Honour our dead soldiers on stamps | Letter

Madeleine Burbidge on the artist Steve McQueen’s campaign to get Royal Mail to commemorate soldiers killed in Iraq

So Royal Mail is paying tribute to “bona fide rock legends” Iron Maiden with a series of images on a new set of stamps (Iron Maiden win Royal Mail seal of approval with 12 stamps, 5 January). Good to see a bit of heavy metal in the post. However, what baffles me is why Royal Mail never issued stamps featuring portraits of the UK soldiers who lost their lives during the Iraq conflict.

Back in 2009, I helped organise part of the UK art gallery tour of Queen and Country by the Turner prize and Oscar winner Steve McQueen. After travelling to Basra as the Imperial War Museum’s official artist, McQueen created a solemn tribute to Britain’s fallen. Within a modernist oak sarcophagus are 155 portraits of individual soldiers printed on large sheets of postage stamps, with the soldier’s name, regiment, age and date of death printed in the margin. I remember being profoundly moved by seeing the faces of those who had lost their lives. I can still see some of their faces now, all these years later.

McQueen’s objective was for Royal Mail to officially issue the stamps so that the public would come to recognise those soldiers. But it refused, saying that it would be “distressing and disrespectful” to armed forces families. However, the families I spoke to were keen for their loved ones to be remembered in this way. It’s time for institutions to help us remember our past – we’d be a better country for it.
Madeleine Burbidge

The GuardianTramp

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