World War Two postal history collection


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12 October 2012
imports_CCGB_naicachetcourtesyof_26963.jpg Nazi cachet, courtesy of British Library Philatelic Collections
The collection of World War Two postal history recently acquired by the British Library Philatelic Collections provides an evocative record of wartime events and a personal diary of one family’s war ...

Following the failure of Roger Horton and his family to escape Belgium at the start of World War Two, he and his brother and father spent the next five years living in internment camps.

The postal historian, now in his eighties, recalls, ‘the only way was going back to our home and be prisoners of the Germans.’ Arrested on 23 July, the family were soon split up, with Roger’s Belgium-born mother being released while he, his father and brother were detained at the Citadelle of Huy. In the following years he was held at a variety of internment camps in Belgium, France and later Germany.

As a result, and in spite of, his enforced travels, Roger amassed a huge number of letters, postcards and postal stationery from many different internment camps across Europe.

Reluctant to see the collection split up, Roger recently donated the pages of wartime letters and ephemera to the British Library Philatelic Collections, and a selection of the collection can be seen in the November 2012 issue of Stamp & Coin Mart.

Highlights of the collection include:

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  • Unusual cachets, unique to specific camps or cities
  • A variety of censor marks
  • Postcards depicting the internment camps
  • Artwork and sketches produced by internees

Covers include:

An unstamped cover sent from Aachen in Belgium to a prisoner at Tost in January 1941, showing a clearly produced Nazi propaganda cachet, depicting a German soldier’s helmet together with a long knife and a swastika.
An internment camp postcard, sent from Freddy Horton to his mother in Belgium, features a cachet of the ‘Ilag VIII’ internment camp.
A cover, sent in September 1942 to Arthur Horton at the Tost camp, showing two censorship marks together with the strip of tape used to reseal the letter once its contents had been checked.

Roger Horton’s War
May 1940 - failed to reach England
July 1940 - arrested by Germans
                   Brother and father sent to Tost, Germany
1941-1944 - arrested three times, sent to prison at Verviers, before being released
Feb 1944 - sent to Louvain and then to Kreuzburg
June 1944 - sent to Giromagny with father and brother
Sep 1944 – sent to Marlag camp in Germany
May 1945 – sent home to Belgium

Read the full article on the Horton Collection in the November 2012 issue of Stamp & Coin Mart.

The British Library Philatelic Collections are the National Philatelic Collections of the United Kingdom and are exclusively featured in every issue of Stamp & Coin Mart.

The Collections were established in 1891 with the bequest of the Tapling Collection, and now about 50 important collections or Archives are held.

There is a permanent exhibition area for the Philatelic Collections on the upper ground floor of the British Library at St Pancras, where members of the public can see some of the world’s rarest and most significant stamps and philatelic material. Find out more at:

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