World's first and most famous Air Force
2008 saw the 90th Anniversary of the founding of one of the world's first and most famous Air Forces, the Royal Air Force. A series of six stamps depicting important aircraft of the RAF is being released, with each stamp bearing an official RAF 90th Anniversary logo used by permission of the Royal Air Force. As far as we are aware, only four Post Offices have been granted use of this logo on postage stamps, Ascension Island, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Isle of Man.
World War II
Ascension Island has an important past, present and future connection with the RAF being as it is an essential part of the UK to Falkland Islands Air-bridge. Wide-awake Air Field is a joint facility of the RAF and the US Air Force and was constructed within three months by the US 38th Combat Engineer Regiment during the Second World War.
On 11th June 1942 the pilot of the Fairey Swordfish aircraft dispatched from H.M.S. Archer to drop a message to the Cable & Wireless Office in Georgetown, was surprised to see an almost finished air strip and decided to land his plane, thus becoming the first aircraft to land on Ascension Island.
Although mainly used by the US Air Force during World War II, as a stopping point, the air field was expected in the mid 1960's to act as amongst other things, an emergency runway for the Space Shuttle, and in 1982 because of the increased air traffic during the Falkland Islands War, Wideawake was for a short period the busiest air field in the world.
15p - Sopwith Snipe
The Sopwith Snipe was the last fighter aircraft produced by Thomas Sopwith during the First World War. This was an improved version of the Sopwith Camel but with a more powerful engine, which allowed it to fly slightly faster but higher and with more maneuverability than its predecessor. By 1918 the Snipe was considered by many to be the most effective fighter plane on the Western Front and nearly 500 Snipes were built in 1918 alone. Canadian Ace William Barker earned his Victoria Cross whilst flying his Snipe and Australian Elwyn King held the record of seven kills whilst flying his Snipe. The ground attack version, the Salamander carrying bombs was also produced and until 1923 the Snipe was Britain's only air defense. Interestingly, Tommy Sopwith was a friend of the Pobjoy family who themselves developed and sold the Pobjoy Aero Engine in the 1920's and 1930's.
35p - Vickers Wellington
The Vickers Wellington was the longest serving of the medium bombers with Bomber Command at the start of World War II and it played an important role undertaking bombing missions until October 1943.
The Wellington was first designed in 1932 utilizing an unusual frame developed by Barnes Wallis, the first aircraft only took to the air some four years later in 1936 and for a short time was known as the Vickers Crecy. This prototype differed from the true Wellington by carrying non-defensive armament and having a smaller tail. The revised Wellington entered service in late 1937 and Tiger engines powered the version depicted on this stamp. These were replaced in later versions. The Wellington, a twin engine aircraft was an important part of Bomber Command until it was replaced by the four engine heavy bombers such as the Lancaster.
In 1985, a crashed Wellington was discovered in Loch Ness during a 'Nessy Hunt' and after literally years of painstaking restoration by veterans at Brooklands Museum, it was fully restored and is only one of two Wellingtons known to exist, the other on display in the RAF Museum Hendon.
40p - Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is perhaps the most famous fighter aircraft of World War II but more than being just a highly successful aircraft, it is still in many people's minds the symbol of victory over daunting opposition. Amazingly, forty major variants of Spitfire were produced including the Float Plane and the Sea Fire which could take off and land on aircraft carriers. This single engine fighter aircraft, entered into operation with the RAF 70 years ago in 1938 and by 1939 the British Air Ministry had ordered over 4,000 to be built.
Involved in every major RAF engagement, the Spitfire and it's pilots are remembered for their supreme resilience and sacrifice in the Battle of Britain. Even today, when any notable event connected with Aviation History or Royalty is commemorated then it is usual to see some of the few remaining operational Spitfires participating in any fly past.
50p - Gloster Meteor
The Gloster Meteor was the only allied jet aircraft to see combat during World War II. The project to build a jet fighter was started in August 1940 but although its first flight was in 1941, there were actually eight prototypes produced, before it was eventually decided to use the Turbo Jet designed by Frank Whittle.
The GI, which is depicted on the stamp, went into service at almost the same time as the German ME262 but whilst the ME262 saw action against other aircraft, the Meteor I was only ever used against the V-I Flying Bomb and its pilots never fought manned aircraft of the German Luftwaffe. It was only with the development of the Meteor Mark III that the aircraft was cleared for European operation but they were not allowed to fly over Germany for fear that downed aircraft could be captured by the Germans or even the Russians and their secrets revealed.
65p - The BAe Hawk
During the 1960's the RAF operated a number of training aircraft including the Gnat, the Hunter and the Jet Provost. Each of these aircraft had different problems and the RAF decided that it needed to obtain a single specialist training aircraft. Interestingly the name Sopwith continues to appear in RAF and Aviation history and his company HawkerSiddeley became involved in developing a trainer which they gave the name Hawk and the RAF gave them a production contract for 176 aircraft with the first to be delivered in late 1976. A tandem seater built mostly of aluminum alloy, The Hawk was ideal for weapons, bomber and general training. By the time that the last aircraft was built, the Hawk had become the BAe Hawk since Hawker-Siddeley had been taken over by British Aerospace.
The most prominent RAF Unit flying Hawks is the world famous Red Arrows Flying Demonstration Unit which was equipped with 11 of the trainer aircraft in 1980.
90p - Typhoon F-2 Eurofighter
In 1988, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain entered into an agreement to start development of a new multi-role aircraft, which was capable of a wide range of activities from simple peace support to high intensity conflict. The first of 55 Typhoon F-I aircraft entered service with the RAF in July 2005 and it is intended that the Typhoon will replace the Tornado F-III and Jaguar aircraft currently in service with the RAF. The F-II aircraft, which has improved ground-attack capabilities is in production now and is expected to be delivered early in the next decade. The dramatic synchronization of the operation of this aircraft (when compared to the Tornado and Jaguar) with the pilot shows that this cutting edge new aircraft type is ideally equipped for air combat for the foreseeable future.
Postage stamps in detail
Issue: Ascension Island, 20 June 2008
Design: Ross Watton
Print: lithography by BDT International
Perforation: 14 per 2cms
Stamp Size: 28.45 x 42.58mm
More information Postage Stamps
Postage Stamps 2008
Postage Stamps Ascension Island
Anniversary RAF on Falkland Islands 2008