Princess Mary’s gift box, 1914

I want you now to help me to send a Christmas present from the whole of the nation to every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front. I am sure that we should all be happier to feel that we had helped to send our little token of love and sympathy on Christmas morning, something that would be useful and of permanent value, and the making of which may be the means of providing employment in trades adversely affected by the war. Could there be anything more likely to hearten them in their struggle than a present received straight from home on Christmas Day?

Please will you help me?

This was the public plea from Princess Mary who launched the Christmas Gift Fund, aged 17 that was to send 498,000 embossed brass boxes to those serving in the First World War. Designed by Messrs Adshead and Ramsay, the embossed brass box formed the principal feature of the gift although each was filled with various items.

Items could include tobacco, cigarettes, a pipe and tinder light for smokers or sweets and chocolates for non-smokers. Other small gifts were included, such as a bullet pencil. Most tins included a Christmas card from ‘Princess Mary and Friends at home’ and a photograph of the Princess.

This box is on display in the World War 1 case in Gallery 5.