Stamps Honour VC Recipients

14 April 2011

The inspirational acts of valour of the 22 people awarded the Victoria Cross while serving with New Zealand’s armed forces in conflicts spanning 140 years have been honoured in New Zealand Post’s 2011 ANZAC stamp issue.

The commemorative issue comprises 22 60 cent stamps representing each VC recipient, a first day cover and a unique book, Victoria Cross – the New Zealand Story, which details the story behind each award. It is publicly available from tomorrow.

The stamps were launched tonight by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, at a ceremony in Parliament Buildings. Around 300 people attended the launch, including approximately 40 family members of 10 of the VC recipients.

“We are all proud of the hundreds of thousands of people who have served New Zealand,” said New Zealand Post’s General Manager Stamps and Collectables, Ivor Masters. “But the recipients of the Victoria Cross hold a special place in our nation’s history. From the first recipient Captain Charles Heaphy for his actions in Waikato in 1864, to Captain Charles Upham with his rare distinction of earning the VC and Bar in World War II, and the most recent recipient, Corporal Willie Apiata, for gallantry in Afghanistan, all of their remarkable deeds, by definition, carry the hallmarks of exceptional courage.”

Each recipient is represented by a portrait image, apart from Corporal Apiata, who, while strongly supporting the VC stamp issue, declined to have his image on the stamp as he felt it inappropriate at this time. He is represented instead by an image of the VC awarded to him for his actions in 2004.

“The stamps honour the individuals, but this issue called out for something special to more fully record and acknowledge their achievements. To gain a real appreciation of their gallantry it’s important to know the stories behind the medals,” he said.

New Zealand Post has therefore produced 8,000 copies of a special book as part of the stamp issue. With a foreword by Mr Key, the 108-page, fabric hard cover book provides a detailed account of each VC award with an accompanying array of photographs, paintings, maps and a replication of the original citations. Each book also contains a full set of the stamps and, throughout, miniature sheets for each of the recipients. The books will retail for $79.90 each.

Mr Masters said New Zealand Post worked closely with a range of experts and organisations in the development and production of the stamps and book. These include the New Zealand Defence Force, the Army Museum at Waiouru, the New Zealand Air Force Museum and the RSA.

The Victoria Cross - The New Zealand Story stamp issue includes 22 stamps, a set of three first day covers (two comprising 10 stamps and the other comprising two stamps) and the book. They are available from 14 April 2011 from PostShop stores, REAL Aotearoa, 0800 782 677, or www.nzpost.co.nz/stamps

Note to Editors: Images of individual stamps are available on request.

Background:

The British Victoria Cross, created by Queen Victoria in 1856, has been awarded to 21 people serving in New Zealand’s armed forces. The Victoria Cross for New Zealand, instituted in 1999 by Queen Elizabeth II, has been awarded to one person, Corporal Willie Apiata.

The British and New Zealand VCs have the same design and are of the same metal but the two are separate awards with slightly different criteria.

The British VC is “for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”

The New Zealand VC is “for most conspicuous gallantry or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy or belligerents.” On the New Zealand VC, the date of the award, not of the act, is engraved on the reverse of the Cross.