The third issue in Royal Mail’s series commemorating the First World War, issued on June 21, focuses on the year 1916, with another eclectic and poignant selection of images.

As in the first two issues, the year is explored though a stamp covering each of six key themes: poppies, poetry, portraits, art, memorials and artefacts.

This year there is an additional miniature sheet, specifically devoted to the impact of the war on postal services.

Conceived in close collaboration with the Imperial War Museum, the issue was designed by Hat Trick and printed in litho by International Security Printers.

1st class BATTLEFIELD POPPY, by GILES REVELL

A single poppy stands against a chaotic and barren background, suggesting the alienation of life from a world of violence, in a specially commissioned work by London-based photographer Giles Revell.

1st class TO MY BROTHER, by VERA BRITTAIN

‘Your battle wounds are scars upon my heart’, a quotation from the poem To My Brother by Vera Brittain, dedicated to her younger sibling Edward in June 1918. He had survived the Battle of the Somme in 1916, but was killed in action four days after the poem was written.

1st class MUNITIONS WORKER, LOTTIE MEADE

Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Meade was one of thousands of women who worked in the munitions industry during the war, and this studio portrait shows her proudly wearing her work overalls and ‘On War Service’ badge. It was dangerous work, and she died of TNT poisoning in October 1916.

£1.52 TRAVOYS ARRIVING WITH WOUNDED, by SIR STANLEY SPENCER

Fully titled Travoys Arriving With Wounded at a Dressing-Station at Smol, Macedonia, September 1916, this painting by Sir Stanley Spencer, completed in 1919, was inspired by a scene he witnessed personally while serving with a field ambulance unit. The dressing station was a church, and he said the suffering of the wounded reminded him of the crucifixion and the life-saving work of the surgeons reminded him of the resurrection.

£1.52 THIEPVAL MEMORIAL, SOMME, FRANCE

The Thiepval Memorial in France, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, now looks down over a peaceful agricultural landscape. But it bears the names of more than 72,000 British and South African troops who died during the Battle of the Somme and have no known grave.

£1.52 CAPTAIN A C GREEN’S BATTLE OF JUTLAND COMMEMORATIVE MEDAL

The unofficial medals struck to commemorate the Battle of Jutland in 1916, the biggest naval engagement of the war, were designed by Prince Louis of Battenberg, the former First Sea Lord, minted by Spink & Son in various metals and sold to raise money for naval orphanages. This example belonged to Captain A C Green of the Royal Marines.

 

MINIATURE SHEET

1st class THE POST OFFICE RIFLES

First formed in the 1860s as a volunteer corps for postal workers, the Post Office Rifles were organised as the 8th Battalion, London Regiment at the outbreak of World War I, with two more battalions added later. Of the 12,000 men who served in them, 1,800 were killed, 145 received gallantry awards and one was awarded the Victoria Cross.

£1.33 DELIVERING THE MAIL ON THE HOME FRONT

The postal service was vital to the war effort, delivering call-up papers, ration books and vital correspondence. Thousands of women entered the service for the first time, and in 1918 the government’s need to raise revenue brought an end to the famous penny postage rate after 78 years.

£1.33 HOME DEPOT AT REGENT’S PARK, LONDON

A vast temporary sorting office was constructed in London in December 1914 to handle the mail posted to and from Britain’s soldiers and sailors. Covering five acres of Regent’s Park and employing 2,500 staff, at its peak it handed 12 million letters and a million parcels per week.

1st class WRITING A LETTER FROM THE WESTERN FRONT

Letters were an essential link between servicemen and their families, and regular correspondence, albeit censored, was considered vital for morale. Around two billion letters were written or received by members of the armed forces during the war.

 

PRICES

Set of 6 stamps   £6.48

Miniature sheet   £3.94

Presentation pack   £10.95

Stamp cards   £4.95

First day cover (stamps)   £8.20

First day cover (mini-sheet)   £5.15

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   5/5

The lives of millions of people and the course of history were being changed a century ago

QUALITY OF DESIGN 4/5

Its wide range of evocative imagery is managing to keep this series fresh when it could easily have become stale

WOW FACTOR   2/5

You need to hear the stories behind the stamps in order to appreciate all of them fully