Ascension Island was discovered in 1501 by the Portuguese explorer João da Nova but the Portuguese did not settle the island and Ascension remained uninhabited until October 1815.
On 15th October 1815 a squadron under the command of Rear Admiral George Cockburn put into St Helena with the prisoner Napoleon Bonaparte aboard. Fearing that Ascension could be used by the French to launch a rescue mission Cockburn dispatched two brigs, HMS Zenobia and HMS Peruvian, to Ascension Island. On 22 October 1815 Captains White and Dobree came ashore, raised the Jack and claimed the island for His Britannic Majesty King George III. It is the Bicentenary of this event that is celebrated on Ascension in October 2015.
Under Royal Navy command, a naval garrison was established. The early years of garrison life were spent attempting to secure a fresh water supply for the men posted there. The dry, barren and hot conditions made this a challenge, with water being fetched by cart daily from springs found on Green Mountain. It was not until 1832 that a reliable system of pumping water from the far side of the mountain through to the settlement (now Georgetown) was built and able to supply the needs of the population.
Following Napoleon’s death in 1821 Ascension became a victualing station and recuperation base for ships from the West Africa Squadron engaged in anti-slaving duties on the African coast. Many brought with them disease that ravaged not only the ship’s crew but also the island population. Many make-shift cemeteries and unmarked graves can be found on the island and are a poignant reminder of the harshness of life in such a remote location.
Right at the end of the 19th century Ascension began to change from a purely military island to a place of commercial and civilian enterprise, when in 1899 the Eastern Telegraph Company (later known as Cable & Wireless) used the island as a relay station for its cable network running from Cape Town, via St Helena and Ascension, to England. In 1964 the BBC arrived to begin work on the BBC radio relay station at English Bay. In the same year the Colonial Office took control of the island and appointed Ascension’s first Administrator. In 1982 Ascension’s location in the South Atlantic made it a crucial military staging post for the British in the Falklands War.
Today Ascension Island has a temporary population of 800 people, including a MOD and a USAF base. Ascension continues to have great strategic importance and a key role to play as a staging post for British interests - both military and diplomatic - in the South Atlantic.
Design: Bee Design
Bicentenary logo design: Lawrence Kneath, Kneath Associates, Swansea
£1.60 Portrait Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images
Printer: BDT International
Stamp size: 28.45 x 42.58mm
Perforation: 14 per 2cms
Release date: 22 October, 2015
Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd