RNLI commemorate 100yrs of S-O-S distress signal with Mayday stamp series 13/3/08

Olympic medal hopefuls and current world Yngling sailing champions – Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson (left) – gave the new Royal Mail ‘Mayday – Rescue at Sea’ stamps their seal of approval aboard Weymouth’s RNLI lifeboat, as the stamps go on sale today (13 March).

The charity’s volunteer lifeboat crew is recognised in a special ‘Mayday – Rescue at Sea’ Royal Mail stamp issue, which commemorates the centenary of the adoption of S-O-S as the worldwide Morse code distress signal at sea. To mark the 100th anniversary, Royal Mail worked with printers to re-create the famous sequence of ‘dots’ and ‘dashes’ along the top and bottom edges of the stamps.

The Mayday – Rescue at Sea issue (set of 6) will run to over 30 million stamps, each one featuring a photograph that captures the testing weather conditions encountered by RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews and HM Coastguard rescue helicopters.

Four of the set of six stamps feature RNLI lifeboats: Appledore in Devon, St Ives in Cornwall, Tenby in Pembrokeshire, and Barra in the Western Isles of Scotland. The other two feature the work of HM Coastguard helicopters from Lee-on-Solent and Portland.

Commenting on the Mayday stamp issue, Skandia Team GBR sailor Sarah Ayton said: “The incredibly brave work of those who guard our coastline saves hundreds of lives a year, and these fantastic new stamps are a great way to say thank you to these real-life heroes.”

The RNLI aims to raise up to £20,000 for the planned RNLI Memorial in Poole through sales of a unique set of first day covers. The RNLI Memorial will be the first official national tribute to the RNLI lifesavers and fundraisers who have served the charity over the last 180-plus years – especially the 438 crew members who have died while saving lives at sea.

“We felt it was vital to capture the incredibly testing conditions the men and women of the RNLI often work under for the stamps to have the greatest impact,” explained Julietta Edgar, Royal Mail Head of Special Stamps. “The new set is a special tribute to the RNLI as a charity, and the Coastguard, that will be seen by countless people on letters and parcels around the world.”