstworldwar.

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