The Princess Mary Tin
The War: Christmas 1914 was a unique Christmas. When Britain had gone to war against the Central Powers the previous August, there was a great optimism that the war would soon be over and the troops would be home to enjoy their respective celebrations. The festive period produced a relaxed atmosphere on many parts of the front, with reports of many cases of fraternisation with the enemy. What in fact transpired in the long-term was a bitter stalemate, with troops entrenched opposite one another on a 475 mile-long front for a period of over four years, with none of the good will of that first Christmas.
The Princess:In November 1914, an advertisement was placed in the national press inviting monetary contributions to a 'Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund' which had been created by Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone who would be wearing the King's uniform on Christmas Day 1914 with a 'gift from the nation'.
The Tin:The response was truly overwhelming, and it was decided to spend the money on an embossed brass tin box, based on a design by Messrs Adshead and Ramsey.
The contents varied considerably; officers and men on active service afloat or at the front received a box containing a combination of pipe, lighter, 1 oz of tobacco and twenty cigarettes in distinctive yellow monogrammed wrappers. Non-smokers and boys received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets instead. Indian troops often got sweets and spices, and nurses were treated to chocolate.
NB. I have my grandfather's tin, but it is empty. They can be regularly bought on Ebay, some with the original contents.
For more information on the Princess Mary tins see the Imperial War Museum.