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A striking issue by Dr Bob Forrester   

A postal strike in the UK led to the emergency use of some surplus Herm stamps  

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In the early months of 1971 a prolonged strike by British postal staff led to the suspension of the Post Office's mail carrying monopoly so that firms or individuals could apply for licences to operate their own delivery services during the period of disruption.  Throughout Britain about one hundred and fifty such courier (or 'pirate post') organisations sprang up, many of them connected with the philatelic trade.  The level of the delivery service actually performed for the public was often very limited and sometimes even non-existent, the exercise being seen mainly as an opportunity to print and sell stamps.

The issue in question was produced by J Sanders (Philatelist) Ltd of Southampton, stamp dealers who had been the philatelic agents for Herm for more than ten years, and the overprinting was carried out for the company by a local printer, G F Wilson & Co.  To appreciate the choice of stamps which it was chosen to overprint it is necessary to understand that Herm's final issue, its Ships Definitives designed by international stamp designer Jennifer Toombs, was at an advanced stage of production when the Guernsey Post Office announced that it would not be allowing the use of any local stamps after 30 September 1969.  The stamps were hurriedly issued on 17 September but a fortnight's use when the tourist season had effectively ended must have left a good proportion of the printing in stock for the total printing had been between 100,000 and 120,000 of each value. 

All six values of the Definitive issue were overprinted 'SOUTHAMPTION/1971 STRIKE POST' with ' Herm Island ' being obliterated by a series of X's.  Additional overprinting changed the values of the stamps as follows:

  • 1d changed to 1s
  • 2d to 1s
  • 6d to 1s
  • 1s6d to 2s
  • 2s to 6s
  • 3s to 7s 6d

Messrs Sanders' contemporary advertisements state that the overprinted versions of the old 2d, 6d, 1s6d, 2s and 3s stamps were issued on 22 January 1971 for a 'Southampton outwards' service and that the 1s on 1d stamp was issued on 26 January for a London to Southampton service.  A report published in 1971 stated that 3000 sets (100 sheets) were produced, another from 2008 gives the figure as 8100 sets (270 sheets).

A range of first day covers was advertised:

  • Southampton to London on 22 January with either 1s on 2d or 1s on 6d
  • London to Southampton on 26 January with 1s on 1d
  • Southampton to France with five of the strike stamps (not the 1s on 1d) and with a French stamp

These should be regarded not as Herm stamps but as surplus stock overprinted for another use entirely unconnected with the island.  The staff of the Guernsey Post Office were not involved in the strike. 

Illustrations from the collections of Dr Bob Forrester and David Ackroyd

Scanning and editing by Peter Hewitt

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