A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Burma Pt 2 - a closer look

1943 Scott 2N38 1c orange
"Burmese Soldier Carving Word "Independence""
Issued under Japanese Occupation
Into the Deep Blue
This is a two part look at the stamps of Burma.

Part 1 looked at the regular and official British Commonwealth issues of 1937-1940, and 1945-1947.

Burma Part 1 - a closer look

Part 2 (this one) will look at the issues of the independent Republic (Union of Burma) from 1948-1949.  Then we will turn our attention to the WW II years. We will review a 1942 Burma Independence Army issue (under Japanese authorization), and the Japanese occupation stamps of 1942-1944.

A closer look
12 Pies = 1 Anna
16 Annas = 1 Rupee

Issues of the Republic
1948 Scott 89 8a light chocolate
"U Aung San, Map and Chinthe"
Attainment of Independence, January 4, 1948
On January 4, 1948, Burma became an independent nation.

During WW II, the Burmese nationalists, with the charismatic Aung San as leader, had cooperated with the Japanese until it was clear the Japanese were losing. Then they switched sides and helped the British 14th Army.

Although the British would have liked to have resumed their former rule, the surge of Burmese nationalism after the war was too much. In 1947, Aung San came to the UK to negotiate independence. And so it was that Burma became independent.

A five stamp one design lithographic set was released January 6, 1948, with a visage of Aung San (recently deceased as we will see), a map of Burma, and a "Chinze",  a lion like creature that is found symbolically guarding sacred pagodas and temples.

CV is <$1.
1948 Scott 94 2a lilac rose "Martyr's Memorial"
Martyr's Day: July 19, 1947.

Aung San and several members of his cabinet were assassinated on that day. It is commemorated as "Martyr's Day" every year since the event.

The Union of Burma released a 12 stamp set, showing the "Martyr's Memorial", on July 19, 1948, the one year anniversary of the assassination of Burma's leaders.

CV is <$1.
1949 Scott 102 3p ultramarine
Ball Game (Chinlone)
On January 4, 1949, a wonderful fourteen stamp lithographic issue with eleven designs was published.

Chinlone, also called caneball, is the national sport of Burma. One team consists of six players and it is non-competitive. The ball is made of handwoven rattan. The game is a bit like hacky sack, with the object to not have the ball fall on the ground.

1949 Scott 103 6p green "Dancer"
Burmese dance, a bit like Thailand's but different too, has an emphasis on pose rather than movement.

CV for the fourteen stamp issue ranges from <$1 to $2. I think part of the reason for these stamps being inexpensive is because the Union of Burma was not part of the British Commonwealth, and hence not of interest  for BC collectors.

1949 Scott 106 2a orange
"Mythical Bird"
This is a Hintha "duck", which through the mythology of the Mon people, has golden wings and can fly great distances. The Hintha bird is a popular legend throughout Burma, especially in Shan State. 

1949 Scott 109 3a6p dark slate green "Royal Palace"
This might be the Royal Palace in Mandalay, but that was burned to the ground by allied bombing in WW II. It was restored in 1989, but a 1949 stamp wouldn't be able to show much.

Royal Palace in Bago (Pegu)
Rather, it could be an image of a similar Royal Palace in Bago (Pegu), the old capital of the Mon Kingdom. But this Palace might not have looked great after WW II either.

1949 Scott 110 4a chocolate "Cutting Teak"
Teak is highly durable, especially for outdoor furniture (and shipbuilding). And Teak from Burma (Myanmar) was especially expensive, as Burmese Teak was only cut down when 100 years old. As with any limited natural resource, though, eventually Teak was overcut. Since 2014, no raw lumber may be exported from Myanmar.

1949 Scott 111 8a carmine 
"Plowing Rice Field"
Even today, 65% of the labor force in Myanmar is involved with agriculture, and rice is the most important food. Other products include pulse (a legume), beams, sesame, Bambara groundnut, sugarcane, and fish.

Official 1949 Scott O58 9p carmine "Musician"
Overprinted 1949  Regular Issue
Twelve stamps from the 1949 regular issue were overprinted in black or red for official use in 1949.

CV is <$1-$4+.
1949 Scott 121 1r blue green
"UPU Monument, Bern"
75th Anniversary of the UPU
For the 75th anniversary of the U.P.U., many nations produced a stamp set. There was a U.P.U. omnibus set, all with the same design, produced by 66 British Commonwealth nations.

In addition, there were 13 nations with different designs that are usually included in the BC omnibus set. Burma is one of these nations. It is actually rather striking, with the Chinthe along the frame.

Occupation Stamps

Issued by Burma Independence Army (In Conjunction with Japanese Occupation Officials)

May, 1942 Scott 1N1 39 slate
Stamps of Burma, Henzada Issue
Overprinted in Blue or Black
These overprinted issues were produced in May, 1942 by the Burma Independence Army, in cooperation with the Japanese occupation officials. They were applied to the 1937 Burma issue, the 1938-40 George VI issue, and Official stamps of 1939.

Specifically, the 3,500 strong Burma Independence Army, formed by Aung San in 1941, took control of the Delta area of the Irawaddy River in May, 1942. They opened a postal service, and were authorized to overprint the local stock of stamps with a Burmese emblematic "peacock" by the Japanese.

They are characterized as the Henzada Issue (shown above, either overprinted in black or blue), the Myaungmya Issue, or the Pyapon Issue. See Scott for details.

These can be quite expensive CV stamps, and are really more specialist territory.

Scott has a note that counterfeit peacock overprints exist.

Tread wisely.

Issued under Japanese Occupation

March, 1943 Scott 2N35 15c red violet "Farmer Plowing"
In 1942, there were Japanese stamps that were surcharged with a new value for use in Burma. Most are CV expensive, and are really specialist territory. See Scott for details.

The first Japanese occupation stamp issue I have is a typographic eight stamp issue showing "Farmer Plowing". CV is from <$1 to $9+.

But let's back up a bit and talk about the invasion and insurgent uprising.

There were three elements...

The insurgent nationalists under Aung San, who were interested in shedding the British yoke, and would use the invading Japanese as a means to an end.

The Thais, who invaded part of the Shan States.

And the Japanese, who first attacked Burma on December 14, 1941.

Japanese Advancement April-May, 1942
By March 7, Rangoon fell.  (The British and Indian troops left nothing as they set fire to Rangoon as they left).

Burma's "Independence" was declared August 1, 1943

August 1, 1943 Scott 2N39 3c blue
"Farmer Rejoicing"
The Ba Maw government declared independence on August 1, 1943. Ba Maw was the first premier under British rule in 1937. But he was later arrested for sedition by the British, and placed in prison. After the Japanese invasion, he was named head of state (adipati) for the pro-Japanese Government from August, 1943 to May, 1945. As one can imagine, the situation was less than satisfactory for true Burmese "independence", as they were merely a satellite of the Japanese.

Be that as it may, there was a three stamp issue for August 1, 1943 celebrating their "independence".

October 1, 1943 Scott 2N42 2c yellow green
"Burmese Girl Carrying Water"
On October 1, 1943, there was a ten stamp lithographic issue with three designs released.

1943 Scott 2N48 30c brown
"Elephant Carrying Teak Log"
It was apparent to all the war tide was turning against the Japanese. Aung San, who was in the Ba Maw cabinet, reached out in October, 1943 to Lord Mountbatten, the Allied commander, to offer his cooperation. In March, 1945, Aung San and the Burma National Army joined the British.

1943 Scott 2N50 2r violet
"Watch Tower of Mandalay Palace"
The last design for the October 1943 issue shows the Watch Tower at Mandalay Palace.

Mandalay Palace Watch Tower
The 78 ft (24 m) tower was one of the few parts of the Palace grounds that survived WW II.

October 1, 1943 Scott 2N54 5c ultramarine "Bullock Cart"
For use only in the Shan States
There was a special issue for the Shan States on October 1, 1943.

The seven stamp two design issue has a CV ranging from $3+ to $40+.

November 1, 1944 Scott 2N59 2c yellow green "Bullock Cart"
Surcharged in Black "Burma State"
The area of the Shan States around Keng Tung was ceded to Thailand on August 20, 1943. The rest of the Shan States came under Burmese government administration December 24, 1943, and the October 1, 1943 Shan issue was overprinted and surcharged as shown. CV is <$1-$5.

Deep Blue
1943 Issue "Farmer Plowing"
Issued under Japanese Occupation
Deep Blue (Steiner) has six pages for the Japanese occupation era of Burma.  All Scott major numbers have a space included.

1949 Scott 105 1a red orange "Bell"
Issue of the Republic
Out of the Blue
These stamps ( and history) are highly interesting. Getting out of the 1840-1940 inclusive comfort zone is paying off for me.

Note:Pics of the Mandalay Palace Tower, Royal Palace in Pegu, and Japanese Conquest map of Burma all appear to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!


  1. I have now reviewed this post regarding Burma three separate times and I must admit I am really beginning to appreciate the simplicity of the designs and the stamps' production. Thanks for including the photo from the palace of the tower as it really made me appreciate the stamp design and its inspiration.

    1. Thanks albumfilling - I agree that the Burma 1940s stamps are quite attractive - in part because of the history of the times. Yes, a pic that reflects what is portrayed on a stamp enhances the presentation.