The second issue in Royal Mail’s five-year First World War commemorative series, issued on May 14, focuses on the year 1915, with more poignant images hailing the stoic bravery of fighting men.

It follows the template set in the first issue, by exploring each year of the conflict though six key themes: poppies, poetry, portraits, art, memorials and artefacts.

Designed by Hat-Trick, the stamps are printed in litho by International Security Printers.

1st class POPPIES, HOWARD HODGKIN

This year’s specially commissioned Poppies design is an abstract work by London-born artist Sir Howard Hodgkin, executed as a carborundum print. The flower was adopted as symbol of remembrance throughout the English-speaking world in 1921, inspired largely by the Canadian military doctor John McCrae’s 1915 poem In Flanders Fields.

1st class ALL THE HILLS & VALES ALONG, C H SORLEY

20-year-old Charles Hamilton Sorley was serving as a Captain in the Suffolk Regiment when he was killed by a sniper on October 13, 1915. Discovered in his kitbag and published posthumously was his four-stanza poem, All The Hills & Vales Along, which describes troops singing as they advance towards the front line, with pastoral scenery giving way to an ever-bleaker vision of impending death. Sorley is one of 16 World War I poets commemorated by a stone at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

1st class RIFLEMAN KULBIR THAPA

Hailing from Nepal, Rifleman Kulbir Thapa was the first Gurkha to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Serving in the 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, he was wounded and separated from his battalion during the opening offensive of the Battle of Loos in France on September 25, 1915, but heroically rescued an injured British soldier and two fellow Gurkhas under fire on the front line. Thapa survived the war and lived until 1956.

£1.52 THE KENSINGTONS AT LAVENTIE, ERIC KENNINGTON

Wounded and discharged from the London Regiment in 1915, painter Eric Kennington turned his attention during his recovery to creating an extraordinary work of art honouring the fortitude and solidarity of ordinary soldiers. Painted in reverse by applying oil paint to a sheet of glass, The Kensingtons at Laventie depicts Kennington himself (in the background on the left wearing a balaclava) and his comrades resting in a ruined village after an exhausting spell in the trenches during the winter of 1914–15.

£1.52 CAPE HELLES, GALLIPOLI, TURKEY

A photograph by Ernest Brooks captures an anonymous British soldier at a comrade’s grave at Cape Helles, on the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, in an evocative sunset silhouette. Cape Helles witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting on April 25, 1915, as British and French troops attempted to storm the beaches under fire from their Turkish defenders, and now has a memorial commemorating 20,878 British soldiers who have no known grave.

£1.52 LONDON IRISH RIFLES’ FOOTBALL FROM LOOS

At the start of the British offensive at the Battle of Loos, on September 25, 1915, this football was booted out of the British trenches by Private Frank Edwards, and kicked across no-man’s-land by his comrades in the 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles, until it became entangled in German barbed wire as the enemy positions were overrun. It is preserved in the regimental museum, and underwent special conservation treatment in 2011.

OTHER PRODUCTS

Written by Ian Kikuchi from the Imperial War Museum, the presentation pack charts the key developments of the war in 1915.

Stamp cards and a first day cover are available as ever, and there is a choice of three coin covers with commemorative coins minted in cupronickel, silver or gold, in limited editions of 15,000, 500 and 50 respectively.

 

PRICES

Set of 6 stamps £6.45

Presentation pack      £6.95

Stamp cards      £2.70

First day cover  £8.22

Coin cover (cupronickel)   £17.50

Coin cover (silver)     £50.00

Coin cover (gold)       £750.00

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH                  5/5

The centenary of the Great War continues to be commemorated with sensitivity and humanity

QUALITY OF DESIGN  3/5

There’s a range of evocative artwork featured, along with two very simple designs

WOW FACTOR   2/5

The Cape Helles stamp would certainly catch the attention on cover, even if others might not