LONDON — Royal Mail of Britain is used to apologizing to customers, mostly for missing parcels and letters sent to the wrong address.
But an error in a design for a stamp to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day — it showed American troops on the wrong beach, in Asia instead of Europe — has spurred an apology to veterans and their families.
Royal Mail announced the special series of stamps “showcasing the ‘Best of British’ ” on Thursday. One design trumpeted on Twitter showed troops knee-deep in water as they disembarked from a landing craft. The caption said, “D-Day: Allied soldiers and medics wade ashore.”
But the beach shown was in Dutch New Guinea, today a part of Indonesia, not in Normandy, France. And the stamp used an image of the wrong craft.
Eagle-eyed observers and World War II aficionados quickly spotted the errors, and the Twitter alerts came in.
An account for Jersey War Tours, which offers private tours on the island of Jersey, off the coast of Britain, noted, “LCI-30 did not participate in the Normandy landings,” referring to the amphibious assault craft pictured in the stamp design. American troops used craft of the same type in Normandy for D-Day.
The image that Royal Mail used showed American troops carrying stretchers ashore in Dutch New Guinea in May 1944, weeks before the Normandy landings. It was taken by the United States Coast Guard, according to the website of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which holds a copy of the photo.
But others found the error disrespectful to veterans.
“Wrong theatre; wrong date; wrong vessel; wrong troops. This gross insult to veterans and those who didn’t make it should be withdrawn,” Andy Saunders, a history consultant, said on Twitter.
Stephen Agar, who is in charge of letters at Royal Mail, apologized on Friday. “I am sincerely sorry for this mistake and the hurt it has caused, in particular to veterans and those who lost loved ones,” he said in a statement.
“I would like to reassure them, our people and our customers that this stamp will not be part of our set to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.”
Royal Mail claims to be the first postal service in the world to use adhesive stamps. And since it issued the Penny Black, named after its price and color, in 1840, printers have made many mistakes that may have caused embarrassment to the manufacturers but are treasured by collectors because of their rarity.
In the United States, one of the most famous collector stamps is the “Inverted Jenny,” showing a plane’s image upside down.
British stamps with the monarch’s head missing, the color off or a sheet of stamps lacking perforations can be worth hundreds of thousands, and many of them were printed during the 20th century.
“The reign of Queen Elizabeth II is actually considered to be the golden era of British stamp errors for collectors,” according to the British stamp dealership Warwick & Warwick.
As for the D-Day error, Royal Mail announced that no stamps with the wrong vessels and beach had been actually printed. The errors were caught in time to correct for the rollout in June.