Background to the War Effort Stamp Series
At intervals from August 1942 onwards, all values of the War
Effort stamps from ½d to 1/- were brought out in a
much smaller format to save paper. The designs were copied,
with the modifications and adaptations which this reduced
design required from the corresponding values of the large
War issues, issued from 1941 to 1943. All these modifications
were done by J. Prentice from the Government Printing Works.
The ½d design was based on a drawing
of marching infantry, provided by an unknown artist.
The 1d design was based on a nurse (Barbara
Palmer) drawn by the War artist Neville Lewis, while the frame
was drawn by Corp. Wagner of the Defence Force Printing Unit.
The 1½d featured a portrait of Bob
Kershaw also drawn by Neville Lewis with the frame by Wagner.
The seaman featured on the 2d was Clive Peter based on a drawing
by Neville Lewis with the frame again drawn by Wagner.
The photograph of Elizabeth Liebenberg of
the Woman’s Auxiliary Corps was featured on the 3d and
the photo was provided by the Postmaster General. The frame
was again drawn by Wagner.
The drawing of the defence installation on
the 4d was done by Wagner in its entirety. Wagner was also
responsible for the 6d design depicting a welder. The design
for the 1/- tanks and the 1/3 signaller were designed by unknown
The predominant idea behind the creation of
the stamp series was to acknowledge the activities of the
various branches of the Union Defence Force (UDF). It was
suggested that Capt. Neville Lewis, South Africa’s first
appointed war artist, should be approached to design the series.
Neville Lewis (1895-1972)
was born in Cape Town and studied fine art in the United Kingdom
at the Newlyn Art School and the Slade School of Fine Art.
During the First World War (1914-1918), he served in the British
Army. Lewis established himself as a portrait painter of international
recognition in the years between the two world wars. On 4
December 1940, he was appointed as the first of seven official
war artists in the UDF. In the three years that he spent as
a war artist, he travelled in and between South Africa and
the battlefronts in East and North Africa and painted many
important personalities, including Field Marshal Jan Christiaan
Smuts, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Earl Alexander of Tunis,
Air Chief Marshal Lord Tedder and Major General Dan Pienaar
(GOC of the 1st South African Division)
At the time the request was made, Lewis was too involved with
the war art programme to devote all his attention to this
new project. Instead, he submitted five already completed
portraits for approval for the series. These portraits were
of a nurse of the South African Military Nursing Services;
a pilot of the South African Air Force; a sailor of the South
African Naval Forces; a trooper of the South African Tank
Corps and a black soldier of the South African Native Military
Corps. Lewis had photographs of the portraits produced and
mounted on board with a rough border sketched around each
one. They were thus ready for reduction to the required size
of a stamp.
submissions were favoured by both the Post Master General and
the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs at the time. According
to Lewis, however, Smuts, who was Prime Minister of South Africa
and Commander-in-Chief of the UDF at the time, vetoed the use
of the portrait of the black soldier.
This was very disappointing to Lewis, who considered the portrait
in question to be the best of the five. Eventually, only the
portraits of the pilot, sailor and nurse were used. It is not
known why that of the tank trooper was omitted from the list.
The portrait of Clive Edward Peter was used to represent the
sailor. Before the outbreak of the war, Clive Peter had trained
in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in East London.
In September 1940, he joined the South African Seaward Defence
Force, but was seconded to the Royal Navy, where he remained
until the end of the war. He served as a Leading Signalman for
practically the entire war, before being commissioned as an
Acting Sub-Lieutenant in April 1945.
One of the ships on which he served was the frigate HMS Nigella
which docked in East London Harbour to be refitted during the
Barbara Palmer trained at Addington Hospital in Durban before
In 1940 she joined the South African Military Nursing Services
and served for a period in South Africa at No 110 Military
Hospital. It was while she was stationed there that Lewis
produced the portrait. In 1941 she was transferred to the
Middle East and served in turn at Nos. 104,105 and 106 Military
hospitals until 1944, when she returned home to marry.
The third subject in the series was the pilot, Lieutenant
Bob Kershaw, who in March 1941 became the first South African
to be made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.
He achieved this honour in East Africa, after he had landed
under fire to rescue his flight commander, Captain Jack Frost,
whose plane had been shot down. He had then flown with Captain
Frost on his lap in his single-seat Hurricane for three-quarters
of an hour before landing back at their base. Kershaw was
recommended for the Victoria Cross for this deed. Later in
1945, he was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for
his courage and devotion to duty.
All three portraits used in the stamp series, as well as the
two which were omitted, remain part of the official Second
World War Art Collection housed at the South African National
Museum of Military History. They are exhibited from time to
time with other works from the collection in various exhibitions
held both at the Museum and at other venues around the country.
Just as the stamp series was produced during the war to commemorate
the men and women who served our country, these portraits
and the other paintings in the collection remain a lasting
testament to the same cause.
Reference for information on Neville Lewis
and the designs were taken from:
Military History Journal - Vol 11
No 1 with acknowledgement.