History on Stamps Pt. 5 1924-1939
The political and military events that occurred during this period are far too many and complex to be addressed in a short paragraph. Rather, in this venue, the stamps and postal stationery are of significance. The reader should review some of the many good books covering the period.
After the 1922-23 creation of the Irish Free State and the end of the Civil War in 1923, Ireland remained one of the poorest countries in Europe. For example, electrification did not happen nationwide until after the Shannon project of 1928-1930, far later than the rest of Europe.(Figure 1). While low-value Irish stamps were being printed, high-value (2/6d and above) British stamps overprinted Saorstát Éireann remained in use. (Figure 2). This was a period to build the government, rebuild the war-torn infrastructure, and heal old wounds. This was a period of “being Irish”, developing the national identity. The knowledge of Irish language was made mandatory for government employment. The Great Depression of 1928-1936 (Figure 3) also hit Europe, and Ireland as well. People were forced to Britain and the Continent in search of work. The British ceded their occupation of the naval bases in 1933.
In 1933, a major political and social change occurred in Germany. The National Socialist Worker’s Party, or Nazi’s came to power and repudiated the repressive terms of the Treaty of Versailles. (Figure 4). The League of Nations failed to address it. (Figure 5). Now, almost twenty years after “the War to End All Wars”, tensions began rising.
In 1937, Ireland approved a new constitution. (Figure 6). Among other changes was the removal of the loyalty oath to the King of England (Figure 7) as the leader of the British Empire of which Ireland was a member. Thus died the Irish Free State, although this was a unilateral act by Ireland. Official mail changed from Saorstát Eireann (Free State of Ireland) to Eire (Ireland). (Figure 8). With war clouds gathering, Britain was too busy rearming and involved with internal political crises to devote time to such subjects. The payments for the Irish Land Commission operations ceased with a final “balloon” payment. Ireland was seen by the British as a source of warm bodies or “cannon fodder”, as in WWI, and agricultural products as war was seen on the horizon. (Figure 9 & 10).
The Irish were well represented in the British army, with several regiment actively recruiting the Irish, for example: The Dublin Fusileers, (Figure 11), the Enniskillen Dragoons, and others. Likewise the Royal Navy sought people to man the expanded fleet, and the new player, the RAF also needed manpower. Defense industries also required more workers. Joining the British military provided pay, food, shelter, and the possibility of learning a trade in a period of joblessness caused by the Great Depression; however, there are downsides.
Dulin, Dr. C.I., Ireland - Transition, The Postal History of the Transitional Period 1922-1925, MacDonnell-Whyte Ltd, Dublin, 1992.
Moody, T.W. & Martin, F.X., The Course of Irish History, 4th ed., Roberts Rinehart, Lantham, Md., 2001.