The Letterbox on Ascension Island
The travel of post started in a different way to what we know today. Convenient and easily recognisable places were used to leave letters and other letters could be collected. As early as the 17th century, Ascension Island was used by sailors to deposit letters at the “Letterbox”. Passing ships would pick up the letters heading in the same direction for delivery. Today there are no remnants of the spot where the letters were deposited.
The British began settling on Ascension Island in 1815, a precautionary move to ensure the banished Napoleon Bonaparte could not escape the island of St Helena. Many years later, on March 3, 1867 the British Postmaster General sent a supply of stamps for H A Haswell, the island’s postmaster, to sell. Thus, beginning the postal history of Ascension Island.
In 1922, Ascension Island became an Independency of St Helena and was managed by the Eastern Telegraph Company until 1964. The Eastern Telegraph Company installed the first underwater cable in 1899, connecting the British Empire with its colonies in South Africa from Ascension Island.
In the early days of the Second World War the United States, allies of the British, decided to supply and improve amphibious aircraft antisubmarine patrol operations on Ascension. “Wideawake”, the airbase they built, is named after the indigenous sooty tern bird colony on the island. The sooty tern are loud and have a distinctive cawing chatter day and night.
On 15 June 1942, in the height of World War II, Ascension fired upon two aircraft which were identified later as ally British Fairey Swordfish torpedo planes. The aircraft were forced to land on the unfinished airstrip on the United States airbase, Wideawake, becoming the first aircraft to land on the base. This day was commemorated with a postage stamp.
Today, Ascension Island is a British Overseas Territory and has its own constitution. There is no permanent population as the inhabitants are the employees and families of the organisations on the island. There is a guide for guests to the island called the “Letterbox Walks” taking them along the very beaches sailors once walked to post their letters.
Shop Ascension Island
Filat AG has recently added several new items to their Ascension Island section dating from 1913 to 1936. Highlights include a stunning Die Proof of the 1924 1d Badge Issue as well as several of its varieties and the scarce 1935 Silver Jubilee 5d Kite & Horizontal Log variety. You can view all the items here.