Ascension Island – Outbreak of World War I
Although at an early stage in it's settlement Ascension Island was designated "HMS Ascension Island" "A Stone Sloop of War in the Smaller Class", it was an incredibly important airfield in both the Second World War and the Falklands War.
It played no significant part during World War I thanks to early British dominance of the South Atlantic Ocean.
Despite this lack of involvement, Ascension Island, as a dependency of the Colony of St. Helena, was in theory at war with Germany and has therefore chosen to mark the Centenary of the start of the Great War.
As the war progressed, so radio receivers were strung over the lava like washing lines to provide communication with ships at sea and there was a detachment of marines running "HMS Ascension Island". Ascension Island New Cemetery contains six Commonwealth burials of the First World War.
For this Centenary issue, the Post Office has chosen to depict the Scarlet Corn Poppy (papaver rhoeas) which has a long association with World War I and Remembrance Day generally.
In the early 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars, a great deal of Europe was devastated and laid bare, and it is recorded that fields of poppies were seen to grow around the bodies of the dead.
During World War I, the same fields in France and Belgium were also turned into muddy wasteland and once the War had finished the poppy was one of the few plants to speedily return to the battle fields.
A Canadian Surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae immortalised the place of the poppy in his poem "In Flanders Fields". This was initially published in 1915 in the London based magazine "Punch", but it was not until 1919 that the poem was included in a published collection of his works and it became synonymous with the sacrifice of the soldiers who died in the First World War.
In 1918 an American Professor decided to wear a silk red poppy in memory of the soldiers who died in the War, and it was she who campaigned to have the poppy accepted as the official symbol of remembrance by the American Legion.
A french woman was inspired to sell poppies in France and in 1921 she sent poppy sellers to London to raise funds for the war orphans. Field Marshal Douglas Haig, himself one of the British Military Leaders in World War I helped found the Royal British Legion and he encouraged the sale and wearing of the red poppy.
The wearing of the poppy and the laying of poppy wreaths at Remembrance Services has been adopted as an international symbol of remembrance, although ironically in France, the poppy has been abandoned for Le Bleuet, the Cornflower and this is sold by the French National Board of Veterans and War Victims.
Each of the four stamps with values of 50p, 55p, 60p and £1.60p depicts a different image of the red poppy in growth, and unusually bears a specially produced logo which contains the shape of Ascension Island as a poppy within a circle which declares "Centenary of Great War 1914".
Date of issue: 4 August 2014