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Brian Asquith shares his story on how he got into collecting
As a child I collected stamps, as most of us did, and came back to collecting again in 1968. I began with stamps but having been interested in aviation since 1935 when a bi-plane made a forced landing in a field near where I and my family lived at the small town of Morley in Yorkshire, England. My mother took me along and popped me into the cockpit which is my earliest memory and led to a lifelong love of aircraft and aviation. During my National Service in the Royal Air Force in the early 1950s I had the time of my life, flying on Coastal Command as an Air Signaller which was basically being a radio operator, using the Morse code, but also manning the radar, firing the guns, dropping the bombs (never in anger) and frying bacon and eggs on long flights over the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea.
Bearing in mind this strong aviation interest I started collecting airmails and at Stampex I got to know Francis J. Field, the leading aerophilatelic dealer in Great Britain, who suggested I should collect Chinese Air Mails. Sound advice which I took. That was 40 years ago and I have never regretted it. My “On Dragons' Wings – Chinese Airmails” exhibit has been awarded two gold medals and in 2009 it was shown in the Court of Honour at the Beijing 2009 Aeropex international exhibition where I was also an international judge. The Chinese Post Office has since published a book of the exhibit in both English and Chinese.
The Concorde Study Circle was founded by a group of enthusiasts in 1978 and has continued ever since. Our main interest is in things philatelic including stamps, flown covers and postmarks, but it also extends to related ephemera, such as postcards, menus, time tables, flight certificates, models, stickers, cinderellas, and even pieces of Concorde itself. Yours truly has been the Chairman and Newletter editor since then. Our first Stampex meeting was at the Royal Horticultural Halls on Sunday, 8 March 1987 so we have been coming to Stampex for over 30 years, including Saturday, 16 February this year. Before that we used the Victory Services Club or Union Jack Club. At one stage we met in a room at MacDonalds in the Strand where the son of one of our members was the manager.
At Spring Stampex in 1993 I was Chairman of the “Eur-Apex '93” UK National Exhibition with International Participation by exhibitors from 15 other countries. With more than 500 frames this was the largest air mail exhibition ever mounted in the United Kingdom. There was a different postmark for each of the 6 days of the exhibition including that for Saturday, 6thMarch celebrating “STAMPEX” and illustrated, would you believe it, with a Concorde. We are forever grateful to Stampex and other sponsors for their help in putting on this exhibition. Group Captain Bill Randle, at the time Curator of the RAF Museum arranged for some covers to be flown in an RAF Gazelle helicopter. These had the “STAMPEX '93”/“eur-apex '93” souvenir sheets, provided by the Crown Agents attached.
As you can see I have been involved in organised philately throughout this time and, amongst the positions held are those of Founder Chairman of the British Aerophilatelic Federation and then Chairman, President and eventually Patron of the BaeF's successor, British Air Mail Society; Honorary Life Vice President of the Association of British Philatelic Societies (ABPS) having been the Founder Chairman of Council and served in that capacity for 10 years; holder of the Congress of Great Britain Congress Medal (2000); elected to the American Air Mail Society (AAMS) Hall of Fame (2007); elected a Life Member of the AAMS; Past President of three other societies in the UK.
In my business life I worked 37 years for Midland Bank (now HSBC) and held several managerial positions in London, England. After retirement in 1988 I worked for Phillips, the auctioneers (now Bonhams) for 20 years, in the stamp department but also specialised in bonds, bank notes, postcards and cigarette cards. Phillips used to have a large stand at Stampex which I always enjoyed working on and meeting up with fellow collectors and dealers.
My first visit to Stampex was in 1970 so I have enjoyed attending for nearly 40 years and am looking forward to the next 40. Long Live Stampex.