The Story of the First Trans-Atlantic Air Post

The Stamp Man

The Stamp Man

2020-08-11 09:08:46

I love a stamp with a good story…

The stamp featured today marks one of the greatest periods of mankind’s pioneering.

It is a truly great philatelic classic because:

  • It is recognised in philatelic circles as one of the World’s greatest rarities
  • Comes from the first British colony to issue airmail postage stamps
  • There are a maximum possible 87 examples in existence. The surviving figure is believed to be much less.
  • It has an amazing story to tell.

One of the most rewarding aspects of philately is when a stamp tells a story of a bygone age.

This little piece of paper transports us back to a time of bravery and pioneering progress.

It comes from Newfoundland, an early leader in pioneering of trans-Atlantic flight during the early 20th Century.

The pioneering stamp story

The Europeans first landed in Newfoundland in about AD 1000 when the Vikings briefly settled there. It was possibly the first part of North America to be explored by Europeans.

England claimed Newfoundland in 1583 when Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, took control. It was not until 1949 that Newfoundland finally agreed to become the 10th provenance of the Canadian Confederation.

Newfoundland island is the closest point in North America to Europe.

Newfoundland Island is the closest point in North America to Great Britain and Europe. It is, therefore, no surprise that it became the focus of early attempts at crossing the Atlantic by aircraft.

On 1 April 1913, the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Northcliffe put up a prize of £10,000 to the first aviator to complete a non-stop flight over the Atlantic in under 72 hours. Back in 1913, £10,000 was worth the equivalent to approximately £250,000 in today’s money, so the prize was attractive.

The first attempted trans-Atlantic flight from Newfoundland by Harry George Hawker (pilot) and Kenneth Mackenzie Grieve (navigator) is the most famous. Hawker was an Australian-born aviation pioneer.

The plane used by Hawker and Grieve was a single-engine Sopwith biplane. The design was based on the Sopwith B-1, a bomber used during World War I:


Just in case they ran into trouble over the Atlantic, the main section was modified to be used as a boat in an emergency.

One of the most exciting benefits of trans-Atlantic flight would be the ability to carry mail in a matter of hours rather than the many days the journey took by boat.

Naturally, the Newfoundland Post Office were enthralled by this prospect. On April 12, 1919, they issued a limited edition overprinted stamp reading “First Trans-Atlantic Air Post April, 1919”. Here it is:

Newfoundland 1919 3c. brown HAWKER overprinted "FIRST TRANS-ATLANTIC AIR POST APRIL. 1919, mint, SG142

In total, 200 were issued. 18 proved defective and were destroyed. 95 were used in letters carried by Hawker and his navigator, mostly addressed to prominent British Peers, the Royal Family and even one addressed to His Majesty the King.

Of the remaining 87 mint examples, 11 were presented as gifts to various officials and 76 were sold for $25 each.

Today, this airmail stamp is known by philatelists as the “Hawker Issue of Newfoundland”.

On May 18, 1919 at 6:45 pm, Hawker and Mackenzie began their flight from Mount Pearl flying field at St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Weather conditions were poor with unexpected foggy weather. They overcame the inclement weather challenge and were soon cruising over 100 miles an hour at around 10,000 feet.

About 14 hours into the flight, the engine overheated. The aviators followed a shipping lane in a hope to find a vessel they could ditch close to. Finally, as matters became critical, they spotted a Danish merchant ship, the Mary.

It is testament to Hawker’s skills that he managed to land safely on the water some 750 miles short of their destination. Both men were rescued.

Unfortunately, the Mary did not have any salvage gear so the Sopwith, along with its bag of mail, was left floating in the Atlantic.

Five days later, the Sopwith was found by the S.S. Lake Charlottesville and the mail was salvaged. The mail was sent to London and put into the British postal system on 30 May.

Despite their failure, the Daily Mail awarded the aviators a generous donation of £5,000 as a consolation prize. Both airmen were decorated with the Air Force Cross for valour by King George V. Sadly, Hawker died just three years later in a crash while taking part in an aerial derby. 

The first successful non-stop trans-Atlantic flight was made a month later in June by Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown in a twin-engined ex-Royal Air Force Vickers Vimy Bomber.

A Rare Opportunity to buy this famous stamp

I am delighted to be in possession of one mint example of the first stamp issued for an attempt to cross the Atlantic by plane. The stamp’s story and historical significance makes it desirable to a wide base of collectors.

It could be yours, today.

As you know, I always seek to offer the highest quality examples of rare stamps. With this stamp you benefit from the fact:

  1. It is a mint example in fine condition. Finding an example in any condition is challenge enough
  2. It is initialled by the Newfoundland postmaster, J.A. Robinson on the back of the stamp
  3. It comes with a lifetime moneyback guarantee of authenticity
  4. There are a maximum possible 87 mint examples in existence, making this a rare opportunity indeed to acquire one of the World’s philatelic treasures 

Rarity and value combined makes a sound investment

Stanley Gibbons list a mint example of the Newfoundland “Hawker” overprint stamp at a value of £22,000.

I am able to offer you the fine quality mint example I have at a price of £19,500.

When you combine the stamp’s rarity and the difficulty in sourcing another of this quality with the price I am asking, this stamp has all the attributes of a sound long term alternative asset investment.

This is only the second time I have handled this famous stamp. The last time, it sold within minutes of going on sale.

It certainly stands out in any collection and, with such a strong story to tell, will always be of appeal to collectors and investors in the future.

To secure the stamp that marks the first attempted first-Atlantic flight, call +44(0)1534 639998.

If you live in North America, buying this stamp will give it the chance to make the journey home!

Kind regards,

CEO, Just Collecting Limited

PS. Interesting Fact: Great Britain, the master of the British Empire, has NEVER officially issued an airmail stamp.

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