Princess Mary Gift Tin 1914
In the months leading up to Christmas 1914, the seventeen-year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, Princess Mary, decided to launch a patriotic fund called the Princess Mary Christmas Fund in 1914. Her idea was to raise enough funds to ensure that “every Sailor afloat and every Soldier at the front” received a Christmas present.
A special appeal went out to raise funds and as a result, small keepsake tins were made for the troops. The British public enthusiastically supported the appeal and over £160,000 was raised and over 2.6 million men and women were eligible for the gift.
All serving soldiers and sailors in the British, colonial and Indian Armed Forces would receive a gift tin with a number of comforts. The tins were filled with various items including tobacco, confectionery, spices, pencils, a Christmas card and a picture of the princess. The tin had a hinged lid embossed with a capital M.
Each brass-embossed case contained items such as a pipe and tobacco, pencil, notebook, postcards, a photograph of the Princess Royal and a Christmas card. Tins sent out after Christmas included a card with a victorious New Year greeting. Non-smokers, nurses and Sikhs were given tins containing spices, fruit lozenges, sugar candy or chocolate.
With the large number of recipients, it was impossible to distribute them in 1914, so they were divided into three categories. Class A were generally those in France, Class B were those not in Class A and Class C for troops in the British Isles. Class B and C gift tins were sent out in January 1915 and contained a Happy New Year card.
Once the soldiers and sailors consumed the items the tins were useful for carrying small items. The gift tin or box is a treasured possession by many veterans and their families.
Today many of these tins are held in museums, memorials and in private collections. Those which survive with their original gifts from the Princess Royal are extremely rare – although Mason’s box contains the 1915 New Year card.
Read more about the Queen Mary Christmas Gift tin