The first Belgium stamps were issued on 1st July 1849. They are known as the “Epaulettes”. Until 1865 her stamps followed the British tradition and did not have the name of the country included in the design. Belgium was one of the first signatories of the GPU in 1874, which became the UPU in 1878. However, the Flemings complained that the French name for Belgium – “Belgique” was the only name on the stamps and from 1893 'Belgie' was added. The name has appeared in both languages ever since. Between 1893 and 1914 all stamps were produced with a detachable label inscribed 'Do not deliver on a Sunday' in both French and Flemish. All stamps were printed with these detachable bandalettes, or ‘Sunday Labels’. This enabled the sender to indicate whether delivery was to be made on a Sunday.
Belgium's neutrality was guaranteed by the Treaty of London (1839). It was a breach of this treaty which led to the entry of Britain into World War I. The government moved to France on 13th October 1914 and continued to print stamps for use in that locality and in the small unoccupied parts of Belgium. The Germans issued stamps for use in occupied Belgium on 1st October 1914. These continued in use throughout the war and were used concurrently with the stamps of the German Western Military Command from 1916. The latter were also used in the occupied area of northern France.
From 1919 until 1930, Belgian troops occupied part of the Rhineland and overprinted stamps were issued for this area. They hoped that neutrality would be maintained but Germany invaded in May 1940. Belgium is a fascinating philatelic country with collectors specializing in not just the stamps but postal markings. Including a wide array of interesting booklet panes, railway service stamps and much else besides.