How letters sent to Gibraltar can end up in the hamlet of Aylesbury in England

Dear Sir,

I appreciated David Eveson's letter regarding the renovation of the Post Office premises, having seen some of it myself when I visited Gibraltar last year and was shown around by Frank Bado, who, sadly, has since died. Poignantly, his last email to me was to let me know that my article 'No postcode envy' had been published in Panorama, one in which he had a hand, as a valuable source of insider information on why the postcode project had stalled, in addition to telling me about when he was with the British Forces Post Office in Ascension and the Falkland Islands and helping the forces pack up in Hong Kong before the handover to China. 

Gibraltar does have an interesting postal and philatelic history, as the British post offices in Morocco were under its control until 1907, with stamps bearing Queen Victoria's head but with the value in Spanish pesetas, which were legal tender until 1898. And while the names of the Rock's fourteen postal districts are largely unknown to the public, some of these do have historical resonance, as 'Waterport, Walk 10' and 'Southport, Walk 12' are a throwback to the old Waterport Street and Southport Street, which were later merged with Church Street to form the Main Street we know today.

Other British Overseas Territories could certainly give Gibraltar a run for its money when it comes to place names, and in Montserrat, there are now answers to questions its 5000 people never thought of asking before, like 'what's the postcode for Gerald's Bottom?' MSR1230, in case you were wondering, as it is for Judy Piece and Dick Hill, and the only reason why the system is limited to the top third of the island is because the rest has been uninhabitable since a volcanic eruption. As for the Cayman Islands, the answer to the question 'where the hell is KY1-1400 the postcode for?' is just that, Hell!

As it happens, some items of mail in the UK sent to 'Gibraltar GX11 1AA' have been misdirected to the hamlet of Gibraltar near Aylesbury, so you need to write 'GIBRALTAR' underneath it, though it's no more repetitive than writing 'MC 98000 Monaco, MONACO' - like New York, it's so good they named it twice. That said, when someone sent a letter to St Helen's on Merseyside and didn't include the postcode, it ended up being sent to St Helena in the South Atlantic, the opposite problem to the one that introducing the 'STHL 1ZZ' postcode was supposed to solve - and that was years before the island finally got its airport.

When I sent a few Christmas cards to Gibraltar last month, I was charged at Royal Mail's 'Zone 1' rate, the same as for Brazil and Canada, despite its website listing it as being in the 'Europe' zone. While it was only 18p more than an identical card sent to Belgium, it would have been even more odd if I had been charged less to send one to Russia, especially somewhere like Vladivostok in Siberia. But such is the nature of terminal dues, the charges that post offices pay each other to receive each other's mail - sending an item to an address in Singapore costs as much as one in Australia, which is more than one just across the causeway in Malaysia.

Indeed, it cost me less to send a postcard to Singapore from Gibraltar than it would have done to send it from the UK, despite it probably having to go via the UK anyway, while the cost of sending one to the UK from Gibraltar was half the cost of one sent in the opposite direction. I wouldn't suggest that mail from the UK to Gibraltar be charged at the UK inland rate, as BFPO mail is, given that Post Danmark now charges mail to Greenland and the Faroes at the same higher 'Nordic' rate as Iceland, but Royal Mail should remind its staff that Gibraltar is in its 'Europe' zone, and that Brexit isn't going to change that!

Happy New Year to all

Ken Westmoreland

07-01-2020 PANORAMAdailyGIBRALTAR