Royal Mail will issue a set of eight stamps paying tribute to Royal Navy Ships on September 19.

As an island nation, Britain’s prowess in shipbuilding and navigation has been crucial in its history, and the Royal Navy was key to forging the British Empire and to keeping enemies at bay, from the Spanish Armada to the Nazis.

The oldest of the armed forces (and therefore known as the ‘senior service’), Royal Navy has its roots in the English Navy of Tudor times and was formally established in 1546. Since 1789, the names of its ships have carried the prefix His (or Her) Majesty’s Ship, abbreviated to HMS.

The eight featured vessels from its illustrious history span five centuries, with the designs based on high-quality paintings.

The set was designed by Hat-Trick Design, and printed in litho by International Security Printers. They are available in horizontal se-tenant pairs.

1st class Mary Rose

Launched in 1511, this carrack was one of the earliest examples of a purpose-built sailing warship, and served the English Navy in wars against Scotland and France, before sinking in the Solent in 1545. Her remains are on display at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth.

1st class HMS Queen Elizabeth

Launched in 2014, this aircraft carrier is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, capable of carrying up to 60 aircraft, including fixed-wing fighters and a variety of helicopters. Due to enter service in 2020, she is named after a World War I dreadnought, which was in turn named after Queen Elizabeth I.

£1.35 HMS Victory

Launched in 1765, this first-rate ship of the line had been in service for 40 years when she became famous as Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where the defeat of a Franco-Spanish fleet ensured Britain’s control of the seas during the Napoleonic Wars. She is now a museum ship in Portsmouth.

£1.35 HMS Dreadnought

Launched in 1906, this battleship was so advanced that she gave her name to a whole generation of warships in the arms race which preceded World War I. Propelled by steam turbines and equipped with ten 12in guns, she was faster and more potent than anything else at sea, but ironically she never took part in a major battle. She was sold for scrap in 1921.

£1.55 HMS Warrior

Launched in 1860, this frigate was the world’s first iron-hulled and armour-plated warship, and the most powerful and best-protected of her day. Built during a naval arms race with France, she was steam-powered but retained a full set of sails, which contributed to her early obsolescence. She never saw battle, and is now a museum ship in Portsmouth.

£1.55 Sovereign of the Seas

Launched in 1637, this first-rate ship of the line was armed with 102 bronze cannons, making her the most powerfully armed ship of her day, but also elaborately adorned with gilded carvings as a statement of British prestige. She was in service for almost 60 years, through three Anglo-Dutch Wars and one with France, before being destroyed by fire at Chatham.

£1.60 HMS King George V

Launched in 1939, this battleship was the flagship of the British Home Fleet for much of World War II, and saw action in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific, including the pursuit of the German battleship Bismarck in 1941, the allied landings in Sicily in 1943 and the bombardment of the Japanese mainland in 1945. She was mothballed in 1950 and scrapped in 1958.

£1.60 HMS Beagle

Launched in 1820, this lightly-armed sloop is famous for having been adapted as a survey barque for long-distance expeditions: her second survey voyage of 1831-36 was the circumnavigation which carried the young naturalist Charles Darwin, inspiring his subsequent theory of evolution by natural selection. She was decommissioned in 1845 and sold for scrap in 1870.

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

The presentation pack includes a brief history of the Royal Navy and descriptions of each ship. A first day cover and stamp cards are available as usual.

 

PRICES

Set of 8 stamps   £10.40

Presentation pack   £11.20

Stamp cards   £3.60

First day cover   £13.10

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   4/5

The Royal Navy has long been a pride of the nation, and many of the featured ships have worldwide fame.

QUALITY OF DESIGN   5/5

The artwork is stunning, the latest in a strong tradition of British stamps depicting ships from paintings.

WOW FACTOR 3/5

Some of the designs will look very striking on cover, others less so.