Crimean War postal history - a letter written with gun powder

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18 April 2014
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We take a look at a letter written with gunpowder rather than ink, sent from the frontline of the Crimean War of the 1850s, detailed in the May 2014 issue of Stamp & Coin Mart magazine. ...
Imagine being on the frontline in the Crimean War and receiving a letter from home. You want to tell your family that you’re OK, but have no paper or ink to hand.

That’s the dilemma faced by Gunner Thomas Smith in September 1855.

Crimean War cover (c) British LibraryRemarkably, the resourceful soldier turned the envelope inside out and wrote his reply using gunpowder as makeshift ink and, even more remarkably, the letter found its way back to Britain.

The 'turned cover' is now held in the British Library Philatelic Collections.

In the letter, complete with spelling mistakes and abbreviations, he writes: ‘God help us if we have to winter out on thise hills for it is very cold… you must excuse all mistak and bad writing for this is not ink it is powder disolved.’

In May’s Stamp & Coin Mart we examine this incredible cover, which now resides in the British Library Philatelic Collections.

You can read about the British Library Philatelic Collections in every issue of Stamp & Coin Mart magazine.