Sunday, September 20, 2009
In June of 1940, France surrendered to Germany, signing an armistice which instituted a regime of collaboration, centered in Vichy. General Charles de Gaulle, then in London serving as an emissary for the defeated government, established the Free French Organization and gave a speech over BBC Radio calling for French resistance to the occupying German forces and their French collaborators.
Initially, many of the Free French forces were not composed of French nationals. Over 65% were West African conscripts. Shortly after the fall of France, the French Colonies of Cameroun and French Equatorial Africa (with the exception of Gabon) were the first to join the Free French.
In November of 1940, Cameroun overprinted four values picturing the Falls on the M'bam River from its 1939-40 regular issue with the word "Spitfire" and a surcharge, creating a set of semi-postals (Scott #B10-13). The 5 franc surtax was used to purchase Spitfire Fighters for the Free French Army. Only 4,000 sets were issued and the set has a Scott '10 Catalog Value of
This set is of interest mostly to collectors of France and Colonies, and will continue to remain so, unless philatelic investors decide to target it. Despite my belief that stamp collecting in the Republic of Cameroon will not take off in the near future, I feel that the scarcity of the set and its historical significance make it a worthy long-term holding.
By First World standards, the Republic of Cameroon is a poor country, although it is considered one of the more stable and prosperous nations of Sub-Saharan Africa. With a population of about 19 million and GDP growth of about 4% per year, it is heavily reliant on commodity exports - agricultural products, timber, oil, aluminum, and other metals. The government seems to be moving towards gradual reforms- countering corruption, moving away from authoritarianism and human rights abuses, encouraging economic development, etc. - but it is likely that progress will be slow.