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Around the world in 20 days; COLLECTING.

A new round-the-world balloon record has been set on the back of the Anglo-Swiss Breitling Orbiter 3 achievement.

But it is not for endurance or duration, though speed does come into it, and British pilot Brian Jones, from Erlestoke, Wiltshire, with his Swiss co-pilot Bertrand Piccard could only play a supporting role.

For the latest record has been set by the Swiss post office for designing, printing and distributing to the country's post offices hundreds of thousand copies of a special postage stamp marking the balloonists' feat.

As the world's news media watched the progress of the balloon and its crew, the postal authorities in Switzerland also went into action with designer artists and printers getting together once it was clear that there was a good chance that the first global non-stop balloon flight would be achieved.

Jones and Piccard crossed the finishing line in the African state of Mauritania on Sunday, March 21, touching down on an Egyptian desert plateau about 500 miles from Cairo. They had to wait about eight hours until they were located and rescued by an Egyptian military helicopter from the desert heat.

Meanwhile, Die Schweizerische Post at its headquarters in Bern was also sweating - all systems go on producing the new stamp. A press release announced that the special stamp would be issued to "mark the great event in aviation history achieved by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones."

The announcement added: "It will be available on Wednesday, March 24, 1999, at all main post offices and philatelic outlets."

It said: "The take-off was on March 1 in Chateau d'Oex and they circled the globe non-stop in 20 days. The Swiss Post congratulates the adventurers for their outstanding achievement and acknowledges this world record with the special stamp."

Like Jones and Piccard, the Swiss post office achieved their target. The balloon landed on March 21 and three days later, not only did all main offices have the new issue, but one arrived by airmail on my desk in Birmingham obviously having been mailed at least two days earlier.

Full marks Die Schweizerische Post.

Suspicions that the unsolved Second World War mystery disappearance of the legendary American bandleader Glenn Miller could have been due to Allied, not enemy action, will be strengthened by a sale of documents being held at a militaria and aeronautica sale in Sotheby's salerooms in Summers Place, Billingshurst, West Sussex, on Tuesday, April 13. Originally, Miller "king" of swing big bands, was thought to have died when his C64 Norseman plane was shot down by German aircraft or to have suffered a mechanical failure and crashed into the English Channel. Yet the Germans never claimed an aircraft "kill" in the area despite Miller's disappearance being kept secret for nine days.

The bandleader's last flight had been from Bedfordshire to Paris on December 15, 1944. Rumours abounded about the cause of his disappearance, including one scurrilous suggestion that he had expired in the arms of a prostitute at a Parisian brothel. This, however, was later discounted after disclosures by the crew of an RAF Lancaster bomber that a Norseman aircraft had been seen to disappear into the sea about 50 miles off Beachy Head.

The Lancaster, from 149 Squadron, was one of several bombers whose raid on Luxembourg had been called off and it was ordered to jettison its deadly load of bombs into the sea in an area specifically designated for this.

Carrying a 4,000lb "Cookie" bomb, the Lancaster flew at a safety ceiling of 4,000ft to avoid blast damage when the bomb exploded. The navigator, Fred Shaw, saw a Norseman flying below the Lancaster at only about 1,500ft.

This plane, he thought, was in trouble, possibly from the bomb blast and as he watched the Norseman went into a spin and crashed into the Channel.

This incident was unrecorded at the time because none of the bombers had been over enemy territory so the crews needed no debriefing.

Mr Shaw died in South Africa recently and his flying log book and other papers, including a letter from the Ministry of Defence, outlining his theory about the fate of Glenn Miller was the most likely explanation of his death, are being sold by the Shaw family. They are expected to sell for pounds 600-pounds 800.

n On Tuesday Royal Mail will be issuing its fourth monthly set of stamps in the series which highlights various aspects of Britain's history during the past 1,000 years, subjects highlighted as different types of story.

This month the topic is what Royal Mail has dubbed "The Settlers' Tale." This may be a ploy to disguise the fact that the theme is that controversial one, immigration and emigration.

This "Settlers' Tale" issue aims to show how our islands have received people from widely different backgrounds and cultures during the past millennium while, at the same time, we have exported our own "British" culture and traditions in conquering far flung areas which became part of the British Empire before attaining independence.

Britain today has one of the most diverse ethnic populations in Europe, a picture which Royal Mail has aimed to emphasise with Tuesday's four new stamps. As with the previous millennium stamp issues, each stamp has a different designer.

The 20p value comes from artist and playwright John Byrne from Paisley, Scotland, who was inspired by the medieval migration of people to Scotland from south of the border.

While the Normans invaded and conquered England, there was no similar assault on Scotland. Indeed the Normans migrated there peaceably (hence the white dove in the design) many of them getting Royal invitations to move north of the border. King David I of Scotland (1124-53) was particularly keen and it was from these early settlers' families that Robert the Bruce and the Royal house of Stewart are descended.

The 26p stamp by another Scot deals with our colonisation of America and the intrepid voyage of the Mayflower with the Puritan settlers. At the mercy of winds and waves Mayflower set sail in August 1620 and landed its 102 settlers 66 days later at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Given the amount of technical and geographic knowledge available at the time this journey was every bit as dangerous, possibly more so, as a space walk to a modern astronaut.

The stamp designer, Glaswegian artist William McLean, who has lived in New York since 1966, illustrates the kindness of the local Indians giving food to the pilgrims during their first winter in America.

British emigration to Australia is the subject of Jeff Fisher's design for the 43p value. An emu and kangaroo from the Australian coat of arms, a sailing ship, aboriginal hunter, pithead winding gear symbolising mining and a ball and chain alluding to the early convict settlement in Botany Bay are all included in the design.

The top value in the set, the 63p, was designed by Gary Powell. He has taken a Caribbean humming bird and symbols showing immigration to the UK, particularly from the West Indies, which began with the arrival of the Empire Windrush with 492 Jamaicans.

n Today the Royal Spa Centre at Leamington Spa will hold an antiques and collectables fair from 10am-4.30pm arranged by Profile Promotions of Birmingham.

n An Easter Monday fair is being held by Profile Promotions at Warwick University Arts Centre from 10am-5pm with about 250 dealers.
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Author:Hawkes, Harry
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 3, 1999
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