Stunning Saint Helena

Saint Helena is allegedly Britain’s second oldest colony and was strategically important to the British Empire ships sailing between Europe, South Africa and Asia. The island was often used for exile purposes during the Boer War and quite famously was the location of Napoleon Bonaparte’s second exile and eventual death.

Over six thousand Boer War prisoners were held at prisoner-of-war camps at Broadbottom and Deadwood. This influx of prisoners resulted in a population record of 9,850 on Saint Helena. Several Boers decided to remain on the island after hostilities ended in 1902. This time of turmoil provided an excellent context for Saint Helena postal history. Filat AG has an excellent example of a Boer War censor cover sent to the Netherlands bearing an excellent strike of triangular “HEAD OFFICE” censor mark.

Saint Helena issued its first stamp on 1 January 1856 depicting Queen Victoria with a face value of 6d. This design was later issued again in various colours and overprinted with new values and remained in use until 1884. From 1912 to 1937, King George V issues were in use, followed by King George VI, the first of which was his Coronation set. In 1953 Queen Elizabeth II first stamp was issued. The most expensive set of Saint Helena is the 1961 “ST. HELENA/Tristan Relief” set of four. This set consists of Tristan da Cunha stamps which were overprinted and surcharged and were only sold between 12 and 19 October 1961, making this set quite rare.

Filat AG recently acquired some stunning new Saint Helena items which can be found here. A variety of stamps and covers are available ranging from 1902-1937, including Boer War letters and varieties on cover. Further highlights include 1922 Badge Issue 15/- torn flag variety in superb, mint condition, 1937 1/- Cleft Rock variety on seapost cover to the US and a 1919 War Tax Receiving Authority Specimen. These are but a few notable mentions, for the full range please visit Filat AG’s Saint Helena section.

Saint Helene 1d War Tax Specimen Stamp



Mafeking Siege Ended – Today in 1900

The Mafeking Siege started on 14 October 1899 during the Second Boer War. Robert Baden-Powell, who later founded the Scouts movement, led the British forces and General Piet Cronje led the Boers. President Kruger had instructed the British to withdraw from the Transvaal border. After being ignored, he declared war on 12 October 1899, cutting off the Mafeking railway and telegraph lines. Two days later, Cronje besieged Mafeking following a refusal to surrender from Baden-Powel.

Baden-Powell employed several strategies to trick the Boers into believing he was better equipped with more men than initial reports stated. He further made use of an armoured train to send sharpshooters into the Boer camp and managed to get the back to safety again.

The Mafeking Siege was lifted on 17 May 1900, when British reinforcements fought their way to Baden-Powel who had managed to hold Mafeking for 217 days. During the Siege, stamp supplies had run out and a photographic method was used to create new stamps. One stamp showed an image of a scout riding a bicycle and the other design featured a portrait of Colonel Baden-Powell.

Mafeking Siege 3d Baden-Powell Large Format

Mafeking Siege 3d Baden-Powell Large Format

Above the 3d version of the Baden-Powell stamp. This one a superb used example with a neat Mafeking cds MY 2 1900. A particularly pleasing mid-shade example of this important stamp. Available from Filat AG.

Another interesting example from this Siege, or rather after, is a post-siege advertising envelope featured below:

This 1900 Advertising Envelope from Mafeking (1 DE) to England is franked with a pair of Hope Standing 1d’s tied by Mafeking squared circle cds’s. Manuscript annotations “On Active Service” and on the backflap “from Corpl S Manley, 13740, I.Y. (Imperial Yeomanry) Mafeking, 1st Div.”  The advertising component at base reads “D Taylor, Photographer, Mafeking. Large Variety of Siege Views, and Books of Siege Views, finished in Best Style”. Interestingly, Taylor was the photographer responsible for the printing process of the Mafeking Blues postage stamps during the Siege. This cover is also available from Filat AG as well as numerous other Mafeking Siege items.


Mandela Inaugurated as President – Today in 1994

Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the first black President of South Africa. Since then, several stamps have been issued to celebrate his unique vision and contributions he made to South Africa.

In July, 2008, a series was issued to celebrate Madiba’s 90th Birthday. The domestic mail stamp featured a photograph by Halden Krog depicting a smiling Madiba against a backdrop of lush gardens. The international mail stamp shows a painting by Cyril Coetzee of a seated Madiba.



The above Nelson Mandela miniature sheet is available from Filat AG. This particular example is a superb UM sheet WITH OFFSET OF GOLD PRINTING (“South Africa / Happy 90th Birthday, Madiba!”) on reverse. This variety is unlisted and appears quite unusual & scarce.



After Madiba’s death in December 2013, the South African Post Office once again issued stamps in Madiba’s honour, with the backing of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. This commemorative issue features a folder which contains a miniature sheet. Inside the folder is a summary of Madiba’s life. The entire folder is printed in silver – symbolic of Mandela’s stature and the richness of his legacy. This folder and stamp was issued on 11 February 2014 with photographs being supplied by the Foundation. The miniature sheet measures 65x85mm and the stamp size is 30x30mm with perforations 14×13¼. 5,000,000 Souvenir folders were printed and distributed and are still available from virtual South African Post Office.



Baines Dead – Today in 1875

Thomas Baines died in Durban on 8 May 1875. He was originally from Norfolk and began working as a painter in various forms from a young age, first as a coach painter and later, in Cape Town, as a cabinet painter. Later he came to be known for his sketches and paintings of colonial life both in South Africa as well as Australia.

Baines was also an explorer, his first expedition was to Australia in 1855 where he served as the official artist. This expedition explored the northern area of Australia to determine its suitability for colonial settlement. He was greatly commended for his work on this expedition and had both a mountain and a river named in his honour. In 1858 he accompanied David Livingstone’s expedition of southeastern Africa to explore its natural resources, from which Baines was dismissed on charges of theft. In the early 1860’s Baines set off for South West Africa, during which he also authored a book about his expedition with James Chapman.

In 1861, he sent the newspaper below home to England:


1861 COMPLETE NEWSPAPER being the February 9th edition of “The South African Advertiser and Mail” addressed in the hand of artist Thomas Baines to his mother Mrs J Baines in Lyme Regis, England, at the 1d NEWSPAPER RATE. This special postage rate paid by single 1d deep rose-red triangular (SG 5b), clear to large margins all around excepting just touching along bottom right. Few complete newspapers illustrating this rate have survived. A rarity! Photo-cert: PFSA

This edition includes at top left front an advertisement for the purchase of 50 copies of the newspaper for 2nd & 6th February (which a manuscript endorsement in another hand records “these copies contain the correspondence between Mr Baines and Dr Livingstone, the Foreign and Colonial Offices”). Note: At this time Thomas Baines had returned to the Cape in disgrace at having been dismissed by Livingstone from the Zambezi expedition accused of theft. By this correspondence he was obviously keeping his mother informed on what had been presented in the local press regarding the charges brought against him. The newspaper also records under the jottings of “The Hermit of Adderley Street”… “One of the most painful histories I have read for a long time is that detailed in the lately published Baines correspondence…” (highlighted in red pen). A rare newspaper franking with the added interest of it’s Africana historical significance. Available now on Filat AG.

Sources: Wikipedia, Today in History.

Bambata Rebellion! Today in 1906

On 14 April 1906, the Natal Government offered a £500 reward for the capture of Bambata in the wake of the Bambata Rebellion which was sparked by additional taxes.

Following the Anglo-Boer War, black workers were flocking to the Witwatersrand in order to work in the gold mines, leaving British employers in Natal without a labour force. In order to pressure more Zulu men to work locally, the colonial authorities imposed a poll tax in addition to the hut tax. Bambata was one of the local chiefs who opposed this tax during the time which is now known as the Bambata Rebellion.

In light of this opposition, policemen were sent to collect taxes from resistant communities. In February 1906, two British officers were killed resulting in the introduction of martial law. Pursuant to this, Bambata fled to King Dinizulu who supported Bambata and his family.

Bambata eventually returned to Mpanza Valley, where he learned that the British had replaced him as chief with his uncle. Bambata raised a small force and conducted guerrilla attacks in the area. Colonel Duncan McKenzie led an expedition in April 1906 to oppose Bambata and his force. Bambata and his warriors were outgunned by the Colonial expedition and were forced to flee. Colonel McKenzie tracked the rebels to the Mome Gorge where Bambata was captured and killed on 10 June 1906.

This time of rebellion makes for great postal history with soldiers writing home to tell of the Zulu threat. Below an example of an Active Service postcard, countersigned by an Officer as required for the stampless carriage. The postcard depicts a street in Ladysmith and was sent from Greytown to Durban. This scarce campaign item is available for purchase from Filat AG.

Bambata Rebellion Active Service Letter

Bambata Rebellion Active Service Postcard