And now…

…for something completely different (credit to Monty Python of course).

But let’s start with the fluff.

World records and stamps

Gibraltar set a new world record on National Day – in philately – with the issue of a set of stamps commemorating the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of Gib during the Second World War.

The £2 stamp has the most legible words ever printed on a stamp with an amazing 2,183 words. I suspect you may need a good magnifying glass.

May 2014 marks the beginning of the 75th anniversary of this mass-migration. Within a matter of weeks over 70% of the total population of Gibraltar was evacuated to French Morocco. Gibraltar’s women, children, elderly and infirm, were torn apart from husbands, fathers, and sons in a time of intense danger. They accepted that hardship with immense courage and as an act of duty and loyalty to Britain.

New evacuation stamp series
New evacuation stamp series

But after a few months in Morocco, the population was on the move again, this time to Jamaica, Madeira and, the UK, where according to some older Gibraltarians we’ve spoken to, their hardship consisted of suffering being put up and fed at Claridges…

Here’s a serious take on it though from a BBC site:

The first days of July 1940 witnessed further dramatic developments which would have a very profound effect upon the Gibraltar evacuees. The French no longer wanted them in Morocco, the Governor of Gibraltar refused to have them back for safety reason and London was against their being sent to the United Kindgom. They had become the “Unwanted Evacuees”.

The full piece is well worth reading.

This week it was the turn of the RAF, with a set of stamps (part of a series) issued about four RAF squadrons. Gibraltar regularly issues a diverse range of stamps, others this year have included local dolphins, endemic flowers, the Red Arrows, WW1 centenary, and Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary.

RAF stamps
RAF stamps

Gib stamps are, according to the Gib Stamps web site, highly collectible and the Gibraltar Philatelic Bureau sends stamps to more than 60 countries. In fact it could be more than 80, because someone missed the inconsistency when they were proofreading and both figures are cited.

The final designs are sent for approval by the Gibraltar Government and then the Governor’s Office who pass them on to Buckingham Palace for the approval by Her Majesty the Queen. According to official sources, the Queen always reviews proofs of all stamps issued by the Commonwealth countries as she is one of the world’s most prominent collectors.

Given there are 53 independent countries and sovereign states, and then the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, that’s a lot of stamps for Liz to check.

And, continuing with the UK/Gib relationship, I read the UK government’s response to a Foreign Affairs Committee’s report, entitled interestingly, Gibraltar: Time to Get Off the Fence.

So, a few quotes from the fence.

We have been robust in challenging Spanish incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial and delays at the border. In particular, our strategy of seeking the intervention of the European Commission to resolve the border delays has resulted in follow up action, as we set out in our detailed response to the recommendations.

Robust? I’m really not interested in bureaucratic letters and follow-up action, I don’t want a three hour, or longer, queue in summer when I have two dogs in my car.

The Government remains unreservedly resolute in its commitment never to enter into arrangements under which UK sovereignty over Gibraltar would pass to another State against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, and not to enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.

Given that 99% of the population of Gibraltar has twice voted to retain British sovereignty I remain bemused why the issue is even being discussed.

The Government is pleased to report that the European Commission has now dismissed the questions raised by Spain on environmental grounds over the North-West Artificial Reef, bunkering activity and a number of reclamation projects.

Well, that’s some good news.

All elements of the situation, including the maritime security capabilities available to the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron, are kept under review. We are ready to provide additional assets to the Squadron or augment our broader maritime posture as necessary.

And what does it take to become ‘necessary’? We have a Guardia Civil vessel colliding with a Royal Gibraltar Police one in British Gibraltarian Territorial Waters, the UK government admits the Spanish incursions are illegal and dangerous, so what are they waiting for?

We are in no doubt that Spain’s measures at the border in 2013 were politically motivated and that it continues to use the border as a coercive tool against Gibraltar. This is entirely unacceptable behaviour by an EU partner and should not be tolerated by the UK. [written by the committee]

The Government agrees disruption into and out of Gibraltar is unacceptable and has no place at a border between EU partners. Spain’s border checks are disproportionate, politically motivated, and therefore illegal.

…the Commission has publicly stated that they have “serious concerns” about the lack of progress that Spain has made in addressing their earlier recommendations. Critically, the Commission has said that checks giving rise to waiting several hours to cross the border are “disproportionate”.

Well yes, so can we have some action please instead of sending letters for 12 months? I have no issue with the GC looking for tobacco smugglers (invariably Spanish) but that doesn’t mean looking at every single vehicle, or carrying out checks in line rather than drawing vehicles to the side which was the previous policy.

I’ll end with a comment from the committee that to me, sums up the current situation perfectly.

We consider that the pressure currently being applied on Gibraltar by Spain, through the imposition of delays at the border, unwarranted maritime incursions, and diplomatic pressure in international institutions amounts to a campaign of harassment and intimidation.

Stamp commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht
Stamp commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht
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42 comments on “And now…

  1. Oh for Lord Palmerston!
    Can’t imagine that a modern day Don Pacifico would get much assistance…at the most a twelve month exchange of ‘robust’ letters before letting the matter drop…and that only if the Americans didn’t veto any action at all…

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    • What gripes is all this silly political posturing. The only ambassador we’ve called more than the Spanish one, is the Syrian one. And does the Spanish Ambassador care? Does s/he get stuck in a three hour queue, have their boat rammed by a trespassing police force? Yeah. Really successful correspondence carried out by Whitehall.

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  2. Well, that makes things unpleasant for those travelling across borders. How many travel daily to Spainish territory and back and the reverse, do the Spanish go to Gibralter often as well, and why?

    The climate must be a big draw card for the English to live there. What is the general cultural climate there? Is it generaly lively and Spanish or British with deadly quiet Sundays and endless cricket talk with speculation talk of Royal babies? I am curious what it must be like to live in Gibralter.

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    • More people come into Gib for work every day, both legal and illegal, than leave. How many thousands are coming in and out varies wildly however (Gib pop’n – 30,000). But many park on the other side and walk across. However pedestrians have also been held in lengthy queues too this year. Spanish come in for cheap fuel, tobacco, perfume chocolate, and to smuggle tobacco as well as for personal use. It’s not just Spanish who come in for work Brits, other northern and Eastern Europeans, who all live in Spain but work in Gib.

      No, it’s a mix because most people here are Gibraltarian, it’s not a British ex-pat haven. Mostly we talk about how we don’t like the Spanish political actions. If there’s any cricket here I’ve not noticed. Probably more in Corfu, but I loathe cricket. There was a lot of patriotism for the queen’s jubilee when we got a visit from the number 4 and his wife. Wessex maybe? Actually he waved at us when we were out walking the dogs or doing something aimless.

      While to a tourist it looks superficially British, it isn’t. But yes, Sundays are beautifully quiet which is A Good Thing. Weekdays are mayhem (all the cross border workers plus tourist ships).

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    • I do t know how many Gib FDCs are issued. When I was stamp collecting, for interest not money, I only ever got one Gibraltar stamp in the mixed packs I’d buy every week with my pocket money. The Gib ones are pretty with an interesting range of subjects.

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  3. While the post around here still gets a lot of use owing to the tremendous growth in online shopping it seems to me that stamps are becoming less and less frequent and are really becoming more and more just collectors’ items; art. There’s nothing very much appealing in a waybill though and I seriously doubt collectors will turn to them in the long run :-)
    I have to say you kind of had me with the headline. I was expecting a bit on the Scottish referendum. I wonder if the promises made to Scotland, which may go by extension to Northern Ireland and Wales will affect your home in a positive way?

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    • I buy stamps to send the odd local letter or to the UK. We are a bit old-fashioned here so they are still used. Not everyone uses email or even fax for everything.

      Scotland is the opposite to us in that there was an active campaign to leave the union. Gib wants to remain part of the sovereign realm of the UK. I imagine Mariana Rajoy (Spain’s PM) breather a sigh of relief given that Pais Vasco and Catalunya continually demand independence from Madrid.

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  4. I love your stamps and the facts herein but I walked across that border in seconds in both directions in early September- surely still high season? The uncertainty as to when it will start up again must be a bugger if you have to ‘to and fro’.

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    • Not as much as July and August (school hols etc). Pedestrians haven’t been targeted particularly in previous years but there were reports of 3/4/5 hour queues this year for them as well.

      It’s very odd. You have to be here to understand it. One friend drove out at midnight and there was a two or three hour queue. No reason, there just was.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Spain closely watched the vote for independence that recently took place in Scotland. Now that the Scots decided to stay a part of the UK, do you think it will have any impact on the Gibraltar border issue?

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    • Yes, I think there was more interest from Spain than from Gib! One of our neighbours in Spain was chatting to us about it because of the implications for their autonomous communities.

      I think if it had been a yes vote, Spain could have either taken it out on Gib, or put us on the back border to try and deal with pressure from their own communities wanting independence, primarily Catalunya and Pais Vasco.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Not a stamp collector myself, since the days when it was deemed a wonderful hobby for children and presented with a starter bag of stamps and then dutifully extracting them from mail postage stamped which there was greater quantity in my day, and pen pals even, one of the benefits for a amateur philatelist. My M.I.L. and the G.O. buy the Australian P.O. covers each year and it’s quite interesting perusing the books from a historical recording-art-design perspective. And that is what I like about the Gib stamps. I wonder if the Queen enjoys the stamp approving part of her job, I’m thinking my M.I.L. would :)

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    • I did enjoy it as a kid. I’d like to buy the Gib sets I must say, but where would I put them? More useless tat gathering dust around the place.

      I like the variety of the Gib stamps, and with any national issue, eg coins, bank notes, it is interesting to read the subtle messages concerning Gibraltar’s identity, but also maintaining British links.

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  7. Time to let things be regarding Gib and Spain, I think. From what I here from friends who live in Spain the Government have far more serious fish to fry and should be frying them.

    Core British society is fond of commenting how Lizzie works hard………….. ;)

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    • The serious fish are part of the problem. Upping the ante against Gib and appealing to jingoism is a blatant attempt to distract people from a dodgy royal family, allegations of corruption and undue influence with top level politicians and bankers, crippling unemployment, cuts to public services to fund bank bail outs, higher taxes and local taxes, um, you get the idea? Much easier to cause havoc in Gib than deal with all that.

      Guess if I had my pic on every envelope I’d want to approve the theme and design too.

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  8. Interesting post but now I just can’t get the vision of the Queen pouring over her Stanley Gibbons catalogue, magnifying glass in hand, fiddling with all those awkward transparent stamp hinges out of my head. Thanks for that.

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    • Absolutely, I had a similar image of her peering over all the proofs (or whatever drafts of stamps are called) from all the commonwealth countries. Wearing full regalia, incl crown of course.

      ‘Good morning ma’am. Here are your daily papers, and today’s stamp proofs to approve, if ma’am is so inclined.’

      ‘Oh good. And which of our countries or territories or dependencies is it today?’

      ‘Turcs and Caicos, ma’am.’

      ‘That nice little spot in the Caribbean? Bring me my album, and a magnifying glass please.’

      Queen brushes daily newspapers and world events aside, and settles down to something far more interesting for once…

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  9. I used to collect stamps when I was a kid… had books of them from all over the world. I even had an authentic penny red, but only a poor copy of the penny black. At one point I have over two thousands. A lot were copies though. I can’t remember what happened to them, but I have a good idea.

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    • A penny red?.. Thought they were worth more than a black sometimes.

      I had a few copies of the valuable ones. No original valuable ones :D bought some packs for pretty pictures (horses, flowers) and general mixed packs. Interesting I thought. That’s why I’m curbing an urge to buy Gib issues…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thinking back on it, it was probably a very good copy of an original since they were worth quite a bit and I can’t remember how I came by it. The penny black was worth thousands… huge different due to only 3-5 originals being in existence compared to hundreds of the penny reds from what I remember. The penny black copy was a cut out copy. Even authentic copies were worth hundreds back then. It’s probably all changed by now.

        I did have a few that were worth a few bob, but nothing too fancy. The penny red copy was worth the most… I may have sold that one when I got older. Think about it. Me, my background and the chance of owning authentic rare stamps? lol

        Tell you what though, I bet some of the ones I had back then would be worth something now. lol

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  10. Fascinating they can get all that writing on a stamp.(but of course there’s the guys who write on grains of rice?) I’ve always thought stamps were like mini pieces of art – so many lovely ones. My brother had a collection while growing up (he had asthma and back then the thought was sick kids should sit still inside where it’s calm, quiet, and dark…perhaps they should have dressed them in shrouds? How depressing). My mom continued to send him stamps all her life – quite unappreciated and he eventually pitched his collection…tried to tell him about collectors, but what do I the problem child know.
    Your border is so much like ours with people going back and forth – it used to be quick and easy but now there are long slow lines. But you have a lot more political arrogance and discord in play as you cross than here, I think
    Always intrigued by the history. I wondered what Gib’s people did during the war and never checked it out. (So little of that era was taught in school when I was there – just major battles and outcomes as teachers raced to finish the book before the last day of school because earlier stuff took up so much time….that seems a bit foolish now considering we are dealing with stuff that had roots back to those uncovered eras…)Now I’m really curious.

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    • Aren’t the stamps so fascinating? Tell so many stories in a short space. Graphics are under-rated.

      Gib played a key role in both wars. Still does in terms of a base for deployment elsewhere. And it gives serving personnel R&R in somewhere English speaking. Can always tell when there is a ship in by the noise at night!

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  11. Still got my first stamp album!
    Nice to read a philately post.
    Liked the RAF ones. My dad was in the RAF and we moved about a bit, so this brought back a few fun memories.
    Coincidentally, I am busy reading Going Postal, Pratchett, which is a delightful read if you fancy a good laugh.

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    • So have I.

      Seemed like a change and I like the whacky world record. Plus the stories about the evacuation. I should have added the red arrows ones, especially as I took pix when they came to Gib. Stupendous, standing room only in a large area ie the whole of Europa Point, traffic at a standstill, buses getting nowhere, people just walking to get there to see them.

      You know me and Pratchett… I haven’t even got going to the library yet, let alone going postal.

      Work break over… Back to the slog.

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