New Issue: British postage labels depict iconic airmail events

Last week, at the Autumn Stampex show in Islington, London, the Royal Mail issued a set of six self-adhesive postage labels showing key moments from the history of airmail.

Dubbed “Mail by Air,” the labels were issued on Sept. 13 as the second part of an ongoing series exploring mail transport. The first issue, “Mail by Rail,” was released this February.

Known as “Post & Go stamps,” these labels are sold from the Royal Mail’s self-service kiosks, which are similar to Canada Post’s new kiosk machines and allow customers to weigh their mail before buying and printing the required postage.

The first British self-service kiosk was tested at The Galleries Post Office in Bristol in 2008. The labels are available in six different classes:

  • 1st Class (up to 100 grams);
  • 1st Class Large (up to 100 grams);
  • a dual-value for Europe (up to 20 grams) or worldwide (up to 10 grams);
  • Europe (up to 100 grams);
  • worldwide (up to 20 grams); and
  • worldwide (up to 100 grams).

One stamp depicts the U.K.’s first airmail flight in 1911.


Mail transportation by aeroplane was inaugurated in February 1911, when the world’s first airmail was carried at an exhibition in Allahabad, India.

Seven months later, the U.K.’s first aerial post was flown from Hendon to Windsor in honour of King George V’s coronation. From Sept. 9-26, 20 flights were made between the two locations, which constituted the world’s first regular airmail service.

In 1919, the Royal Air Force introduced flights between Folkestone and Cologne to carry mail to British forces. Later that year, the first public international air service was initiated, transporting civilian mail between London and Paris.

Another stamp commemorates the beginning of international airmail service.

After its founding in 1924, Imperial Airways established numerous airmail routes across Europe to the Empire in India and Africa. In December 1934, following experimental flights three years earlier, a full direct mail service to Australia was inaugurated.

Carrying mail by air soon became a regular feature across the U.K. In May 1934, Britain’s first scheduled domestic airmail service was launched when Highland Airways began operating a regular daily service from Inverness to the Orkney Isles.

Another stamp honours the first military mail flight in 1919.

The Empire Air Mail Scheme was introduced in 1937 to carry first-class mail for one-and-a-half pence by air within the British Empire. Imperial Airways used flying boats to operate the new service and commissioned Shorts of Rochester to produce 28 of the C class for this purpose. G-ADUW Castor is depicted on take-off on the stamp commemorating this event.

In the 1980s, Datapost was introduced as an express mail service for guaranteed next-day delivery in any part of the U.K. It would eventually transport mail bags from airports across the U.K.

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