British Army telegraphers normally used stamps with “Military Telegraphs” or “Army Telegraphs” on the “unappropriated die” revenue stamps. However there was no ½d value in that series so to cover the needs in the Ashanti War, the Boer war and during training exercises in the UK, the ½d vermilion Jubilee stamps were overprinted from 1896. However, used examples are scarce. This is because they were affixed to telegrams, and therefore should all have been destroyed.
Army Telegraph stamps with cancellations dated December 1895 and July 1896 would have been used by the Scott Expedition in Ashanti. Both Robson-Lowe (in the Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps Volume II Africa) and Hoskins (in the Handbook of Telegraph Stamps) report that overprinted ½d vermilions were used in Ashanti, however used examples have not yet been recorded. Subsequently the Army Telegraph stamps were used in England during Army manoeuvres in the Autumn of 1896 and also during 1898.
With the outbreak of the Boer War in October 1899, the 1st Telegraph Division was despatched to South Africa to establish telegraph stations from November 1899, enabling usage of the Army Telegraph stamps between November 1899 and the end of May 1900. However occasional usage of British stamps in South Africa is recorded until May 1902.
Distinctive Army Telegraph cancellers were used with alphabetic codes to identify each telegraph station. For details on the dates and codes used and where they were used, then please visit the Army Telegraphs section of the GB Precancels website.
In 1900 the 1/2d green was overprinted with the same forme as the 1/2d vermilion. This printing would have been sent out to South Africa together with a new batch of the high value stamps. Again, used examples of both stamps have been recorded by Robson-Lowe and Hoskins.
A further batch of the 1/2d green was overprinted in 1901, but this time using a new 8mm wide forme (compared to 7mm for the previous setting). It is unlikely that any of this printing was sent to South Africa
The two settings on the 1/2d green stamps can be most easily recognised by the first setting having the “A” exactly over “E” and the “Y” over the right leg of “A” (as on the vermilion stamp), whereas the scarcer second setting has the “A” half over “L” and the “Y” almost over “P”.
History: Sold by Grosvenor April 2017 lot 137, realised £1’250 plus commission
History: Grosvenor Nov 2018 lot 117 sold £820 plus commission
History: Grosvenor Oct 2017
History: Sold on eBay in Dec 2018 for £139.84; Grosvenor April (postponed to July) 2020, lot 116
History: Sold by David Feldman May 2014 ex 41200
The Half-Penny Jubilee Army Telegraph Overprints by Tony Stanford, The Overprinter edition 3 2001 p.54
The Handbook of Telegraph Stamps by Hoskins
Army Telegraph Stamps by Sam Lawrence FRPSL, The GB Journal Jul/Aug 2001 vol.39 p.67
Precancels of Great Britain website (http://gb-precancels.org/Telegraphs/Army-1.php)