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Princess Mary's Gifts To The Troops, 1914

The Gift Tin scheme, organised by Princess Mary, resulted in over two and half million brass tins, containing a range of items but generally tobacco and cigarettes, or sweets and writing sets for the non-smokers.  The Christmas Fund was launched on 14th October 1914 with the idea to issue a gift to every man in uniform on Christmas Day.  This was to include men already held in Prisoner of War camps in Germany, widows and parents of men already killed.  Some soldiers were still receiving their gifts as late as 1919 after the war had ended!  See the POW Roll.

2nd Lieutenant R C Leach of the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment wrote to his mother describing Christmas 1914:
“I think we must have had a decidedly more cheerful Christmas than you at home.  For a start on getting into billet I found 15 parcels waiting for me.  They had a special Post Office bag for them.  Well on Christmas morn I spent till about 1.30 issuing presents to the men; both yours which were very welcome and those sent in bulk to be divided amongst the troops, each regiment getting a certain share.  There were also Princess Mary’s presents which consisted of a packet of cigarettes, a pipe, a packet of tobacco and a Christmas Card.  Also a Christmas card from King and Queen.”

Princess Mary Tin
Accession Number KO1616/04

Princess Mary Tin with tobacco and cigarettes.
Accession Number: KO2520/24d

Princess Mary khaki writing case which originally contained pencil, paper and envelopes.
Accession Number KO0211/01

Cigarette spirit lighter, made by Asprey of London.
Accession Number KO1793/01

Pipe issued to Major Lionel I Cowper, King's Own.
Accession Number: KO0729/01

Bullet pencil, formed of a .303 cartridge and a sterling silver 'bullet'.
Accession Number: KO2190/35

There are a number of examples of Princess Mary's Gifts To The Troops in the museum's collection and include the following:

bulletBullet pencil. (Issued in the writing set) KO2190/35
bulletCigarette spirit lighter.  (Issued to the smokers)  KO1793/01
bulletKhaki writing case received by Sergeant Michael Baker, number 10238, 2nd Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.  KO1458/02
bulletCigarette tin received by Sergeant Arthur Hamilton Carter, King's Own, whilst in hospital in Paris.  KO2520/23
bulletCigarette tin received by Private Albert Edward Corless, number 2188, 1st/5th King's Own.  KO1616/04
bulletCigarette tin received by Private Harold Cross, number 1613, 1st/5th King's Own.  KO0960/04
bulletCigarette tin received by Lance Corporal John Hirst Harper, number 999, 1st/5th King's Own.  KO2509/12
bulletCigarette tin received by either Private John Thomas Ismay, number 1012, or Private John Richard Pye, number 1296, both of the 1st/5h King's Own.  KO0764/13
bulletCigarette tin received by Private William Alfred Morris, number 2166, 1st/5th King's Own.  KO2061/10
bulletCigarette tin received by Private Harry Rawes, number 2918, 1st/5th King's Own.  KO2046/04
bulletCigarette tin received by Private R Rogerson, number 6927, King's Own.  KO1233/05
bulletCigarette tin picked up by Private William Thompson, number 240878, 1st/5th King's Own, during the Battle of Ypres, 23rd April 1915.  KO1898/01
bulletPipe received by Major Lionel I Cowper, King's Own.  KO0729/01
bulletKhaki writing case received by Sergeant William Robinson, number 10343, 2nd King's Own.  KO0211/01

Princess Mary Card, included in each tin.
Accession Number KO2520/24

Princess Mary, this photograph was sent with each tin.
Accession Number KO2520/24

See also the Prisoner of War list of men who received the gift after the war had finished.

Only a proportion of our collections are on display at anyone time.  Certain items are on loan for display in other institutions.  An appointment is required to consult any of our collections which are held in store.

© 2011 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum