Ships ahoy!

British stamps have commemorated a wide range of seagoing vessels, from warships to cruise liners. They add up to an extremely impressive fleet


2004 Ocean Liners 42p, illustrating the RMS Queen Mary


It should come as no surprise that a maritime nation such as Britain has produced scores of stamps featuring seafaring craft.

More than 30 famous ships have been celebrated, from the historical to the contemporary. Even omitting small leisure craft, and river and canal boats, this is a substantial theme.

Its backbone is made up of four special issues, each of them taking a historical perspective.

The 1969 British Ships set illustrated six ships alluding to British maritime prowess across the centuries.

Two were generic designs: an Elizabethan galleon, of the type which saw off the Spanish Armada in 1588 (more of these can be seen in the 400th anniversary issue of 1988), and an East Indiaman, of the kind which dominated British overseas trade in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The other four were specific vessels: the Cutty Sark (1869), one of the fastest of the clippers which brought tea from China under sail; the SS Great Britain (1843), the first ocean-going iron-built steamship; the RMS Mauretania I (1906), the ocean liner which held the blue riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing for 20 years; and the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (1969), colloquially known as the QE2, which was just entering service as the stamps were issued.

Read the full article in Stamp Magazine June 2017

For more great content subscribe to Stamp Magazine today