Stamp News July 2008
Clarrie King. Putting more fun in Philately.
Amongst the many WWII Military covers I've handled over the years, occasionally a humorous illustrated cover with the attribution "Clarrie King" would emerge. I noted a number of different cartoon-like illustrations as time went by, but it wasn't until the 1990s that I made a determined effort to research the series. That decision was ably assisted at the time by the acquisition of an unused "set" of nine "King" illustrated covers. These had apparently been bought in the 1940s by a Philatelist who had decided to retain rather than use them. It appears that there are only the nine types as represented in this acquisition.
Clarence ("Clarrie") King was born in 1915. He chose a career as an illustrator/cartoonist, beginning with Associated newspapers in Sydney, where he was employed from 1936 to 1950. He later joined Australian Consolidated Press, and was political cartoonist at the Daily Telegraph. King retired in 1980, and died at Belrose (NSW) in 2000. Hopefully he had become aware that a Philatelic demand had emerged for his cover creations of nearly 60 years earlier!
The nine illustrations in this delightful series are featured this month, I believe the first occasion on which they have been chronicled. The series was clearly intended to be marketed to the Defence Forces. I'm not aware if they were available for sale at Military sites, or if they were sold only by Stationers/Newsagents and the like.
Figure 1. "LOOKOUT HITLER HERE I COME"!
Sent by "Roy" (noted on reverse) from FIELD POST OFFICE/027 (which was at Wallgrove NSW) on 1 Nov 1942, presumably to his sweetheart at Liverpool. An earlier owner has pencilled-in the "027" in the cancel, which appears to be an error of interpretation. Firstly, it would be unusual to include "Australia" in the address for an item sent within the State, and secondly the Concessional postal rate for Defence Forces was 1d only (4d for airmail within Australia). The Military Censor handstamp appears to be "584" (it's rather faint), which we have recorded as being in use at Bushmead WA at this time. Certainly, the latter would be an appropriate origin from which to send the article by airmail.
Figure 2. "I'VE BEEN PUTTING ON WEIGHT LATELY"!
This cover unusually contains the original letter, from Sgt C.S. Cameron, to his sweetheart at Balmain NSW. The letter is dated March 1943, but the cover was not cancelled until 17 Jun 1943, at AUST F.P.O./156, which was then at Moora WA. The long delay between writing and posting may be explained by Sgt Cameron, although in the RAAF, referring in his letter to his experiences on a boat ("Water, water everywhere, not any drop to drink."). Describing a close encounter with a whale, the writer comments "The whale put a cold shiver through me as it broke the water, my first thought was a submarine. And as it sprayed up the water it looked like a periscope".
Figure 3. A plagiarist clearly impressed with King's work
This cover, sent from UNIT POSTAL STATION/S84 (Nambour Qld) on 30 Sep 1942, to East Brunswick Vic, shows a reasonable fist of the King design shown in Figure 2. Upon sighting the illustration the recipient, Miss Featherston, no doubt would have been impressed with the sender's "skill".
Figure 4. "LOOK AFTER THIS MR POSTMAN! ITS FOR THE BEST LITTLE WOMAN IN THE WORLD"
This caption is perhaps a trifle politically incorrect for these times, but we wont go there (we will however go there in Figure 5!). A 5 Oct 1942 use from A.I.F. ARMY P.O./49, situated in Alice Springs, to the sender's "little woman" in Elwood Vic.
Figure 5. Minor alteration, maximum speculation
The same illustration as for Figure 4, with manuscript alteration rendering "WOMAN" as "MAN"! The cover is addressed to a male; probably no cause for comment. The amendment is appropriate to reflect the gender of the addressee, right? The sender was a male (so?) in Hamilton NSW, near Newcastle. The Censor tape was peculiar to Newcastle, identified by the nine dots under "OPENED BY CENSOR", and the handstamp which ties it has "2/1" within, which again identifies Newcastle as the point of censoring. This 15 Dec 1943 use to New York is one of but a few "King" covers I've noted to an overseas destination. Also, an unusual civilian use of a "King" cover. The postage paid at 6½d appears to be an overpayment of 1d for the second weight step for surface Foreign letter (3d + 2d + ½d War Tax = 5½d).
Figure 6. "HI YAR PAL"!
22 Sep 1944 use from Adelaide to Leederville WA at 4d concessional airmail rate. Note handstamped "R.A.A.F. CONCESSION POSTAGE RATE". The many types of these rate confirmation handstamps make for an interesting study in themselves (see also Figures 10 and 11).
Figure 7. "I'VE BEEN PROMOTED"!
An unusual 4 Nov 1944 use from Mrs Dempsey in East St.Kilda Vic to husband, Tech/Sgt T.M. Dempsey, who was apparently stationed with 815th AAF in U.S. This article was eligible for 9d overseas concessional airmail (compare with Figure 5). Melbourne "3" Censor tape and handstamp.
Figure 8. "I'M DREAMIN OH MY DARLIN LOVE OF THEE"!
A rare use of a "King" cover at Port Moresby (FIELD P.O./0138), sent 17 Apr 1943 to Launceston. 3d was the concessional airmail rate for Australian Defence Forces serving abroad.
Figure 9. YES! ITS LITTLE ME!
3 Apr 1944 use from Deniliquin to Maroubra NSW at 1d concessional surface rate. R.A.A.F. 4101/AUSTRALIA was the security code for the datestamp.
Figure 10. "WHAT A NIGHT"!
Broadmeadows Military Camp Vic was the departure point for this, sent on 23 Jan 1943 to Melbourne. Another of those nice concessional handstamps referred to under Figure 6.
igure 11. "ALRIGT! (sic) ALRIGHT! I KNOW I SHOULD HAVE WROTE BEFORE!"
Until quiet recently, I had not seen a used example of Figure 11, and I was beginning to form the opinion that it may not have been issued in the same manner as the eight other designs in the series. I've now seen three used, so it was probably a case of the law of averages temporarily going slightly awry. The fact is, I've seen no more than between three and five used examples of any "King" cover, which makes them quite elusive. Our subject example was used 27 Apr 1944 from Point Cook Vic (R.A.A.F. 5202 security code) to Sydney, with R.A.A.F. concessional handstamp in use at point of departure.
In conclusion, the period of use for "King" covers thus far noted by me are from January 1942 to July 1945. I'd be interested to receive details of dates beyond this band and, of course, any other illustrations which may exist! I've seen them used in every Mainland State, the N.T., and PNG. What are "King" covers worth? They usually are found rather roughly-opened, typical of most WWII covers. Obviously, receiving mail from a loved one was an exciting occurrence, likely to be accompanied by anxiety to inspect the contents. Not conducive to philatelically desirable opening of covers! Reasonably tidy covers, such as most of the subjects selected above, would probably fetch upwards of $100 each, with less attractive (significantly torn, stained) worth about half that figure. It's fair to say most "King" covers are likely to be worth considerably more than the stamps used to send them!
I hope readers have enjoyed this introduction to a series of covers of which I'm very fond. They're so very 'forties, wouldn't you agree?
Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962. He founded Rodney A Perry Auction Galleries (now Millennium Philatelic Auctions) in 1971. As a collector he has exhibited nationally and internationally. Rod prefers his used stamps on cover and likens taking a stamp off its original cover to converting a tree to woodchips.