by Melvyn Gallagher
May 17th commemorates the relief of Mafeking - the philately surviving from the epic siege of interest to us with B-P being in command abs their Cadet Force often said to be the inspiration of the later Boy Scouts.
During the siege it was possible for the besieged garrison to send letters out using native runners to smuggle the usually very small letters secreted on them. It was very dangerous work as seen on the illustrated stamp from Ghana with the risk of being shot by the Boers if caught so they were paid vast sums, sometimes in cattle and later up to £25 per run.
The letters, also called Kaffirgrams (very politically incorrect these days), they carried were without postage stamps and as such were inscribed "no stamps-active service" or similar and usually signed by the sender with his rank and regiment details.
When through the enemy lines these letters were then placed in stamped envelopes and posted on.
At a recent London auction I acquired an entire such kaffirgram addressed to Mrs. Panzera in Essex, England. The letter, written by her husband Major Francis William Panzera the senior artillery officer during the siege. Dated 1st March, 1900 in mentions the famous "Wolf' gun stating - "I have been able to make gunpowder and have built a howitzer and we have cast our own shells and made our own fuzes!!..."
Here in Britain we are celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and no doubt many Scouts will be involved in various local and national events, already the Queen attended his year's Windsor Parade and no doubt we shall see some commemorative stamps from Commonwealth countries honouring the jubilee and incorporating Scouts and Guides in their designs.