WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collector

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WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collector

Post by Catweazle »

For years, ever since the age of 10, I've collected stamps. Not only that, but I've been a worldwide collector and upheld the worldwide philatelic 'philosophy' of folks like Norm and other members who collect stamps from across the globe. Specialised collectors only amused me and I think it almost silly to stuff an album full of 1d Red Kangaroo stamps when they all look pretty much the same at first glance, even if each one under close scrutiny differs in errors or printing marks.

And then I read Alistair's McClean's HMS Ulysses (by the same author who wrote Where Eagles Dare). Since then I've had a growing fascination with the history of the Arctic Convoys, particularly the famous PQ17 disaster (more on that another day).

By and by, what with a declining financial budget having moved out of home and settled into a serious relationship and returning next year to full-time study, I decided to give worldwide collecting a break and turn my eye to a more specialised collecting subject.

World War II raged for almost 6 years, from 1939 to 1945. The many films, books and secondary resources amassed never cease to amaze me. Only the other day, yet another film WWII film was released – Mel Gibson's latest Hacksaw Ridge deals with a conscientious objector, in the Pacific theater, who refused to carry a gun and instead became a war hero as a medic, rescuing others in die-hard situations.

But little out there seems to deal with the story of the war from behind the Arctic Circle.

Countless Penny blacks and even large Scandinavian collections are listed every day across Ebay and Delcampe. But what of the postal history between 1939 and 1945, sent to and from the area above and beyond the northern most line of latitude that spans our world?

What of German forces in northern occupied Norway near Tromso, for example? Or perhaps meteorological sites in the Spitsbergen Archipelago and the Yukon, or Allied convoys arriving in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk?

So this is my new collecting interest. The majority of my worldwide collection is still with my parents in Melbourne (I live in Brisbane), but I'll get around to culling that someday soon. And this is a thread in which I'll showcase my WWII-era Arctic collecting interests, which has only just begun and has not much to it yet.

I'll have to go find a certain cover to upload a picture of it (how boring this thread would be without images), but in the meantime feel free to add any (or discuss) material which fits this subject!

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by fromdownunder »

This does sound like a fascinating study, and is from somebody who was very interested in history and researching a particular history (not in your chosen area, or even in stamps) in a past life.

I wish you luck, and of course, I expect that you will enjoy what you are doing. As we will enjoy following your quest. That is what out shared hobby is all about.

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

Thanks Norm. Looking forward to a bit of in-depth study alongside this. If anyone happens to know of any useful sources, philatelic especially, or else otherwise, do let me know! :)

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by goof »

This may be of some interest: https://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=51573

goof wrote:I didn't know where to post this as it isn't a stamp or a cover but I felt did hold some interest within postal history.

This is a Christmas card sent from the Forces in Iceland Christmas 1941 sent by 4749985 Private Jack Wiggins, Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiment, Intelligence Section, Iceland (C) Force. I was more surprised they had their own cards printed!!

Image


Image


Image


Image



It seems C Force was the result of GB forces invading Iceland due to its strategic position and reluctance to align itself to allied forces, from the front of the cover it shows Joint Forces GB, USA, Norway.


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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by aethelwulf »

Catweazle wrote:If anyone happens to know of any useful sources, philatelic especially, or else otherwise, do let me know! :)
I think there's a specialized society for this area, the "Polar Collectors Club" or somesuch? With the two poles combined, there's a wealth of areas out there to collect--bases, ship sailings...

I have to admit, I never really thought much of what went on north of the Arctic Circle in WWII. It was the impetus for the building of the Alaska Highway, I know that much (there was a Canadian commem for the 50th anniv of that...42 cent era I think?)
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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by PBR »

Catweazle wrote:For years, ever since the age of 10, I've collected stamps. Not only that, but I've been a worldwide collector and upheld the worldwide philatelic 'philosophy' of folks like Norm and other members who collect stamps from across the globe. Specialised collectors only amused me and I think it almost silly to stuff an album full of 1d Red Kangaroo stamps when they all look pretty much the same at first glance, even if each one under close scrutiny differs in errors or printing marks.

And then I read Alistair's McClean's HMS Ulysses (by the same author who wrote Where Eagles Dare). Since then I've had a growing fascination with the history of the Arctic Convoys, particularly the famous PQ17 disaster (more on that another day).

By and by, what with a declining financial budget having moved out of home and settled into a serious relationship and returning next year to full-time study, I decided to give worldwide collecting a break and turn my eye to a more specialised collecting subject.

World War II raged for almost 6 years, from 1939 to 1945. The many films, books and secondary resources amassed never cease to amaze me. Only the other day, yet another film WWII film was released – Mel Gibson's latest Hacksaw Ridge deals with a conscientious objector, in the Pacific theater, who refused to carry a gun and instead became a war hero as a medic, rescuing others in die-hard situations.

But little out there seems to deal with the story of the war from behind the Arctic Circle.

Countless Penny blacks and even large Scandinavian collections are listed every day across Ebay and Delcampe. But what of the postal history between 1939 and 1945, sent to and from the area above and beyond the northern most line of latitude that spans our world?

What of German forces in northern occupied Norway near Tromso, for example? Or perhaps meteorological sites in the Spitsbergen Archipelago and the Yukon, or Allied convoys arriving in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk?

So this is my new collecting interest. The majority of my worldwide collection is still with my parents in Melbourne (I live in Brisbane), but I'll get around to culling that someday soon. And this is a thread in which I'll showcase my WWII-era Arctic collecting interests, which has only just begun and has not much to it yet.

I'll have to go find a certain cover to upload a picture of it (how boring this thread would be without images), but in the meantime feel free to add any (or discuss) material which fits this subject!
Now, that's an interesting field. :D I am looking forward to read more about it!


Cheers


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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

About time, you might say, but here's something to begin... By 1942, Iceland had a garrison of 10,000 men and was a base for British light naval craft protecting British convoys on their way to the Soviet Union (particularly Murmansk and Archangel). The Americans also had a base there.

Here's a superb cover in great condition considering its age, complete with a fascinating 6-page letter written over 25th and 26th December, 1942 on what looks to be pretty good quality writing paper. It was sent from one F/O (presuming first officer) Sydney H. Morris to his precious old darling in Kent a few days later on 28th December.

F/O Morris was stationed at the R.A.F. headquarters in Iceland. I would be keen to find out more about him, so if anyone has anything further to add, then by all means fire away below!
Image
Image
Not sure as to the value of this, I would presume about $60 or so?

And the letter as follows below, in its entirety. Most fascinating to read, providing us with a real historical insight to life in Iceland on active service around Christmas. It seems this chap is just like me, with a little thing for Drambuie and Creme de Menthe!

My precious old darling,

Well, my love, I expect you are just now opening your Xmas parcels the same as I am. How sweet and thoughtful of you to have done them up in the usual Xmas wrappings. Thank you darling for the lovely warm cardigan. We look after ourselves pretty well here and keep warm in our hut and in the office, that I don’t feel the cold as much as I thought I might do. There is worse to come though, I understand, and next month the cold winds really start to bite. Thank you Pob(?) for the nice scarf; it’s a beauty and will be jolly useful tomorrow. Thank you Mob(?) for the balaclava, it fits me fine and will also be grand to keep me warm tomorrow.

I’m having my first day off tomorrow to take a party of 20 of the lads to the ski-club. We are all looking forward to it very much and hope to go to see the hot springs not much further on.

Thank you for the Mars and chocolate dear but you shouldn’t have robbed yourself as we get as much as we want. Thank you Mob(?) for the chocolate biscuits it was very sweet of you – and they are good. Won’t it be lovely sweetheart when I can come home to lunch again and say ‘ME’ through the letter box! That was a pretty card dear that you sent me, I do hope you get mine, and thank you for the cable too, it looks as if it cost you a fortune! Bless you. Some one has made a .... many of our Xmas mail so no one has heard from home since about 12th Dec.

Well my dear I’ve had my white Xmas, and under the circumstances I had as good a time as it was possible to have. Someone even stuffed the turkeys so we were most fortunate in being able to _______; so we had them after all.

We had a Holy Communion service at 9:15 then pottered around till 12:30 when we were invited to the Sgts Mess for drinks until 13:00 hrs when we were all dressed as waiters and attended on the Aumien (?) in their mess. That was good fun and a good time was had by all.

Later I planted my Mustard and Cress as I thought it would be a good thing to start straight away in case it doesn’t grow before I leave!

Exhausted from my labours in sewing meals. I slept from 4:30 till 6:30pm thereby narrowly missing my Xmas Tea which I had today (26th). [By this time the ink is different, assuming he started the letter on the 25th, before picking it up again on Boxing Day]

At 6:30pm there were cocktails and sherry in our own Mess previous to the Dinner Night. We had cream of tomato soup, fillet of sole, Norfolk (USA) Turkey sausage, peas, potatoes (tinned) more sherry. Xmas Pud – which we helped ourselves to while it was still alight! Darker sherry/ Nuts & raisins, coffee, followed by DRAMBUIE! [I like this chap; sounds like a splendid feast for ’42 despite being in Iceland on active service and, moreover, I am quite partial myself to Drambuie!]

I don’t know why the Americans don’t feed us always!

Last but not least after dinner I made a dead set for the bar as I knew that hey just one bottle of Creme de Menthe. Oh boy, that’s the goods(?)! Drambuie wants some heating too. We fed in candle light, and the Mess (both dining and ante-room) was very prettily decorated and boasted of 2 Xmas Trees – imported from somewhere.

The new S.A.O. has arrived and so far been perfect .... misery. He doesn’t seem to like Iceland. In fact he hated the .... place before he’d been here 5 minutes.

He came by air and landed him at the “wrong” aerodrome. We didn’t have the band out for him. We hadn’t a batman and what was more no one seemed interested in getting him one!

Poor fellow! I didn’t put myself out even to be introduced until necessary and have hardly seen him since as he is sickening for the inevitable initial cold. Well, I suppose we shall get him trained in due course. [Haha, this made me laugh!] I shall have to lecture him like a newly arrived airman and explain that the mental attitude is everything in this place. [Most interesting this sentence hey]

I hope to get an assistant shortly in the shape of a newly commissioned airman. There have been days recently when I have had peoples troubles all day and have not “put pen to paper” as it were, so perhaps it will be realised soon that to do Camp Com(?) properly takes on man all his time.

I am glad to say I have kept amazingly fit since my cold, and look “too well” according to some, after all the parties. No mistakes, I have had a very happy time, and have managed to “fit in” in many local circles round here.

I haven’t had time or opportunity to meet a large number of Icelandians, and not being able to speak the language makes that a bit of a strain anyway.

I hope you all had had a good Xmas as I feel sure you did. I drank your health – to myself – and wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Thanks, and God bless,
Lots & lots of love, darling,
Sydney XXXX

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate issued on Friday, 20th November 1942 (whatever the heck that is) offers readers an excerpt from a letter from Iceland, the 'strange land'. Found this courtesy of Trove when researching all things RAF and Icelandic. Since it links in with this subject, and was written only a few months prior to the aforementioned letter (September 5th 1942), I figured it relevant enough to post here, for those interested.

We have pleasure in offering our readers extracts from a letter received recently from Flight Sergeant Jerome Frewen. R.A.F., addressed to his father, Captain I-L M. Prewen, at Jerome Park. It is dated September 5th, 1942, and written at Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. He writes:

'Maybe I'm the family pioneer in Iceland! It is getting quite a habit with me pioneering from pole to pole. Can't give you daily dope as to what I am about here, except that I blew in lately, and am probably not staying long. Thought you would all like news of this little island, and that Jennywren would like the strange stamps.

'I manage to admire the scenery now and then, and truly this is a strange land, with big patches of flat wasteland and grand mountains covered by glaciers. Some of the peaks reach 6,000 ft., and one rarely sees them owing to their cloak of dense cloud. The people speak Icelandic which seems to be mostly Danish in origin. They are not ill-disposed towards the Allied forces, and are hospitable. The girls are very good looking, and have fine complexions. They do not speak much English.

'Reykjavik is a picture of contrasts. Dingy shops and ill-kept streets abound, but there are pretty walks and statues, and the people drive around in expensive cars. The cost of living and wages are both extremely high, judged by British standards, hence the incoming Britisher is at a considerable disadvantage.

'Everything continues well with me. After nine months on Hudsons[?] on the east and west coasts of England, in which I saw much activity I went into the so-called Battle of the Atlantic, and have been ranging the Teas with rare abandon. My original battle-crew went with me, but unfortunately they have all gone West exrept my New Zealand observer, Mc Keagiie. My own luck still holds, and I thank Providence. This is the furthest north I have seen yet — 64degrees and I hate Arctic weather. I pine for Australian sunshine.'

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by vikingeck »

Can't add much Catweazle but F/O= RAF rank of Flying Officer ( Equivalent to an Army Lieutenant )
Rough equivalent ranks with Army

P/0= Pilot Officer = 2nd Lt
F/0= Flying Officer = Lt
Flight Lieutenant= Captain
Squadron Leader= Major
Wing Commander= Lt Col
Group Captain= Colonel


With regard to Arctic Convoys, The ships gathered off the coast of Scotland until enough numbers were collected for a Convoy to Murmansk .

The starting point was Poolewe and a Memorial has recently ( in the last 10 years ) been unveiled to the Convoys.

Again only recently (2013) Veterans on these convoys have been recognised with a medal "the Arctic Star" and 2014 the Russian Ushakov medal .
whatever it is -------it's better than a poke in eye with a wet umbrella !

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

Ah yes, thank you vikingeck, that makes much more sense now!

I have multiple Third Reich fieldpost covers from Narvik and Tromso (far northern Norway) in German but may begin a new thread asking for German translations in due course, before dissecting them here.

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Post by OldDuffer1 »

My uncle was on the Arctic conveys- he never said much about the experience- it must have been hell!

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by BrieffiesWF »

The former house of S. Morris "The Pines" still seems to exist in Lympne: Google Street View will provide you an image.

Alas, couldn't find anything on the man himself, hope you'll find more information some day: the cover & letter make a proper piece of history!
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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by kerailija »

Catweazle wrote:If anyone happens to know of any useful sources, philatelic especially, or else otherwise, do let me know! :)
Two phrases you might want to google up are 'Lapin sota' (translating to Lapland War) and 'Petsamo' (a mine in arctic circle that was very important to Germans), especially when combined to various Finnish philatelic terms such as 'postikortti' (meaning postcard), 'kenttäposti' (field post), 'sensuurileima' (cencor marking), 'joukko-osasto' (division marking) etc. This puts you in middle of era when Germans tried to flee from arctic areas (Russia and Norway) through Finland and things got ugly.

Needless to say plenty of postcards and letters with various fieldpost markings from both sides exist (most worth few euro's, but especially the German sendings can get pricey).

(and no, not my specialty. But items related to Lapland war are somewhat common in Finnish auctions)

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by vikingeck »

Ah yes the Finnish War , the Winter war , The Continuation war , a whole field of conflict with interesting covers and postcards to look for Catweazle!

This must not be forgotten in your story. It involved Germany and Russia with the Finns defending their territory and drawing in volunteers from Sweden and other countries against Russia.

Germany was her ally against Russia so Finland finds itself on what we regard as "the wrong side". The Allies never declared war on Finland, there was a lot of sympathy as they fought off the " Great BEAR", but technically by 1942 Russia was our ally, and so the Arctic convoys to Murmansk began.
whatever it is -------it's better than a poke in eye with a wet umbrella !

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by antbrown »

I hope you continue to post more find in this thread Catweasle - my late grandad served in the Navy and sailed on at least one arctic convoy so I too am looking at starting a little collection in this field! Good luck with it.

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by vikingeck »

I have just had a few days away from home staying in POOLEWE on the west coast of Scotland.
Image

The postmark from the tiny post office POOLEWE ACHNASHEEN is dated 10 May 2007 because as the kind lady pointed out The Post Office is too mean to give her a new handstamp which says 2017!


It was here that the Royal Navy established "Port A" at ALTBEA on the deep Sea loch , Loch EWE, because of the vulnerability of the Base at Scapa Flow in Orkney to attack by U Boats.

From 1941 ships destined for Murmansk with the " Arctic Convoys " gathered until the convoy was assembled and ready to sail.

A new small Museum called " Russian Arctic Convoy Museum " has just opened last weekend (6th May) with Russian Consul present .

Image

The Cover was prepared and is on sale at the Museum

I bought one and would be happy to send it to you Catweazle if you email me your address
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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by vikingeck »

Thanks for the postal address Ben , your cover is on its way to Australia.

Alex
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Post by Somerset »

The Scandinavian PS would be worth joining, lots of material in their magazine.

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

vikingeck wrote:Thanks for the postal address Ben , your cover is on its way to Australia.

Alex
Thanks Alex, your most generous package arrived today in the post. Excellent stuff! Will post up here in due course too.

By the way, thanks also to Somerset for the suggestion of the Scandinavian Philatelic Society. Will certainly check them out!

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

Just took a pot-shot at this one on Ebay and won it for about AUD$4 including postage.

Not exactly my region of interest per se, given that Stockholm and Denmark are not within the Arctic Circle. Nonetheless, a lovely looking registered cover and close enough for $4. Just couldn't help it. :lol:

Postmarked in November of 1939, almost a month before Christmas. By this time the Nazis had invaded Poland, resulting thereby in England's declaration of war.
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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

Slept in this morning and thus missed the perfect opportunity to get up early before the crack of dawn and place a winning bid on this glorious little piece of arctic history. Congratulations to whoever it was in this world who got in there before me :lol: But for the record, I'll post it here.

Looks to be a post card of sorts, dated April 1942, sent by an American serviceman to New York from Murmansk in Northern Russia. Seems likely he may have been on one of the convoys and survived to tell his remarkable tale. I get the reference to Adolf, but who is Joe?

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by memphre »

Catweazle wrote: I get the reference to Adolf, but who is Joe?
Stalin, of course.

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

memphre wrote:
Catweazle wrote: I get the reference to Adolf, but who is Joe?
Stalin, of course.

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Oh yes, of course! Damn me, I must be tired :oops:

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Cullen »

I guess the Battle of Narvik fits the topic. A lot of modern commemorative stuff around, but at least this one has been signed by men who were actually there.

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by Catweazle »

Somerset wrote:The Scandinavian PS would be worth joining, lots of material in their magazine.
By the way (although your post was a long time ago for sure), did you mean the Scandinavia Philatelic Society or the Scandinavian Collectors Club?

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Re: WWII Behind the Arctic Circle: End of a Worldwide Collec

Post by vikingeck »

The Scandinavia PS is UK based and the Scandinavian CC is US based.

As Past president and former Auctioneer of the PS, I am biased towards that.
whatever it is -------it's better than a poke in eye with a wet umbrella !

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