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Philatelic Collections: The Bailey Collection

The Bailey collection of Spanish Civil War material was formed by Eric Bailey, and is on loan to the British Library from the Spanish Study circle. The collection complements the collection of International Brigade mail formed by Ron Shelley (The Shelley Collection), that is also held by the Library.

Before the Civil war, the politics of Spain were greatly influenced by the Church and the Military (largely controlled by Nationalist Generals), and the population was deeply divided between the poor and the wealthy classes, who owned most of the land.

Following the elections held in 1931 Alfonso XIII abdicated, and left the country under voluntary exile. There followed a succession of Republican Governments, none of which were successful in addressing the problems of the country, which was undergoing a prolonged period of civil unrest. Many anarchist groups were being formed, and a growing communist movement began to undermine the Government.

The sparking point for the war was the assassination of Calvo Sotelo, a popular monarchist leader. On the 17th July 1936 a military uprising took place at Melila in North Africa, followed by risings in most of the principal cities of Spain. General Franco was elected Generalissimo of the Nationalist armed forces on 1st October 1936.

The Nationalists were supported by Germans (who supplied an airforce – the Condor Legion), Italians, Potuguese, Irish, and a few English, amongst others. Supporters of the Republicans included France, Russia, but the main help came from the International Brigades, which were made-up of Volunteers from around the world, most of whom were communist who were coming to fight against Fascism.

By the end of 1936 the Nationalists had captured half of Spain, however Madrid and the important industrial areas remained Republican. The Nationalists had further success in the provinces of Malaga and the Asturias in 1937. Fierce fighting took place in the North-East of Spain in 1938, and eventually the Nationalists reached the Mediterranean south of Castellon in April, eventually isolating the key city of Barcelona, which fell on 26th January 1939. The island of Menorca surrendered on 8th January, and the Republican Government finally surrendered on 28th March 1939.

During this period there was a great deal of disruption to the postal service, which makes this a particularly fascinating area to collect. Housed in twenty-four volumes, the Bailey collection presents a philatelic survey of the conflict, arranged by town or area, the collection includes postal history, semi-official patriotic overprints and issues, and a study of the postal tax stamps with many complete sheets and varieties. There is a specialist study of the Malaga 1937 “First Anniversary” overprints.

One of the more interesting areas is mail from the island of Mallorca, which from early stage of the conflict was under Nationalist control. The collection includes a cover addressed to Barcelona (under Republican control), and although there was not normally any exchange of mail between the two sides, this cover was carried by a short lived airmail service via Algeria and Marseilles. There are also covers from the Cruisers “Canarias”, and “Baleares” (later torpedoed and sunk by Republican destroyers), Auxiliary Cruiser “Cuidad de Palma”, and a cover from the Commander of the German pocket-battleship “Admiral Graf Spee” from its operational base at Palma de Mallorca whilst on non-intervention patrol in Spanish waters.

Following the breakthrough on the Mainland of the Nationalists in 1938, which effectively cut the Republican forces in half, the blockade on Menorca intensified. In order to maintain communications between Barcelona and Mahon a Submarine Postal service was proposed. Only one trip of the Submarine “C4” took place, and the collection includes a postcard that was carried on the voyage.

Part of the collection is to be placed on public exhibition in the philatelic display frames on the Upper Ground Floor of the British Library on: 4th September 2006 for one year.


Philatelic Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7635
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7780