Meeting for 14th April 2020.
Members are invited to submit
items of interest and recent acquisitions.
Email the details and scans to email@example.com
Attached is a cover for “Show and Tell.
I found it among my stuff and obviously kept it as it is
beautifully cancelled, but has no stamp. The cancel was put on
the lovely “address of sender” label, and the letter obviously went
through to the Zoo Friends without stamp!
This is my contribution to our online meeting.
I have 8 Japanese WW2 postcards that need a good home. They are
unused cards that were apparently issued to Japanese soldiers,
presumably for writing home.
I have had four of them translated and find they don’t say much. On the
back it just has printed “Post card army postal” and
on the front is has “Letter from battle field year month day”.
The other four, the pictorial cards, I haven’t had translated.
The 1957-1959 “Mercy” Flights of the
Royal Flying Doctor Service
Recently I acquired through a philatelic friend 5 sheets of
roneoed paper produced by the Mercy flight committee after the event.
As far as I know these facts have not been in general circulation
withing the philatelic community which is why I have put pen to paper
The July 5, 1957 issue of the Australian Stamp Monthly brought to the
attention of philatelists, through an advertisement, the existence of
the Mercy Flight Committee.
The bold heading of the advertisement was Official Serviced First Day Covers and
the fine print gave details of the proposed scheme. For the issue by
the Postmaster General of a stamp for the Royal Flying Doctor Service
on August 21, the committee would prepare Special Official First Day
covers. In addition, under a slightly smaller bold heading of Mercy Flight Covers there was a
“Immediately the stamp has appeared
the committee will be in a position to service Official Mercy Flight
Covers. (Do not confuse these with First Day Covers). They will bear a
beautiful cachet designed by James E. Lyle (designer of the Flying
Doctor stamp) and will be carried on an actual Mercy flight and will be
signed by the Doctor concerned.
covers with Block of 4 7d. stamps, 8/6 each or 1 dollar U.S.A.”
Orders could be placed by writing to the Mr. G.A. Laker,
Honorary Organising Secretary, Mercy Flight Committee, 23 Glen Street
Moorooka, S.4 Queensland.
When the stamps were released, there was no difficulty in creating and
producing the First Day covers promised. The Mercy Flight covers
however were a different beast.
Accompanying flyers sent to prospective buyers of the covers stated
“Orders are accepted on the distinct understanding that they will be
supplied , carried and signed, as, and when convenient to the Flying
Doctor Service, at whichever Flying Doctor Base is considered suitable
at the time. No information until the flight is actually underway can
be given as to the point of departure, but over a period of time it is
hoped to run a flight from each of the twelve bases of the Flying
As will be seen the quantity of covers serviced decreased markedly with
each subsequent flight leading to a cancellation of the service after
three Mercy flights had been completed.
The chief organiser of the Mercy Flights was Reg “Fergie” Ferguson. He
had been promoting the issue of a stamp for the Royal Flying Doctor for
a number of years and it eventually bore fruit. An article in the RFDS
Magazine of May 1999 by Christopher Ray sheds light on the principal
“In 1926, my father attended a small
boarding school in Eastbourne, U.K. aged eight. He sat next to, and
made friends with, an Australian boy whose parents sent him parcels
from home. My father was given the stamps from these, and thus began a
love of Australia which lasted until his death in 1996.
Many friendships arose
from a shared interest in philately, and one of these was a direct
result of the issue of the Royal Flying Doctor Service stamp in 1957.
The story begins in 1946, with a Flying Doctor mercy flight from
Charleville, Queensland, to a Brisbane hospital with a very sick
patient, part of whose war service had been spent as an Infantry
Sergeant in Tobruk where he had been severely wounded. After a stay of
eighteen months in hospital, undergoing six major operations, he was
ready for a period of convalescence, during which time he was
introduced to stamp collecting as a form of therapy. The patient’s name
was Reg Ferguson.
Having been made aware of the
lifesaving flight that had carried him to hospital at no cost to
himself, he conceived the idea that a stamp featuring some aspect of
the service could be a way of repaying in part the debt he owed. And
being used on mail throughout the continent, would at least give the
service some publicity, and could perhaps be used to generate some much
needed finance as well. Reg’s perseverance and single mindedness is a
story in itself, but it resulted in his enlisting the aid of another
ex-service acquaintance, James E Lyle, the artist, to produce a
symbolic design for the stamp in sufficient detail to submit to the
Lyle had never before designed a
stamp, nor did he know over-much about the work of the Flying Doctor
Service. But with the guidance and suggestions from the grateful
patient, there emerged the design of the background map of Australia
with the Caduceus throwing the shadow of an aeroplane over the outback
of the continent, symbolising a mantle of safety being spread over the
inland through the medium of aviation and medicine that the service
provides. The RFDS gave its willing approval for submission of the
stamps design to the Postmaster General which was done through the
aegis of a Federal Member of Parliament, himself an ex-Tobruk rat.
Months passed into years, during
which the Federal Member persistently prodded the Postmaster General to
keep alive the plea for the stamp and its significance to the whole of
Australia. In May 1955, it was decided that the Lyle design would be
fully considered along with others that had been submitted. At last,
the concept of a stamp on the theme was officially recognised, and the
customary procedure leading to the birth of a stamp was being followed.
Other designs were submitted, but none so well fitted the subject as
that of Lyle which, with minor modification, formed the basis of the
issued stamp. It appeared on the 21st August 1957, bearing the new
value of 7d. Nearly 66 000 000 of the stamps were issued over the next
two years or so until the postal rate increases of October 1959.
Ordinary postal use of the
stamp could bring no financial benefit to the service, only publicity.
James Lyle was enlisted again to design a special first day cover which
could raise funds for the RFDS, and a separate cover with a more
distinctive design which could be carried on actual mercy flights, at
the discretion of the doctors involved, from each of the three
Queensland bases of that time - Cloncurry, Charleville, and Charters
An application to purchase one of
these covers was received by Reg Ferguson from my father and thus began
a firm friendship which lasted until Reg’s death in November 1985 - his
debt to the service having been repaid in full many years before. Reg
stayed many times with my parents at our family house in Cambridge, and
over the years we were also honoured by the presence of such notable
Flying Doctor supporters as Reverend Fred McKay and Doctor Alan
Vickers. My father’s study of the birth of the Flying Doctor stamp is
now displayed at the RFDS Cairns Visitor Centre.
It is the memory of Reg and his
friendship with my father, Derick Ray, that ensures the continued
support of the RFDS from a distance even beyond the range of a
So we now have the story of Reg’s involvement in the production
of the Mercy Flight covers but what has always intrigued me is the
story behind each of the chosen Mercy flights. The following pages are
direct copies of the information sheets .
That first Mercy flight has the pilot recorded in Eustis AAMC
1382 as John Webb when clearly it was Graham Arnold. This flight was
the best promotion with 1855 covers being carried.
The second Mercy Flight was to and from Charleville as indicated
by the cancellation on the covers but not so recorded on the official
report by the Doctor who was only interested in the medical aspects of
the flight. According to Eustis AAMC1400, there were 580 covers (a
noticeable drop) carried unofficially by the aircraft which were posted
on return at Charleville
The reverse of the cover addressed to the well known stamp dealer of
the Royal Arcade in Sydney, was inscribed with this little message by
The third and final Mercy flight AAMC 1403, was really a tour of
the district over several days rather than a single mercy flight with
only 290 covers being flown. Clearly the novelty had worn off and
there was no point in continuing with the promotion.
Dr. Ben Haneman (he was at one time a RFDS Doctor at Broken Hill)
was well known by Reg Ferguson who added his personal message “Well you
are one aren’t you! Fergie” to the back of the envelope in pencil this
I hope that this has added some information to a fascinating sector of
I had started a one-frame entry for the Captain Cook show at
Sutherland in May. Although the show has now been cancelled, I have
to finish the job. I have done pages 2 to 9 so far. They are only
printed out on scrap paper - good copy prints when all pages are
Here’s an image of page 2.
Here’s an item for the April on-line meeting of MWRLSC. I bought
an Australian States collection a few weeks ago. It seemed to contain a
choice copy of the Tasmanian 4d Courier. It has four good margins, a
light corner postmark & no faults. I then tried to plate it &
struggled until I realised that all was not as it seemed……..
Hello from your UK member. Hope you are all doing OK and that the virus
is not causing you too many problems.
I saw your note about the online meeting.
As you know I showed Lufthansa at Aeropex. I have now started to do
Alitalia and hope to get it into some sort of shape by October.
I have just got some postcards and have attached a scan for the web
page. Hope the members like them.
If you would like to see the completed presentation next year then I
can arrange this for you.
A recent acquisition from Richard Abbott at Philas
I run an online auction for the Australian Numismatic
Society. One of the members sent me some lots for a future
The parcel arrived with all contents intact and in good
condition. I was interested to note a green tape with the words,
Released from Biosecurity Control. This was before the Corona
Inside was a form from the Biosecurity Control and Dept of Agriculture.
image for a larger version.
and a Dept of Agriculture information sheet.