Merchant Navy stamps issued by Royal Mail

Merchant Navy stamps issued by Royal Mail

Over the centuries, Britain's merchant fleet has been inextricably entwined with the fortunes of the nation: enabling Britain to trade with the world and even coming to the aid in times of war. That's why this glorious Special issue by Royal Mail looks at the Merchant Navy's contribution to Great Britain's prosperity and protection.

This stamp issue looks at 200 years of the British merchant fleet, from the age of sail to the modern bulk carrier and marks the contribution made by the Merchant service.

Some famous ships are included such as the Cutty Sark and the Queen Elizabeth. Also featured are Royal Mail Ships, including the renowned Britannia, propelled by both steam and sail, it famously made inaugural voyage for the Cunard line which had the contract to convey the mail.

The six Special Stamps feature merchant ships from the last two centuries depicting stunning paintings of the Atlas, 1813; the Britannia, 1840; the Cutty Sark, 1870; the Clan Matheson, 1919; the Queen Elizabeth, 1940, and the Lord Hinton, 1986: all brought to you in perfectly shipshape condition.

The miniature sheet, titled The Atlantic and Arctic Convoys, focuses on the Merchant Navy's vital role and sacrifice during the Second World War, when military supplies, foodstuffs and people were transported in large convoys to avoid being sunk by the enemy.

Four black-and-white photographs offer a look at the daily life at sea during this time.

2013 is Year of the Convoys – noting the year when the Battle of the Atlantic reached its height and the German U-boat menace began to be defeated. The mini sheet will be a tribute to the courage of the personnel of the convoys and the harsh conditions and terrifying risks they faced.

The quote on the minisheet, from Winston Churchill, is a chilling reminder of these risks – "The only thing ever that really frightened me during the war was the U Boat peril".

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