Cherry Stone Auctions has a trio of Canadian Forces covers that should generate interest from military collectors, especially those specializing in WW1 pieces. These are rare items. The 3 covers were mailed by members of the Canadian Military Expedition North Russia during Canada’s short-lived fight with the Red Army. These types of covers don’t see the light of day often and are listed at a decent price of $500 (US). After watching so many stamp auctions since the pandemic hit, I’m betting they go for substantially less.
1918-19 three covers to Canada, “Field Post Office 201” On Active Service
The covers appear in their December 15-16, 2020 auction and are set to sell on the first day. Cherry Stone has a full pdf catalogue you can download or, if you haven’t stripped Flash out of your computer yet, use their flip catalogue. You can find both on their home page at https://www.cherrystoneauctions.com/ However, you really need to remove Flash before the new year. I posted an article about the security issues surrounding Flash in Oct. Read it here -> Uninstall Adobe Flash Now
UPDATE – price realized
Updated Dec 30, 2020
I just checked and this lot sold for $450, slightly under the catalogue value.
About the North Russia Expedition
These Canadian Forces covers would be an extraordinary addition to any collection. Covers like these are rarely offered. The three have historical and military significance that goes beyond the Canadian Forces aspect. The North Russia Expedition is a little-known chapter in Canadian history, often neglected because of the larger battles being fought across Europe. Ostensibly, the joint international expedition was to ensure no German troops landed in the Murmansk region, but it quickly turned into a fight between the Red and White armies, with international troops supporting the Czarist White Army.
Here’s a brief geography lesson. Murmansk (where Arkangel is located) is above the arctic circle, bordering Finland, hence the concern Germany might cut up through the area. Murmansk was of strategic importance to both the Germans and the allies because of the open port and abundance of minerals. When German troops arrived in Finland, alarms went off throughout the allied forces about the possibility of Germany seizing the Port of Murmansk and the rails used to move vital supplies. Canada sent 4,192 troops from the Canadian Field Artillery (67th and 68th Batteries of the 16th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery). They arrived in the fall of 1918 and withdrew June 1919. If you have information you’d like to add (or correct what I’ve written) feel free to leave it in the comments field below. Always happy to have more information on these posts.
Three Canadian Forces Covers
Each cover has a military cancel and marked “On Active Service” (OAS). The top left was sent Dec 8,1919 and backstamped Jan 10, 1920. This came from one of 53 soldiers transferred to British command when Canadian troops left Russia for home in June 1919. No mention of the soldier’s name, but a little research into which of the 53 were from New Brunswick might bear fruit.
The second, top right, was sent Nov 1918 to Markham Ontario. Markham, at the time, was a small agricultural township, and a search of Canadian records for soldiers from the Siberian Expedition might lead to a possible identify.
The bottom right cover was sent March 1919. It has a cancel from a Royal Army Medical Corps Hospital Ship anchored off Archangel. The address is here in the heart of Toronto, at near Wellesley Streets and Sherbourne. I did a quick record check for the recipient and came up empty. A deep dive into Toronto churches would be required to find more information.
Despite their obvious faults, these 3 covers are still highly collectable.
A few resources to check out
If you’d like to learn more about the North Russian Expedition aka the Siberian Expedition, hop over to the University of Victoria, BC website on this chapter of Canadian history. It’s titled Canada’s Siberian Expedition.
This brief trailer is also worth a look. It packs a lot of info into a short clip.
If you’re interested in Canadian military related stamps and covers, check out this article I published last month.
Post Views: 286 Beloved Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis graces 3 Christmas stamps for 2020. Canada Post unveiled them with the cooperation of the Art Museum of Nova Scotia, who are proud curators of her works. Three stamps, a FDC and a lovely souvenir sheet are...
Design fails come in many forms, print, web design, logo mistakes and items we use in our everyday lives. People often think design means the visuals in signage or web sites, but every human made thing you see and use in your life started out as a design. Whether it succeeds or not depends on many variables.
Something as basic as a laundry soap bottle is rarely considered problematic. For years, we shook our laundry soap out in powder form. Then came the bottles of liquid soap. People lugged down cups to measure out the proper amount of soap needed, screwed the cap back on and didn’t give the bottle a second thought.
Basic design success of the liquid laundry bottle
Then some smart spark thought why not turn the lid into a measuring cup. Brilliant. As a bonus, the new cup lid also allowed excess liquid to slid back down into the bottle. So, there are 2 design features that work.
Design fails that do a disservice to people with sight impairments
The suspects are lined up
The lid is frustrating for anyone with sight impairments. This is a textbook example of a great idea and bad follow through. You must have damned good vision to spot the measurement marks inside. Let’s look at one such cap:
This was taken with a macro setting on my camera
Look inside most lids and you’ll see the levels for light, medium and heavy loads, all nicely laid out. The design fail is the lack of differentiation on the lines. They are all the same colour, making it difficult to see. In this particular lid complicates the problem with the ridged design, which makes seeing the numbers more difficult.
The above image is the lid from Arm and Hammer liquid soap. Nice lid. Doesn’t drip. Can’t see the lines unless I get my nose right into the cup. Or use a macro setting on my camera and then adjust the brightness on the image. Someone with good vision would be able to make out the numbers, but let me tell you, I have to take off my glasses and stick my nose into the cup before I can see them. Basic design sense should tell the designer to make the lines standout. A bit of contrasting colour would do the trick. Blue cup; bright red lines and numbers.
Bigger design fail is the fabric softener lid
And here is the worst culprit.
The design fail on this is monumental. Did you spot the issue? Someone put thought into making the measurements easier to use. Levels one and five are visible. Although to someone with severe vision problems it would still be difficult to read. Again, contrasting colours would be helpful. If you want two and three, you’ll have to guestimate the amount. Those numbers are hidden behind the heavy rim. If you look inside the cup, things are a little easier to read than the blue on blue. Unless I’m in a decently lit room, I struggle to see the two and three numbers when peering inside. I’ve taken to drawing black lines on the lid so I can see them.
Many use a measuring cup instead of the lid, which speaks volumes of the design fail built into the little plastic caps. If a user can’t read the markings without a struggle or rigging something to see them, then the design is a failure. My mom, for instance, could never see the markings, which meant a lot of wasted soap over the years.
Before you scoff and say this is a trivial matter, let me stop you. If you have issues seeing, the use of contrasting colours goes a long way in decreasing the frustration level and quickly improves the usability of an item. Making the laundry caps more user friendly wouldn’t be a big a leap for any company to make. It does mean people in charge have to think beyond the suburban housewife mythos. The lack of accommodation, after decades of use, is depressing. Aging eyes cannot see those nearly invisible lines. Nor can people with vision impairments.
While researching this article, I ran across a few sites that offered tips on seeing the measurements. They recommended the marker on the inside idea, that I mentioned. Another common tip is to put masking tape on the outside at each level mark. Well, this only works if you can hold the cap up to a light source and guestimate. I found this method inefficient.
Viable solutions to this design failure
There are a few solutions.
Highlight the levels with a contrasting colour
Make the lids clear (a few companies do this) with strong levels outlined on the inside and outside
Although a bit messy, give the lines noticeable ridges so people can slip a finger into the cup and feel when the soap hits the level
A reusable solution to the basic design fails built into laundry caps
If there’s a designer out there, how about creating a cup that lets out a ding sound? You know, one ding for light loads, 2 dings for medium loads and 3 dings for heavy loads. Can’t be that hard to build a reusable cup with a little microchip embedded inside to detect liquid levels.
I’ll end with 2 links that offer some thoughts on vision accommodation issues.
Check out Motion Spot. It offers a bit of insight into designing for vision impairment. Motion Spot magazine did the layout for World Site Day. It presents solid ideas to accommodate vision issues.
More than a billion people cannot see well, because they don’t have access to glasses. Over 3 out of 4 of the world’s vision impaired are avoidably so. What can be done to arrest this unconscionable fact? First, arm yourself with your country’s prevalence data and Eye Health system information–the number of trained eye health personnel, your country’s plans to tackle blindness. World Site Day website
It’s been a while since I looked at browser extensions. In the past, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of quality and choice. That meant I had little motivation to check the Microsoft store for new or improved extensions. Recently I took another look and found Microsoft’s Editor extension available for Edge. It’s also available for Chrome users.
Available for Edge and Chrome – sorry Firefox.
Microsoft Editor for browsers
If you use Microsoft 365 (formerly called Office 365), you may be familiar with Editor. For the past month or so, I’ve been using it in Word. It’s handy at catching the usual spelling and grammar suspects. I don’t rely upon it heavily because the grammar rules used are too rigid for a casual conversational style website. But overall, it’s a sound addon for Word. Before installing the editor, make sure you have a Microsoft account, or it won’t work. If you want anything beyond barebones features, you’ll also need a Microsoft 365 subscription. A Microsoft account is free but 365 isn’t. One positive aspect of Microsoft Editor is the simplicity of accessing the checker. Red, as expected, signifies typos and blue, grammar issues. No right click is needed. Left click on the underlined word or phrase and suggestions will be offered. I’m not sure why right clicking irritates me when I’m working on a document, but it’s one of those irrational bits of my mind.
Pretty helpful now that it works.
The good news is Microsoft Editor supports an extensive list of languages, not just English. You can check out the list here – Microsoft Store.
Fatal flaws in Microsoft Editor?
I’m not sure what happened when I installed the software, but it was … quirky. Very quirky. I have a 365 account so there shouldn’t have been any issues, but there were. So many issues. They ranged from insisting I speak a different language to non-functionality of most features. When I first tried to use Editor, I almost removed it because of the frustration I felt.
Basic issues with grammar checkers
I dutifully setup the correct language, English (Canada) and tried to use the extension on this article when it was in the initial stages. Basic spell check worked fine, but it didn’t catch any capitalization at the beginning of a sentence. It still ignores the issue. When writing, I tend to type very quickly and often miss upper-case letters at the start of a sentence. Having it flagged makes editing faster. I’ve gone through the meager settings and there is no option to correct this oversite. It’s excellent at catching extra spaces within a sentence and missing commas, not so good at proper nouns and sentence structure.
Another flaw is its failure to be consistent when flagging double spacing between sentences. I learned to type on a manual typewriter. That meant I was taught to add 2 spaces after the period. This has gone the way of the dodo, and one space is all that is required. My brain still inserts double spacing when I’m typing rapidly. MS Editor would flag some but miss the majority.
One other irritant was the pop-up screen offering suggestions. If you’re working on a web address that has been flagged as a typo, you can’t copy/cut the line until you click “ignore”. Not a big issue but was a little aggravating until I figured out what was going on.
Grammar checker is okay, but it works best if you already have a solid grasp on how to construct sentences. It’s helpful, but if you aren’t aware of the pitfalls of conversational vs formal grammar, you may end up with a stilted article. Microsoft Editor is better than the old grammar checker from the early days of word processing which was comical on many levels.
But I don’t speak Welsh
Initially, I experienced a lot of issues with the extension. At first, I couldn’t figure out why everything was underlined. And what Sillafu and wibies were?
Microsoft Editor looks like it committed suicide on my post
Another question was why synonyms weren’t available. Then a light flashed in my brain. I have a cousin who lives in Wales and thought the Sillafu looked vaguely familiar. Language was still set to English, but the spell checker was stuck on Welsh. No, I don’t have a clue as to why this happened. It is funny, after the fact. To solve this, I used the tried and true trouble shooting technique of “turning it off and on again”. I turned off the extension, closed the browser and then started over. Suddenly, Microsoft Editor was using the correct language.
The issue that hacked me off the most
Spell check worked, except for the previously mentioned issue with capitals at the beginning of a sentence. The real issue was, and remains, with the synonym finder. At one point, synonyms began to work but they were in Welsh. Another reboot of the browser and extension sorted that out. Alternate words were now being offered, but only if there was a spelling mistake to correct. Typos allowed me to see different words or phrases. I could correct the initial spelling error, but the synonym was not clickable. I was faced with manually typing in the suggestions. At this point, my frustration became too much, and I put the article away and ignored the extension. When I returned to it 24 hours later, all the issues were gone. Microsoft Editor seemed to work.
A flaw in Microsoft Editor
Editor is handy to have on the browser, but I doubt I’ll rely on it for anything more than catching the most grievous errors. A bigger issue is embedded in the design. Microsoft will flag words or phrases it thinks should be looked at and offer suggestions. But there is no way for the writer to manually trigger off synonym suggestions. It won’t spot multiple uses of a phrase or word nor will it allow writers to change them on the fly, unless flagged by the extension itself. This is significant. There is no sense in having a synonym checker if it depends solely on a piece of code to offer suggestions. Flawed, but useful is my thinking. I’ll keep it installed for quick checks and rely upon my own judgement. There’s always Roget’s Thesaurus and Oxford Concise sitting nearby for a quick consult.
Where to find Microsoft Editor
Microsoft Store here
Chrome store here
Firefox is not compatible, but you can always use the Grammarly extension.
The original Alcock and Brown article was published in 2008, when I purchased the Daily Mirror newspaper on display here. After 12 years, and the 100th anniversary of the flight, it was time to overhaul the post with more scans from the paper & links to interesting pages on the historic flight. I’ve also included a new section on stamps celebrating flight.
Alcock and Brown fly into history
In 2008, I acquired a piece of pioneer aviation ephemera that is the centre piece of my modest collection – a June 16, 1919 Daily Mirror newspaper, documenting Alcock and Brown’s flight:
The Daily Mirror’s account of Alcock and Brown’s flight, full of daring and breathless coverage
101 years ago, pilot Capt. John Alcock and navigator Lt Arthur Brown flew into history with the world’s first non-stop Atlantic flight. In this age of jets, it’s difficult to imagine how awe inspiring this flight was. It was one of those great turning points in history.
Daily Mail announcement
In 1913, Daily Mail £10,000 reward for the first successful Atlantic flight
The rules were basic:
the competition was open to all nationalities
the flight had to be nonstop, any stops between continents could be made on the water only
take place between any point in Great Britain or Ireland and Canada, Newfoundland, or the US
the trip had to be under 72 hours
Entrance fee of £100 must be paid
Each entrant could only use one aircraft and it was to be marked prior to take off
WW1 halted attempts, but when the war ended, the race was on. Teams were quickly organized to compete for the prize and honour of being the first. The main contenders were:
Australian legend Harry Hawker and Mackenzie-Grieve flying a Sopwith Atlantic
Frederick Raynham and C. F. W. Morgan in a Martinsyde Raymor single engine aircraft
Maj. Herbert Brackley, Adm. M. Kerr, Maj. T. Gran, F. Wyatt, H. A. Arnold & C C Clements flying a 4-engine converted Handley Page bomber
Alcock and Brown in a Vimy Vickers
Hawker and Mackenzie-Grieve who came close to succeeding, crashed into the ocean around the midway point on May 19. Raynham and Morgan set off May 18 and crashed on take off. Raynham was unhurt, but Morgan lost an eye. Their chance was over as well.
The Brackley/Kerr team flew test flights around June 10th. During the test, an engine cooling issue arose, and the team was grounded while they waited on a radiator replacement to be installed.
Alcock and Brown in front of Vickers airplane 1919 credit: Library and Archives Canada
Alcock and Brown prepare for take off
Alcock and Brown’s Vickers Vimy being prepared for flight, much to the joy of Newfoundland locals
Alcock and Brown took off from Lester’s Field, St. Johns, Newfoundland June 14. They flew for 16 hours and 12 minutes. Their successful flight ended, with a crash into a bog in Clifden, Ireland June 15.
“We’ve had a terrible voyage … the wonder is we are here at all”
Put this into perspective, this was long before radar, satellites and in this case, no ship support to pluck them out of the water. If they crashed into the ocean, chances were, they would die. Although equipped with a wireless radio, they were unable to use it when it was damaged in the takeoff. They were alone, in all senses of the word.
A modified Vickers F.B. 27 Vimy was used to fly the 3,041km (1,890 miles) route. The Vimy was originally designed as heavy bomber but repurposed for long distance and civilian flights.
“[the Vimy] was specially built for the Atlantic flight. Its engines were two 3360-h.p. Rolls-Royce Eagles VIII; additional tanks increased its fuel capacity to 865 gallons and gave the aircraft a range of 2,440 miles.” pg. 10 The Vickers F.B.27 Vimy, Profile Publications No. 5.
Vickers “Vimy” aircraft of Captain John Alcock and Lieut. A.W. Brown taking off on trans-Atlantic flight, Lester’s Field – photo courtesy Canadian Archives
“We have had a terrible time”
The flight skirted disaster from the start. Shortly after their 1:42pm take-off, the electric generator propeller broke off, depriving them of heating, the cockpit intercom system, and the wireless radio for outside communications. Brown didn’t alert Alcock to the electric failure. Had he, the pilot would have aborted the flight:
Both Captain Alcock and Lieutenant Brown described their journey as a very trying one – fog clouds rain and wind all the way. Their altitude varied up to 13,000 ft., and they were unable at times to know whether they were flying upside down or not.
They did not sight a ship but ascended hurriedly when on one occasion they saw the green Atlantic some thirty feet below them.
The breaking away of the generator propeller soon after the start prevented them from using their wireless.
When this happened Lieutenant Brown noticed that the propeller carried away with it one of the stay wires, but he did not tell Captain Alcock until after they landed at Clifden. Captain Alcock said, ‘I would have turned back had I know.’ – June 16, 1919 Daily Mirror
The weather cooperated around midnight, allowing Brown to plot their position with the sextant, enabling them to stay on course. At 3am, the Vimy flew into a snowstorm that caused some instruments and the engine to ice up. Brown, at one point, is said to have climbed out of the cockpit to clear the ice away.
“The wonder we are here at all. We scarcely saw the sun or the moon or the stars. For hours we saw none of them. The fog was very dense, and at times we had to descend to within 300ft of the sea.
“For four hours the machine was covered in a sheet of ice carried by frozen sleet; at another time the fog was so dense that my speed indicator did not work, and for a few seconds it was very alarming.” June 16, 1919 Daily Mirror
At times, they were unsure if they were even flying upright. Alcock was sure they had looped the loop at one point. Despite the conditions, the pair kept flying eastward until they sited the coast of Ireland
We looped the loop, I do believe, and did a very steep spiral. We did some very comic ‘stunts’, for I have had no sense of horizon.
We drank coffee and ale and ate sandwiches and chocolate – June 16, 1919 Daily Mirror
At 9:40 am (British Summer Time), Alcock and Brown landed in Derrygilmlagh Bog, near Clifden in County Galway in Ireland, tipping the nose into the bog.
When making the landing the pylons of the centre section, as well as the main spar of the lower plane, were broken, but the steel construction of the fuselage saved the machine from further damage.
The machine will, however, have to be dismantled in consequence of this damage – June 16, 1919 Daily Mirror
Vickers Vimy, Pilots Alcock and Brown, Clifden 1919-06-15
The landing touched down on what they thought was solid ground. It wasn’t. Alcock landed in a bog, and the plane rolled forward and pitched into the soft soil.
“The machine circled over the town of Clifden, untroubled by the gusty wind prevailing, with the object apparently of seeking a safe landing place, and the roar of the engines created considerable surprise and excitement amongst the inhabitants.
Eventually, the machine turned towards the Marconi wireless station and landed on the soft ground. After running along the ground, the machine stopped and buried both propellers in the soft earth.” – June 16, 1919 Daily Mirror
Alcock and Brown were international heroes. Both were knighted within the month. Unfortunately, Alcock didn’t live long enough to enjoy his knighthood, he was killed in an air accident in Paris, Dec. 18, 1919. Brown died Oct 4, 1948.
Stamps commemorating the flight
Many stamps have been issued over the decades celebrating the Atlantic journey, including Canada’s rather sad little issue from June 13, 1969, the 50th anniversary of the flight.
Canadian stamp: Alcock and Brown’s transatlantic flight
I wrote about my disappointment with the design of the stamp in 2016, and my sentiments have not changed. The colours are typical of a 1960s design, but it lacks excitement and movement. I’m just not fond of most of the 60s stamp designs overall. Worse, Canada didn’t even issue a stamp for the 100th anniversary.
Newfoundland didn’t disappoint, however.
Newfoundland Covers carried on the Atlantic flights
The postmaster general for Newfoundland approved 2 stamps to be used during the Atlantic crossing attempts. If you’re looking for the stamps in a catalogue, you won’t find them listed under Canada. Newfoundland was still a separate colony and didn’t join Canada until 1949. The first two airmails C1 and C2 were regular issues overprinted with “Trans-Atlantic / AIR POST / 1919 / ONE DOLLAR.” C1 was an overprinted .03c brown caribou stamp and C2 on a .15c red seals stamp.
Newfoundland airmail C1 – the Hawker flight
Newfoundland airmail C1 First Trans- Atlantic Air Post April, 1919 overprint
C1 was issued on April 12, 1919, for use by Harry Hawker. Hawker took off in May, carrying 95 covers, each with the C1 stamp. Four hours into the flight, they ran into dangerous weather and engine trouble, forcing the pilot to turn back. They didn’t make it to land and ditched into the Atlantic on May 19th. Hawker had managed to pilot the single-engine Sopwith Atlantic to the shipping lanes and was picked up by the SS Mary, a Danish ship.
For days the public thought Hawker and Mackenzie-Grieve were lost at sea. The SS Mary didn’t have a wireless radio, so no one knew until they reached port that they survived.
The Sopwith didn’t sink
Newspaper illustration of Hawker’s ocean crash – Illustrated London News, 31 May 1919
Their aircraft bobbed around the ocean until it was plucked out of the water by the SS Lake Charlottesville. The aircraft made its way to England, this time as a passenger and put on display at Selfridges Department store in London. Surprisingly, the mailbag survived and was safely delivered to the postmaster in the UK.
The C1 stamp, known as the Hawker stamp is quite a bit of money. According to the Unitrade catalogue, a single mint stamp is worth $35,000 (unhinged). However, there are likely more forged C1s floating around, than genuine issues. Stampforgeries.com has an excellent page on how to spot fakes.
Newfoundland airmail stamp C2 – Alcock & Brown flight
Scan of Newfoundland airmail stamp C2
197 covers, with the C2 overprint, were carried by the Alcock and Brown flight. This stamp was also carried by future trans-Atlantic flights. According to my venerable Sanabria Airmail Catalogue, there are variations to look for:
C2 variations from the Sanabria World Airmail Catalogue – “In each sheet of 25 stamps there will be found 17 normal surcharges, without comma after “POST”, 1 without period after “1919”.
According to the catalogue, there are 3 variations.
C2 – has both a comma after the word “POST” and a period after “1919”
C2a – no comma after the word “POST”
C2b – missing the period after the date “1919”
The 2019 Scotts catalogue values them in order:
C2 – $210 for mint and used
C2a – $230 mint and $270 used
C2b – $450 for both mint and used.
I’d be very wary of purchasing a used C2a. There will be many forged cancels bouncing around.
There are a number of videos online of Alcock and Brown shortly after their successful landing. I’ve included one for you to enjoy. It covers a bit of the history, I may have glossed over and is good fun to watch.
If you’d like to read more about the flight and the stamps, check out these resources