Princess Mary Christmas gift box

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Princess Mary Christmas box.

The Princess Mary Christmas gift box was a brass or silver tin containing a number of gifts intended to be distributed to all members of the armed forces of the British Empire on Christmas day 1914, during World War I.[1][2]

Princess Mary Christmas fund[edit]

Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the British Expeditionary Force was sent to the Western Front and was soon joined by troops from the Empire, those from India arriving before the end of the year.[3] In October 1914, George V's 17-year-old daughter, Mary, Princess Royal, launched an appeal to fund every member of the armed forces receiving a Christmas gift.[4] Shortly before Christmas 1914, advertisements were placed in the British press seeking donations for the "Soldiers and Sailors Christmas fund" and £152,691 was soon raised.[5]

The boxes[edit]

The 1914 Christmas gift box.

The funding was used to manufacture small boxes made of silver for officers and brass for all others.[4] Each was decorated with an image of Mary and other military and imperial symbols and typically filled with an ounce of tobacco, a packet of cigarettes in a yellow monogrammed wrapper, a cigarette lighter, and a Christmas card and photograph from Princess Mary.[6] Some contained sweets, chocolates,[7] and lemon drops.[4]


The boxes were originally intended for "every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front" on Christmas day 1914,[8] but eligibility was soon extended to everyone "wearing the King's uniform on Christmas day".[5] Whilst around 400,000 were delivered by Christmas, distribution was not completed until 1920 by which time approximately 2.5 million had been delivered.[5]


  1. ^ John Sadler; Rosie Serdiville (9 May 2013). Tommy at War: 1914-1918 The Soldiers' Own Stories. Biteback Publishing. p. 267. ISBN 978-1-84954-609-6.
  2. ^ Fergus Reed. "Princess Mary Gift Fund 1914 Box and Contents". Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  3. ^ Malcolm Pearce; Geoffrey Stewart (13 September 2013). British Political History, 1867–2001: Democracy and Decline. Routledge. pp. 289–291. ISBN 978-1-136-45353-3.
  4. ^ a b c Valerie B. Parkhouse (28 January 2015). Memorializing the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902: Militarization of the Landscape: Monuments and Memorials in Britain. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 78. ISBN 978-1-78088-401-1.
  5. ^ a b c John Hudson (15 October 2014). Christmas 1914. History Press Limited. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-7509-6038-0.
  6. ^ Phillip Tardif (30 June 2015). The North Irish Horse in the Great War. Pen and Sword. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-4738-3375-3.
  7. ^ M.J. Trow (28 February 2015). Isle of Wight in the Great War. Pen and Sword. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-78346-301-5.
  8. ^ Read, Fergus. "Princess Mary Gift Fund 1914 Box and Contents". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 25 December 2017.

KEN Follet novel Fall of Giants pg 356