Under rules that punish thousands of responsible pensioners every year, old people are forced to sell their property in order to pay for care. This is what happened to detectorist Dave Clarke’s uncle.
Although Dave didn’t know him that well, he was the one who went to clear the house prior to sale. He found it quite distressing to find so many personal and sentimental items to which any story and attachment had been long since forgotten. Let’s just say that the uncle now has ‘big gaps’ in his memory, and that’s a shame.
In the attic, Dave came across a World War 1 medal, but didn’t recognise the name inscribed upon it. He also found a Princess Mary Christmas Box containing a combination of pipe, lighter, tobacco and cigarettes sent overseas in 1914 to everyone wearing a King’s uniform.
Princess Mary, the 17-year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, had created the fund and posted notices in the press inviting monetary contributions. The response from the public had been overwhelming.
Non-smokers and boys received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets. Indian troops often got sweets and spices, and nurses were treated to chocolate.
The box is approximately 5″ long by 3¼” wide by 1¼” deep with a double-skinned, hinged, lid. The surface which depicts the head of Princess Mary in the centre, surrounded by a laurel wreath and flanked on either side by the ‘M’ monogram. How times change! This kind of gift wouldn’t even be considered today.
The box discovered by Dave appears to have the tobacco intact, but that from the cigarettes has disappeared. I don’t see a lighter or pipe either, but I believe the latter was only given to officers. Thanks for sharing your poignant find, Dave.
A Victorious New Year!
Great efforts were made to distribute the gifts in time for Christmas, and huge demands were made on an already stretched postal service. More than 355,000 were successfully delivered by the deadline. As time pressed on, a shortage of brass meant that many entitled personnel did not receive their gift until as late as the summer of 1916, and in January 1919 it was reported that ‘considerable’ numbers had still not been distributed. Those which were not distributed until after Christmas were sent out with a card wishing the recipient a ‘victorious new year’.
The Daily Mail Commemorative Coin
To mark the centenary of the start of World War I, the Daily Mail offered purchasers a replica of the famous King’s shilling, providing the paper was bought from a participating store.
This offer was quite an ‘exquisite gift’ and ‘stunning commemorative replica’ – Daily Mail language. Also, (on the front page) they said that there was ‘plus’ a FREE Royal Xmas (sic) box to collect, just like the one given by Princess Mary. I’m not a Mail reader, but I was persuaded to pick one up just for the freebie. Alas, I was so taken by the weasel words that I blundered to the counter (ignoring the self-service thingy tills) and bought a copy. The small print said:
ONLINE ACCESS AND MULTIPLE NEWSPAPER PURCHASE REQUIRED. TERMS APPLY.
Beggar that for a game of soldiers! To qualify all I had to do was buy another 14 copies of the newspaper, send some numbers and post them with a cheque for £2.50 to claim my ‘free’ tin. I was aggrieved … especially since I had just forked out over £400 on a new pair of glasses!
UPDATE from MailOnline 10 August 2014
X-ray images of unopened cardboard box reveal treasure trove of First World War Christmas gift tins sent by Royal Family to British soldiers fighting in the trenches 100 years ago … click HERE for more on this story.
The resurrection of the ‘Royal Christmas Box’ has been enhanced with the addition of extra material