The Lord Roberts Memorial Fund Stamp Album
This buff-coloured card has a plain back, and the text on the front of it was printed in brown ink. A caption in small type down the left hand side of it reads, “The Lord Roberts Memorial Fund for Disabled Soldiers and sailors.” An attractive and brightly coloured poster stamp of the “Prince of Wales” sits comfortably in a double lined box. The legend in the postage stamp ’box’ invited people to “Use these postcards and help the Fund “. Today, a postally used example would be quite a scarce item.
The idea for the Fund originated in December 1908, when the Daily Telegraph celebrated its half centenary, by holding a dinner for 700 Crimean and Indian mutiny veterans in the Albert Hall. One of the guest speakers there was a much loved and highly decorated soldier, Lord Roberts VC. After paying tribute to the regiments in which they had served, he walked among the veterans and was distressed to learn that many of them were now living in poverty.
Lord Roberts immediately launched an appeal to help them and within seven days £11,500 had been raised, within twelve months £38,000 had been donated. (£1,500,000 today). The money raised, assisted over 800 ex-soldiers many of whom were “Taken from the workhouse and enabled to end their lives in dignity and modest comfort.” The Fund was looked after by The Soldiers and Sailors Help Society and was intended to expire on the death of the last survivor of the Crimea and Mutiny campaigns.
In June l914, the trustees of the Fund met for the last time. Lord Roberts was there, and later remarked to a colleague - Miss Acton, that he thought “ a European war was imminent and hoped the Society would expand greatly to deal with the casualties that were bound to come.” Sadly, five months later Lord Roberts' death was announced and Miss Action remembered his words, particularly as Britain was now at war with Germany. She reported her conversion with Roberts to her boss Lord Cheylesmore, the chairman of the Help Society. As a result The Lord Roberts Memorial Fund was launched and soon £500,000 was raised which enabled the first workshop for disabled soldiers to be opened in Fulham in 1915.
Many were the methods used for raising money for the Fund, not least, was that of selling specially printed cards on which could be fixed a special ’War stamp' and an album was also produced in which a complete collection of ’war stamps' could be placed.
The “Specially prepared Albums” and 144 “War Portrait Stamps” and a set of 144 “Biographical Notes” were available from various retail outlets or direct from ’FAWCETT & CO, l25 STRAND, LONDON, W.C.’. The albums were available in three ’coverings’, “Red Cloth” price 1/6d., “Khaki, Cloth Gilt”, price 2/6d. and “Royal Blue and Gold” at 5/-. It consisted of 48 pages, and on each right-hand page were ’spaces' for one, two three or four ’War Portrait Stamps’. Each page had a decorative border the design of which depended on the number of printed ’spaces’ thereon.
Any stamp could be placed anywhere in the album.- as there were no printed ’celebrity’ captions below the boxes. The left-hand pages were left blank, here the collector would place the biographical notes, to correspond with the celebrities portrayed opposite.
The sheets of War Portrait Stamps were gummed and perforated and were 2½”x1⅞” in size and issued in twelve sheets of twelve stamps to a sheet. Single stamps cost 1d. each, while ”Sheets of twelve all different were 1/-“, or alternatively you could buy the “complete set, 144 portraits 12/-“. All the stamps were attractive designs and printed in brilliant colours, and although all the decorative borders were different, the design of the ’Prince of Wales' stamp was typical. The subjects included British and Allied Royalty, military and naval leaders, statesmen and church leaders. Edith Cavell and several Victoria Cross winners were also represented.
The 144 biographical notes, again gummed and perforated and issued in twelve sheets of twelve labels, were priced 1/6d. for the complete set. The biography of each celebrity was about 70 words in length. In 1916, Peter placed the stamp of Lord Roberts in the only ’box’ on the first page of his album. The corresponding biography starts thus, “LORD ROBERTS was perhaps the most beloved solider of all time” and ends, 'Died in France after visiting troops Nov. 14. 1914.”