In June 1803 Admiral Horatio Nelson embarked on HMS Victory as Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean. This was the first year of the Napoleonic Wars and in the period leading up to the decisive 1805 Battle of Trafalgar he had been either blockading or chasing the French and Spanish fleets. To mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Nelson special stamps were issued by Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. After Lord Nelson was killed at Trafalgar, his body was preserved in brandy and spirits of wine mixed with camphor and myrrh for over two months until his burial in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The Crown Agents Stamp Bureau bought 50kg of Victory’s oak timbers after the ship was refitted in Portsmouth Naval Dockyard – the work to refit the ship was completed in 2005. The purchased wood was pulped and incorporated into stamps marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Using an advanced printing technique, the stamps used the traces of oak timbers on the surface of the image of HMS Victory. The stamps were printed by Cartor Security Printers, a French company.
Above we have: the 38p stamp image “Guarding the Body” depicting the barrel that Lord Horatio Nelson’s body was returned to Britain in after his death; HMS Entreprenante (40p stamp), a 10-gun cutter that the Royal Navy captured from the French in 1798. The British commissioned her in 1799 and she served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, participating in the Battle of Trafalgar. She took part in several small engagements, capturing Spanish and French ships; the 47p has a portrait of a fully-decorated Nelson. The HMS Victory stamp (GBP1.60) is the only one printed from paper made by pulping wood purchased during the HMS Victory refit.
The above Gibraltar stamp sheet is a siamese joint issue with the Isle of Man – a siamese joint issue a type of twin issue in which the stamps from both countries are physically (se-tenant or within the same miniature sheet) linked together.
And Nelson’s connection with Gibraltar? It was at Rosia Bay, Gibraltar on the 3rd November 1805 that his body was brought ashore from HMS Victory. Here we have a stamp sheet showing the badly damaged HMS Victory being towed towards Gibraltar after the Battle of Trafalgar.
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