In our last blog, we identified the six major geographical areas that constituted the British Empire, at least as far as stamp collectors are concerned. Chief amongst these areas is British Europe. But what countries are in British Europe, precisely?
First, we have the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. While European philatelists typically use this full designation or something akin to it, American collectors usually just use “Great Britain”. Stamps from this country – or group of countries, if you prefer – obviously include all the postage stamps of Great Britain, as well as regional issue for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Next up come the Channel Islands, sometimes referred to as the British Channel Islands. These are (surprise, surprise) islands in the English Channel, and they have a bit of an interesting history. They were originally held by the Duchy of Normandy, and naturally passed to the English Crown at the time that William the Conqueror became King of England in 1066. Nowadays, they are considered British Crown Dependencies – not part of the United Kingdom, not part of the European Union, not colonies, not overseas territories. The islands are grouped into two British Crown Dependencies, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey, both stamp-issuing entities in their own right.
The Isle of Man also issues its own postage stamps. It is also a Crown Dependency, but has a different history from the Channel Islands and a different location, as it’s actually situated in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Great Britain.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory. Spain asserts a claim to the territory, but for stamp collecting purposes, as of this writing Gibraltar is part of the British Empire.
So far, so good. The rest of the list is a bit more complex, because it consists of countries that once were considered part of the British Empire. I won’t turn the rest of this blog into a long essay on history (or politics), but do feel encouraged to do further research.
Malta – Malta was part of the British Empire from 1800 to 1964.
Cyprus – Cyprus was British (sometimes as a British Protectorate, sometimes as a Crown Colony) from 1878 to August 16, 1960.
Heligoland – Heligoland was annexed by Britain in 1814, then ceded to Germany in 1890.
Ireland – Ireland is currently divided into the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the European Union, and Northern Ireland which is, as noted above, part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland, which issued its first provisional postage stamps in 1922, is emphatically NOT part of the British Empire.
Now all we’re left with is British Offices Abroad, which actually means “British Post Offices Abroad”. Most of these, of course, are not in Europe, but the stamps used by these entities were usually overprinted Great Britain definitives, which is why they are included here. And here they are:
British post offices in Africa various issues
Baghdad (British Occupation) 1917 only
Bangkok (British Post Office) 1882–1885
Batum (British Occupation) 1919–1920
Beirut (British Post Office) 1906 only
British post offices in the Turkish Empire 1885–1923
British postal agencies in Eastern Arabia 1948–1966
Bushire (British Occupation) 1915 only
Cameroons (British Occupation) 1915 only
China (British Post Offices) 1917–1930
China (British Railway Administration) 1901 only
Crete (British Post Offices) 1898–1899
East Africa Forces 1943–1948
British post in Egypt (Consular Offices) 1839–1882
British post in Egypt (British Military Occupation) 1882–1914
Egypt (British Forces) 1932–1943
Eritrea (British Administration) 1950–1952
Eritrea (British Military Administration) 1948–1950
German East Africa (British Occupation) 1917 only
Iraq (British Occupation) 1918–1923
Japan (British Commonwealth Occupation) 1946–1949
Japan (British Post Offices) 1859–1879
Mafia Island (British Occupation) 1915–1916
Malaya (British Military Administration) 1945–1948
Middle East Forces (MEF) 1942–1947
Morocco Agencies 1898–1957
North Borneo (BMA) 1945 only
Salonika (British Field Office) 1916 only
Sarawak (BMA) 1945 only
Somalia (British Administration) 1950 only
Somalia (British Military Administration) 1948–1950
Tripolitania (British Administration) 1950–1952
Tripolitania (British Military Administration) 1948–1950
Uzunada, formerly Chustan Island (British Occupation) 1916 only