In 2018 we created a stamp collection for Isle of Man Post Office in conjunction with The Royal Air Force
This is the story of what we made and how we made it happen.
The Story Behind the Making of the RAF100 Stamps
We are honoured to present the official RAF100 Centenary stamps designed for the Isle of Man Post Office. This set of eight stamps marks 100 years of the oldest independent combat air force in the world.
On the 1st of April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were united to form the Royal Air Force. The RAF holds great importance to the Isle of Man and there has been a long history of innovation associated with the Island. The Martin Baker ejector seat was developed in the Isle of Man and the airfields, Jurby and Andreas, served the RAF during the Second World War and beyond. The Isle of Man also paid for Douglas Bader’s Spitfire.
The story behind the stamps begins, as most of our stories do, over a glass of wine. Ben was discussing the history of the RAF with the then Secretary of the RAF Club; they were talking about Ben’s grandfather Geoffrey Glazier, a Royal Flying Corps pilot, who on the founding of the RAF on 1st of April 1918 became one of the first RAF Officer Pilots.
Having just issued the successful Einstein to Hawking, 100 years of Gravitational Theory stamps, Ben spoke to IOM PO and proposed an issue on RAF100. Ben made contact with the MOD RAF100 committee and the process of research and discovery began.
Our designs sought to respect both the traditions of the RAF and the sentiment of the general public to aircraft that have become national icons. There are many that we could have included, but these eight proved the most popular. As usual with our stamps, we have hidden layers of information in them, including medal names, the GPS reference of airfields, the name of someone important to the RAF.
Pilots had been flying in combat before this date and we started our research with one of these pilots, Geoffrey Glazier. Born in 1899, he was a student at Aldenham School in Hertfordshire, England; he left school one day with a group of friends and signed up with the Royal Flying Corps. After a short period of training in a Grahame-White Biplane and the Avro 504, he travelled to France, arriving on the 26th of March 1918. On the 15th of April 1918 he was shot down whilst flying a Sopwith Camel low over German trenches and invalided back to England.
His short war lasted only three weeks, however one week into it, on the 1st of April 1918, the RAF was formed; as an RFC pilot on active service, he became on of the first RAF Officer Pilots. Geoffrey was one of the lucky ones, he lived through the war, training other pilots. After the war he returned to the family business, Herbert Johnson Hatters and it is his grandson Benedict Glazier who has put together this collection of stamps.
The RAF is made up of people who have dedicated their lives to serving our nation. Many of Geoff’s friends in the First World War and many more pilots, navigators, drivers, engineers and other RAF personnel, both military and civilian, have paid the ultimate price in the 100 years of the RAF. Many more continue to serve, in roles so varied that it would be impossible to list them all; this issue is dedicated to them all, with gratitude for their service and sacrifice.
What secrets lie beneath?
Each stamp includes a secret message in morse code, which is only visible under UV light. Once deciphered, the message will reveal a well-known poem ‘High Flight’, by John Gillespie Magee, a Canadian Air Force pilot who trained at the RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire and died ejecting from a Spitfire during training, just weeks after he wrote the poem. He was just 19.
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Our first stamp features the Sopwith Camel, perhaps the best remembered of the First World War aircraft. It was a fighter aircraft, developed by the Sopwith Aviation Company, with a single rotary engine and two Vickers machine guns; it had a box-like wooden construction and a fabric-covered fuselage, wings and tail, with plywood around the cockpit. A humped metal fairing over the gun breeches earned it the name ‘Camel’ and it was credited with shooting down 1294 enemy aircraft. Towards the end of the war it was adapted to carry bombs as a ground-attack aircraft.
RAF Hendon in north-west London has a long history of aviation experimentation; it was the site of the first parachute descent from a powered aircraft and is now famously the home of the Royal Air Force Museum. It was the home of the Grahame-White Aviation Company and a training base for many airmen.
1st Viscount Trenchard, described as ‘The Father of the Royal Air Force’, was instrumental in establishing the RAF. He was Commander of the Royal Flying Corps from 1915-1917 and through various roles as the RFC and RNAS merged, was eventually appointed Marshal of the Royal Air Force. After the war it was his responsibility to convert the RAF to a peacetime role. Its future was by no means secure and it was only through his repeated efforts that the RAF survived, first policing the British Empire, then in 1922 controlling the British Forces in Mandatory Iraq, securing the future of the force.
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest award of the United Kingdom Military Honours System and is awarded for “gallantry in the face of the enemy”. 26 have been awarded to serving RAF – all to aircrew.
The single seater Spitfire is the most iconic British fighter aircraft. More than 20,000 were built in many different marks, of which fewer than 100 remain flying today. An all-metal semi-monocoque construction with a liquid-cooled in-line engine, it was well-balanced and easy to fly. First armed with eight machine guns and later with a mixture of cannons and machine guns, it achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire was the only RAF fighter aircraft to be in constant production throughout the Second World War.
RAF Andreas is a former Royal Air Force station in the Isle of Man, active from 1941-1946. Together with RAF Jurby, it came under the command of No.9 Group RAF, Fighter Command. It was the base for several Spitfire squadrons, first 457 Squadron RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force); on their departure 452 Squadron RAAF took over, followed by 93 Squadron. Andreas was later home to No. 11 Air Gunnery School, crucial in the training of air gunners for Bomber Command.
Air Chief Marshal The Lord Dowding GCB GCVO CMG was an officer in the Royal Air Force. He was a fighter pilot and Commander of 16 Squadron in the First World War, but is famed for his role as Air Officer Commanding RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, which was credited with thwarting the advance of Hitler’s invasion plans. He was fiercely protective of his pilots, who he referred to as his “chicks”.
The Air Force Cross (AFC) is a military medal awarded to UK Armed Forces for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy”.
The Avro Lancaster was the principal heavy bomber used by the RAF in the Second World War. The four engine aircraft was used extensively in night raids, its long bomb bay being capable of holding the largest 12,000lb bombs; a total of 7,377 aircraft were built. During the night bombing of Europe they delivered over 600,000 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties, most famously the Upkeep ‘bouncing bombs’ that 617 Squadron dropped on the Ruhr Valley dams.
RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire stands on the site of the First World War Royal Flying Corps Landing Field, Brattleby. During the Second World War it was the base for bombers, including the Avro Manchester and Lancaster. During the Cold War it was home to the nuclear bomb carrying V-Force Vulcan Bombers. It is now home to the RAF Aerobatic Team (RAFAT), the ‘Red Arrows’.
Wg Cdr Guy Gibson VC was a bomber pilot with 83 Squadron, Bomber Command, then the first Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron, leading them in the ‘Dam Busters’ raid, Operation Chastise, for which he won the Victoria Cross. He was for a time the most decorated serviceman in the country. He lost his life later in the war at the age of 26, having flown some 170 operations.
The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is a decoration awarded to RAF and other Services for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy”.
The Avro Vulcan was a high-altitude bomber that served the RAF from 1956 to 1984. It was a light-alloy delta wing jet aircraft protected by electronic countermeasures but no traditional defences. As the main aircraft in the V-Force, it was the backbone of the UK nuclear deterrent, carrying 20 kiloton nuclear weapons throughout much of the Cold War. The Vulcan also played a role in the Falklands conflict in 1982.
RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire was home to 9, 12 and 35 Squadrons 1962-64 before they moved to Cottesmore and is now home to No 3(F) Squadron (Typhoons) amongst others, but is also home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Sir Winston Churchill was a British Army officer, politician, statesman and writer who served as Prime Minister from 1940-1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. As Prime Minister during the Second World War he uttered the famous words “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”, referring to the RAF crews he had visited, who were fighting the Battle of Britain.
The RAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (LSGCM) was instituted by King George V for regular NCOs and airmen of the RAF with an unblemished 18 years of service, later reduced to 15. The criteria were relaxed to include those who had served in the ranks before being commissioned and it could be awarded for distinguished service in wartime or emergency without the time period required.
The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is an instantly recognisable twin rotor heavy-lifting aircraft used for troop movements, supply and battlefield casualty evacuation. With a crew of four, it can carry up to fifty-five people or up to 10 tons of freight. The Chinook has been heavily used in Afghanistan and it has full night-time capability when operated with night vision goggles; it has advanced avionics and defensive measures, allowing it to operate day or night in a wide range of theatres.
RAF Odiham in Hampshire is home to the Chinook, but was opened as a permanent airfield in 1937, somewhat ironically, by Erhard Milch, then the German Secretary of State for Air. During the Second World War it was home to American Mustangs and RAF Hawker Typhoons, then became a prisonaer of war camp. After the war, RAF Fighter Command took control of the base. The first Chinooks arrived in 1980 and the base is now home to the Mk6. Odiham is also the headquarters for the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing.
Capt Albert Ball DSO MC VC was a First World War fighter pilot and at the time of his death, the UK’s leading flying ace. His fame was such that there was national mourning on his death and his inspiring legacy is remembered in many Army and RAF memorials.
The Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) is awarded to RAF personnel for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy”.
The Harrier or Harrier Jump-Jet was a jet powered aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing, making it highly versatile. It is remembered for its role in the Falklands War and is beloved of the British public still. The GR7 and later GR9 were equipped with a wide range of precision weaponry enabling laserguided precision attacks, and defence measures that offer greater protection to the pilot.
RAF Wittering, near Peterborough, began its life as RFC Stamford in 1916. It was famously the ‘Home of the Harrier’ from 1968 to 2010, including the six GR3s that served in the Falklands War. The base is now home to many flying and non-flying units including No.1 Group (Air Combat) RAF. Air Cdre Sir Frank Whittle was an RAF engineer air officer famous for singlehandedly inventing the turbojet engine. He started at the RAF as an aircraft mechanic; his obvious skills were noticed and he was recommended for officer training at RAF Cranwell, where he became an accomplished pilot. His thesis on the fundamental concepts of jet engines earned him a place at Cambridge, where he gained a First. After leaving the RAF he developed his jet engine commercially.
The Air Force Medal was, until 1993 awarded to RAF and other service personnel for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy”.
The Typhoon is an agile multi-role combat aircraft used in conflict, peace-keeping and air-policing. The advanced cockpit has voice activated control over weaponry and Head Equipment Assembly (HEA), which comprises the aircrew helmet and all the sub-system elements needed to display a real world overlaid picture on the helmet visor, offering supreme control in intense conflict situations. The aircraft can be armed with a range of weaponry and missiles.
RAF Lossiemouth in North-East Scotland is one of the busiest fast-jet stations in the RAF and is home to the Typhoon Squadrons that provide the Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North capability, with high state-of-readiness crews protecting UK Airspace 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year.
Sqn Ldr Jo Salter was the first female fast jet pilot, flying Tornado ground attack aircraft with 617 Squadron at Lossiemouth. She joined the RAF at 18 as an engineering officer, but went on to train as a pilot when rules changed to allow women to fly jet aircraft. She flew from Turkey and Saudi Arabia in protection of the no-fly zone over Iraq.
The George Cross is the second highest award that can be given to members of the British Armed Forces and civilians and nearly 20 have been awarded to RAF personnel. It is awarded posthumously for “acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger”.
The Lockheed-Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, known in the UK as the Lightning II is a 5th generation STOVL multi-role supersonic stealth aircraft with a hugely capable and flexible weapons system. It will join the Typhoon in providing the core of combat aircraft capability from 2018. The RAF has received nine aircraft, which are currently stationed in the USA. In early 2018, 617 Squadron will reform and fly the Lightning II from RAF Marham. This aircraft is the future face of RAF combat.
RAF Marham in Norfolk opened in 1916 as a base for fighter aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps, later becoming a heavy bomber base capable of accommodating B-29 and B-52 bombers and is home to the Tornado GR4 Force Tornado aircraft. A massive upgrade to facilities, that already host 10,000 people, is under way in preparation for the arrival of the Lightning II and 617 Squadron.
Jeffrey Quill, who died in the Isle of Man aged 83, was a British test pilot who served with the RAF before the Second World War, then seconded to the RAF during the War. He was the second man to fly a Supermarine Spitfire, his work on the aircraft, testing every single model, was instrumental in its development and contribution to the Battle of Britain. He felt that he had to have front-line experience and briefly joined 65 Squadron, shooting down a Messerschmitt and a Heinkel, before being recalled to essential work on the Spitfire.
The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) is a military decoration awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat