Stamps in Nazi-occupied Britain

Letter of the month: What would the postage stamps of Nazi-occupied Britain have looked like?


Disturbing scene from the BBC Television series SS-GB


The recent BBC television series SS-GB dramatised how life might have been if Germany had won the Battle of Britain in 1940 and conquered the United Kingdom. The background details, such as swastika banners on a part-ruined Buckingham Palace, seemed authentic. But one detail was glaringly incorrect. It was a postage stamp with the portrait of Adolf Hitler, a value of 20m and the inscription ‘Grossdeutsches Reich’. Such a stamp would never have been issued for use in Britain.

The stamps issued by the German authorities for an occupied country were designed according to Hitler’s view of that country. Only territories which were fully absorbed into Germany would get stamps marked ‘Grossdeutsches Reich’ (Greater German Empire). Those which were effectively colonies, run autocratically by Hitler’s appointees, might get an inscription emphasising German control, such as ‘General Gouvernement’ for eastern Poland.

In France, in contrast, stamps were still engraved ‘France’, even though the word ‘Republique’ was dropped. They kept the franc as the currency, and had illustrations promoting a French identity.

I imagine that there would have been similar approach in Britain. There would be no crowns or monarchs, but town or country scenes, denominated in pence, although at twice the price.

Hitler knew that he could never turn Britain into a part of Germany. Postage stamps would still have looked British.

Derek Perry, West Dulwich

Read more letters and articles in Stamp Magazine June 2017

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