Similar items over time

Tin - Princess Mary's Christmas Gift, 1914 Object Reg. No: HT 24112

Decorative brass tin sent by Princess Mary to members of the British, Colonial and Indian Armed Forces for Christmas 1914. Over 426,000 of these tins were distributed to those serving on Christmas Day 1914. The tins were filled with various items including tobacco, confectionary, spices, pencils, a Christmas card and a picture of the princess.

The idea was the initiative of Princess Mary, the 17-year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. Princess Mary organised a public appeal which raised the funds to ensure that 'every Sailor afloat and every Soldier at the front' received a Christmas present. Due to the strong public support for the gift, which saw £162,591 12s 5d raised, the eligibility for the gift was widened to include every person 'wearing the King's uniform on Christmas Day 1914', about 2,620,019 servicemen and women.

The large number of people who were to receive the gift made it impossible to manufacture, supply and distribute the gifts by Christmas Day 1914. So recipients were divided into three classes:

Class A (received the gift on or near Christmas Day): comprised the Navy, including minesweepers and dockyard officials, and troops at the Front in France, the wounded in hospitals and men on furlough, prisoners and men interned (for whom the gift was reserved), members of the French Mission with the Expeditionary Force, nurses at the Front in France and the widows or parents of those who had been killed.
Class B: all British, Colonial and Indian troops serving outside the British Isles, who were not provided for in Class A.
Class C: all troops in the British Isles

Class B and C gifts were not sent out until January 1915, they contained a Happy New Year card. Having used or consumed the contents, servicemen and women then used the tins to carry other small items.

During World War I, Princess Mary visited hospitals and welfare organizations with her mother, assisting with projects to give comfort to British servicemen and assistance to their families.
Rectangular tin with hinged lid. Lid is embossed with profile portrait of a young female (Princess Mary) in the centre surrounded by a wreath. The letter "M" is embossed on either side of the wreath in cursive script. A decorative border around the lid contains the words "Imperium Britannicum" at the top and "Christmas 1914" at the bottom. The corners and sides contain the names of Britain's allies between decorations of flags, ships and weapons. The lid does not fully close.
Acquisition Information:
Donation from Unknown
Discipline: History
Dimensions: 37 mm (Height), 125 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: world war i 1914-1918, australians at war, military memorabilia, colonial military forces, christmas celebrations, christmas, defence forces, militaria british, militaria new zealand, ht 24112, old, 1914, bsa m20, price of tin now un india, price of tin, price of tin with tobacco inside, value of the princess mary s christmas gift, name, soldiers comforts
Themes this item is part of: Public Life & Institutions Collection
Primary Classification: MILITARY HISTORY
Secondary Classification: Souvenirs & Mementoes
Tertiary Classification: containers
Inscriptions: 'BELGIUM', 'IMPERIUM BRITANNICUM', 'JAPAN', 'RUSSIA', 'MONTENEGRO', 'CHRISTMAS 1914', 'SERVIA', 'FRANCE'. The letter 'M' is inscribed twice, one on each side of the Princess Mary profile.
Date of Event: 25 Dec 1914

These tins were sent to British, Colonial, and Indian soldiers and sailors for Christmas Day 1914
Issued By: Princess Mary, England, Great Britain, 1914


Marilyn Powell Posted on 28 Dec 2010 2:15 PM
I am sitting looking at my tin. It must have been given to my grandfather. He was english and fought in WWI. It is dated 1914 and is one of the few reminders I have of that side of my family. Thanks for the memory.
Marina Roylance Posted on 23 Jul 2011 12:37 AM
Hi I have one of these tins from my grandfather and now I know the history thanks .
Vikas Singh Posted on 12 Feb 2012 1:00 AM
Hi this is Vikas singh from India,I have one of these tins,i am very happy about the history.
Maung Muang Than Posted on 26 Jun 2012 7:06 AM
I have my grandpa one who had served in British Army (Supply) in Mandalay, Burma. The color is dark chocolate. No polish and no chemical treatment have done.
My Mom passed it to me as hand-me-down things before she passed away in 2010.
Avril Smith South Africa Posted on 12 Aug 2012 6:49 PM
my granddaughter is doing an oral at school on the tin, which came from my grandfather, so it has spanned 5 generations. Thank you for advising us of the history.
absaheb ghorpade venegaon Posted on 13 Aug 2012 12:26 AM
Hi this is abasaheb ghorpade from india maharashtra state satara distric village venegaon .I have one of these tins. I am veryhappy about this history. l have my grandpa one who had served in british army in first world war.
David Boddice Posted on 20 Aug 2012 8:03 PM
Thank you for the history of The Princess Mary tin.
I have recently had my grandfathers tin passed on to me and knew nothing of its history. Knowing this makes it even more special.
adele pentony-graham Posted on 22 Oct 2012 11:51 AM
I was so lucky, I managed to buy one of the lovely Princess Mary Christmas Box in an antique shop here in New Zealand. greatly admired, love saying the history off it to folk who had no idea about them.. I heard of one for sale in England, complete, just imagine with the original contents in it..
allan danforth Posted on 17 Jan 2013 5:06 PM
I found this tin in a hidden compartment in my floor boards of my home when I was repairing the floor ,Thanks so much for the history , I often wondered the full representation of this tin .
Roze south Africa Posted on 01 Mar 2013 6:42 PM
I have one of these tins. It belonged to my grandfather. My child is doing a full history oral today. Thank you for information
Daniel Posted on 14 Mar 2013 2:47 AM
I have one of these tins with the new year card signalling its a class B or C tin. However, inside there is a cardboard insert with a odd looking Bullet which has the 'M' stamped on the side. Any information on that?
Brian Posted on 17 Mar 2013 12:22 AM
Daniel, the bullet held a small pencil inside which my tin still has. Not sure of origin of mine, though it was a gift from my father
Charlene Daviau Posted on 22 Mar 2013 10:50 PM
I have my Grandfather's tin
(empy). Glad to know the history.
Ontario, Canada
ian lock Posted on 01 Apr 2013 3:36 AM
I have two of these tins one is complete the other empty. Holding these tins which are nearly 100 years old makes me so proud. they gave up so much for us, god bless them all.
Brian Posted on 05 Apr 2013 7:44 PM
My grandfather was given the gifts in 1914, he was a regular soldier.
He kept every item and had them framed after the war,cigarettes,tobacco,pipe,cards and tin.I was given this by him it's amazing that it's survived almost a 100 years
Geoff Posted on 12 May 2013 7:56 PM
Mine belonged to my grandfather who served in France as a driver. He would never be drawn into discussion of his war service so this little piece of the puzzle is appreciated.
John Hislop Posted on 30 May 2013 3:00 PM
I had my Grandfather Andrew Hislop Snr's tin. We use it to keep his medals in. It has now been passed on to Andrew Hislop Jr, my son and used many times in school projects.
Gail Posted on 07 Jul 2013 10:08 PM
I have my Grandfather's tin that he got while serving in France. Thanks for giving the history of it.
Trudy Crew Posted on 07 Aug 2013 8:37 AM
I have the complete set,all still intact as my great uncle Guardsman Ernest Dowden was killed in action before he received the gift. It was returned with his belongings to my great grandmother who had it framed with his photograph. I am in the process of donating it to the Guards Museum in London.
George A Wakeling Posted on 09 Aug 2013 8:34 AM
I have my Dad's and he was the army in France and wounded there. He told me about the tin and said he loved the tobacco. It now has his medals and ribbons plus hid WW 2 Navy info.
Wyong R.S.L.Sub -Branch (Showcase) Posted on 15 Sep 2013 1:28 PM
we have one ,still has message from Princess
Mary and the bullet,but no pencil in it ,has personal dog tags and photos also
Dean Posted on 04 Oct 2013 2:53 PM
I retrieved one of these tins in Afghanistan. It was in a resident house that was cleared of its occupants
chris Posted on 06 Oct 2013 6:14 AM
My tin was given to me by my grandfather when I was a boy. It belonged to his father who served in France and survived the war. I am a smoker, and I use the tin for my tobacco and carry it everywhere. I get lots of comments and questions about it and love telling folk the history. Our heroes will never be forgotten.
Eddie Posted on 09 Oct 2013 7:34 AM
I have my grandfathers tin just passed down to me from my fater. It is a Christmas frontline tin complete with tobacco ciggarettes pipe and card,photo and envelope. Its history and I'm so proud to have it.
Andrew Posted on 04 Nov 2013 3:26 PM
@Daniel, I've recently done a little research on the pencil included in the Princess Mary Gift Box, you can see it here:

Thank you Museum Victoria for such a detailed description of the Princess Mary Tins. They were such a unique item.
Rian Rademeyer Posted on 20 Nov 2013 10:26 PM
I kept my small screwdrivers in the tin and saw the Christmas 1914 inscription and googled it. Must have belonged to my wife's grandad who fought at Delville Wood. Thanks for the info.
Dave Dunn Posted on 24 Nov 2013 2:12 AM
My Grandfather left Clinton Massachusetts to be a Red Cross Ambulance Driver in France in WWI. He was a devoted pipe smoker and kept the tin filled for as long as he lived It was passed on to me almost 40 years ago. We treasure it.
Robert Andreason Posted on 13 Dec 2013 12:21 PM
We own the full pack of smokes, tobacco, and card from the princess. 1914 .
Mike Simpson Posted on 29 Dec 2013 1:48 AM
I have this tin. It was my grandfather's. Inside is the 'victorious new year' card. Also inside is a single brass rifle bullet in a cardboard holder that was made to fit the tin exactly. Is this usual?
Discovery Centre Posted on 30 Dec 2013 1:54 PM
Museum Victoria Comment
Hi Mike - if you have a look at the comments above, it seems likely that your bullet contains the bullet pencil mentioned by other collectors. See also the Australian War Memorial site for more examples of these tins and their contents.
sara turnage Posted on 06 Jan 2014 3:08 AM
[i have a brass tin and also, a silver one. where did the silver one come from? what is the difference since the silver one was not mentioned. thanks, sara
Paul Wiggins Posted on 19 Jan 2014 9:55 AM
Our tin is displayed at our house in Toronto, Canada - passed on to me through the family
Ron Teasdale Posted on 25 Jan 2014 8:24 AM
I found one of these boxes in my office on in an old office building at my first job in 1969, for many years I thought it was a candy box but today I discovered it could of contained other things. I think at one time Building used to be owned by Robertson Candies on Queen Street east in Toronto, thank you so much for the information I found here
Rita Lyons Posted on 02 Feb 2014 12:02 PM
I have a Princess Mary Christmas card and picture, the card has come apart but is still recognisable after 100 years
soxyfoxy Posted on 26 Feb 2014 6:25 AM
found this box whilst having a sort out.So glad i found this website.Now i know what it is will treasure it as it belonged to my great grandfather..
Jamie Noble-Lewis Posted on 21 Apr 2014 5:09 AM
I have just been going through belongings left to me by my late grandfather, This was his fathers ( my great grandads box ) He was a non smoker as it has the bullet pencil with original pencil still, ID tag ( G.RALPHS. CofE 49589RCA )I have a picture of Princess Mary & King George which is signed, along with the "M" card wishing them happy Christmas and prosperous new year. I have two of these boxes one with all of the above and another with a spent cartridge which we believe was the bullet that killed his friend and he was given the box to keep. Great to see this history and how they are still being talked about 100 years on!
John Parr Posted on 28 Apr 2014 7:53 PM
I have inherited my great grandfather's Princess Mary tin from 1914. It has been lovingly polished and treasured by my Dad for many years. Now I'm a proud. owner.
John Davis Posted on 15 Jun 2014 2:44 AM
I have one of these tins - Christmas 1914 - which was given to my uncle who served in the British Expeditionary Force and then in the Royal Army Service Corps. His main function was to provide foraging for the horses. My father was also at the front serving at the Somme and Ypres and another Uncle was in the Royal Engineers. All three brothers returned safely and all had front line experience. I have wondered about the tin and am grateful I know now what it is and how it was used. It will form part of a display I am giving at our local Parish Church to commemorate the 100th Ann. of WW1. I also have several items of my fathers - new testament - letter from the CO on demobilization - engraved shell cases - photos taken at Ypres, postcards, and several other items.
Gerrard Boyle Posted on 25 Jun 2014 4:03 AM
I found a tin like this during an excavation in Camden town, London. It contained a bullet pencil and a brass implement which contains a hook shaped pin like for darning or the like and other pins which slide out, also a leather pouch.
I am interested in finding out who may have owned it.
Divesh Dubey Posted on 28 Jun 2014 4:39 AM
Hey, I m Divesh Dubey from India I have one of these tin cans I am having from a very long time it is such a great. Pleasure having this price of history..
M.David Thier Posted on 29 Jul 2014 7:53 AM
I have had one for years and converted it into a pipe ashtray. I glued a cutdown champagne cork inside and the lid keeps the "aroma" contained. I feel a little guilty about its use as an ashtray, but it is after all a utilitarian object and it reminds me daily of the horrors, futility and sometimes necessity of war. Something like smoking itself.....
bruce wayne sanderson Posted on 30 Jul 2014 8:28 AM
thanks for information the tin I have is going in a museum i am making in totara north new zealand
Debbie Clements Posted on 10 Aug 2014 12:42 AM
Mine was issued to my grandfather who was a bren gun operator at both the somme and passchendaele
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 7:34 AM
i am compiling information for a booklet on the 'mary tin' together with a price guide
does anyone have information as to the description of the spices issued to commonwealth troops and what the spices were contained in. foil etc?
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 7:37 AM
i am compiling a booklet and price guide to the 'mary tin' does anyone know which tobacco companies wrapped and packed the cigarettes.
was the chocolate milk or dark chocolate. what colour and shape were the acid drop sweets in the wrapper. how many different companies beside de la rue were involved in printing the wrappers there may be more than one type?
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 7:40 AM
i am compiling a booklet complete with price guide for the 100 cent of the 'mary tin'
my research has many holes as information is scant. for instance how many pipes were issued with the 'm' stamped on it ( only 4 examples known) how many different colours of pencil were issued. as well as aspreys and harrods which other major companies were involved in producing gifts. what did the scissors and sewing kit consist of were they stamped with the m logo? any information from original tins would be of great assistance
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 7:42 AM
i am compiling a booklet complete with price guide for the 100th cent of the mary tin
any information from previous posted comments would be greatly appreciated
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 7:51 AM
i have now privatly printed my booklet about the 'mary tin' for the 100th cent, i am about to publish a 1st revised edition as so much information is coming to light, please contine to send info to my comment above with e mail attached. if u have a bullit pencil can u tell me what letters numbers are stamped to base. most have k14 . if yours has any scissors or sewing implements enclosed can u give details please do any have the m and crown stamped on them.
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 7:53 AM
does anyone have the tinder lighter? can u tell me the exact length and diameter of the orange cord attached? only comment if yours has the m logo on the tin top please.
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 7:55 AM
does anyone still have a tin retaining the writing paper? if so how many sheets, was it in a gummed pad or seperate sheets?
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 7:56 AM
does anyone know if smoking was allowed on board royal navy ships in ww1?
peter chilton Posted on 25 Aug 2014 8:00 AM
does anyone know how servicemen received their gift. documentary evidence only please. did they line up and were asked smoker or non smoker for instance, or was their a form to fill in or did service men swap once box opened?
Gayle Laird Loisel Posted on 12 Oct 2014 6:18 AM
Had this tin for a long time. Finally decided to look it up. My grandfather must have received it from serving in WWl he was from Scotland, Orkney.
robert yung Posted on 04 Nov 2014 9:54 AM
I am very proud to have one of these boxes in as good as new condition ; gift to me by Ernie Swanson , Bulyea Sask. who serviced in The Boor war and World War1 ; will never forget this man.
Pippa Hurley Posted on 12 Nov 2014 4:15 PM
I am attempting to buy one of these tins to add to a group of photos of an exhibition at Harewood House that I recently saw, of the story of the tin. Amongst these items displayed,is the letter sent to the artist capturing the princess' likeness,that is featured on the tin,thanking him. I really do hope that I succeed in getting one, as this will really add to the collection of photos, that I will be giving to my most cherished and best friend, the artists nephew, Mr Kenneth Simpson, for Christmas. I will let you know if I succeed, on this forum.
Pippa Hurley Posted on 13 Nov 2014 5:52 AM
GOT ONE!! Very pleased to report that I have been able to purchase a very good specimen, with Xmas card and hand written note included. Yay!!
M Bilal Hanif Posted on 15 Nov 2014 6:18 PM
I have also one of it in good condition, recieved from grand mother of my other,who lived in India. Our forefathers served British army.
Gowthami V Posted on 19 Nov 2014 5:40 AM
excited to see the history of this tin........ feeling great to have it in my hands....
Byju J R Posted on 30 Nov 2014 6:20 PM
I picked up one from a cigarette vendor who was using it as a cash box. In pretty good shape. Now I know the history of it. Cherish it.
Diana Lauder Sacks Posted on 12 Dec 2014 11:55 AM
This box was handed down in my family from my grandfather who served in the British Army in India and served in operations in China and Africa. I had it for years but, sadly, sometime in the past 30 years with various moves it was either lost or stolen. I have other mementos of my grandfather including his deed box, Boer War sovereign, some porcelain and a "Batman Box" made of porcupine quills. But, I miss the little box and its history which I knew about. If I find another one somewhere I will gladly purchase it.
Diana Lauder Sacks Posted on 12 Dec 2014 11:59 AM
I just noticed the comment by Peter Chilton regarding the bullet pencil. My tin also had a bullet pencil and one of my sons remembers it. Sadly, again this was lost or stolen along with the tin in which it usually stayed.
Anu Malhotra Posted on 25 Dec 2014 8:06 PM
I saw Queen's Christmas live telecast today(2014) and realise that I have a piece of history passed down to me. Henceforth, I have passed on to my daughter. Amazing, how I feel a part of the history.
Kavita Singh Kale Posted on 26 Dec 2014 2:09 AM
I was organizing a couple of things in my house and ended up reading the details on this box. It was a coincidence that 1914 Christmas was marked on it. The box was given to my great-grandfather who was a part of World War 1 & 2 and I am eager to hand this over to my daughter.
Trevor Hayes Posted on 29 Dec 2014 5:01 AM
I have four tins, only one has contents - the card. Memories.
frank andrews Posted on 04 Jan 2015 7:59 PM
this container was given to me by my father.i am glad I did some research on it.
Sai sharath Posted on 09 Jan 2015 2:54 AM
I have the tin. It belonged to my grandfather but didn't realise what it was until I read an article in the Bangalore mirror.
bruce barlin Posted on 28 Mar 2015 2:37 PM
I found one of these Xmas 1014 tins complete with packet of cigarettes and packet of tobacco, princess Mary card and photo, telegram advising soldier (assume tin owner) died of wounds. Bill from war graves commision 1/3 for extra wording on tombstone
ron porter Posted on 22 Apr 2015 2:50 PM
my family has one of these tins in England.
my great granddad kept his bible in it gurring the war. he was shot and the bullet logged in the bible saving him
shakti Posted on 24 Apr 2015 8:05 PM
i m from India .i also have one of this tin , its my grandfather's tin , i m so happy ,
Jackie Jarvisto Posted on 22 May 2015 4:25 PM
I am lucky enough to have one of these tins in good condition. Has the picture and cigs and tobacco but no bullet pencil. It was given to me by my father and would have belonged to his father who was killed in the first world war. I treasure it.
Derek Golding Posted on 06 Jun 2015 6:07 PM
I've been facebooking my Grandfather's war diary and the entry for Sunday 6th of June states:
"Arrived in harbour at 7.30. Hands to muster by the open list to receive Princess Mary’s gifts. A very nice suitable present. 9 p.m. Left Mafia Island for Z."
Obviously Class B took some time to reach the Cape Station!
LJ Moore Posted on 29 Jun 2015 10:36 AM
I just found this tin while cleaning out my deceased mother-in-laws estate. She had it full of plastic bingo chips. I dumped them but kept the box and am just know realizing the history behind it. Her parents came from Italy. I would love to know the history behind it from her point but unfortunately it's too late. Although I would like to know it's value ... it truly is priceless.
Estelle Chisholm Posted on 08 Jul 2015 2:24 AM
I purchased the box several years ago from an antique dealer who visits England twice a year and brings back wonderful smalls and some furniture. I found the Princess Mary in the store and treasure it as I am an "Anglophile" in heart. The box contains the Christmas greeting, but the date on it is not 1914, but 1915. I am confused by this as I thought the box was sent out on Christmas 1914. Were more cards printed in 1915?
Estelle Chisholm Posted on 08 Jul 2015 2:29 AM
I just reread the description of the disbursement of the Princess Mary box and found that my box and card were distributed to Class B and C servicemen who then received the box on New Years with the card giving that individual a "Happy New Year" greeting; thus the year 1915 on the card.

Add your comment

  • Museum Victoria does not provide valuations, for more information please visit the valuation infosheet
  • Please note that Museum Victoria staff will not normally respond to comments posted on our website.


This item is part of the following themes:

Similar items

Yes No