Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stamps of Gilbert and Ellice Islands

Perhaps not many would remember the name of Gilbert and Ellice Islands since these have merged into new countries decades ago. The Gilbert & Ellice Islands comprise a group of islands spread over two million square miles north of Fiji in the Pacific Ocean. Early in World War II the northern part of the groups was captured by the Japanese (Tarawa on 1oth December, 1941). The European population was withdrawn but some control was maintained at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands until Tarawa was recaptured by the Americans in November 1943. Ocean Island was held by the Japanese until August 1945.

These Islands became a protectorate of the Great Britain in 1892. Later these become a British Colony in 1916. On 1 January 1976, these islands were separated into two different colonies. The Gilbert Islands became part of the Kiribati in 1079, while the Ellice Islands became Tuvalu in 1978.

The first stamps of the Islands were issued in 1911 as the regular mail service was inaugurated. Before that the mail was subject to ships arriving into the Islands. The first stamp was in fact a Fijian stamp with the overprint GILBERT & ELLICE / PROTECTORATE. The George V stamps were issued in 1912 with the own name of the Islands. The same stamps were replaced with the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II of England as seen above.


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