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WORLD WAR ONE PRINCESS MARY 1914 GIFT BOX:  In November 1914 donations were solicited from the public to finance a “Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund” which had been founded by Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide British and Commonwealth soldiers and sailors who were serving overseas on Christmas Day, 1914 with a small remembrance of the day and of their service.  The response was truly overwhelming, and these embossed brass boxes were created, based on a design by Messrs Adshead and Ramsey. Officers and men on active service at sea 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.  All boxes, irrespective of recipient, contained a Christmas card and a picture of the Princess. Those which were not distributed until after Christmas were sent out with a card wishing the recipient a “Victorious New Year”.

Made of sheet brass, the box measures approximately 5" long by 3¼" wide by 1" deep with a double-skinned, hinged, lid. The surface of the lid bears the likeness of Princess Mary surrounded by a laurel wreath and with the Princess’s “M” monogram on each side.  At the top, a decorative cartouche contains the words 'Imperium Britannicum' with a sword and scabbard either side. On the lower edge, an oval bears the words 'Christmas 1914', superimposed over a battleship making way in heavy seas. Along the sides there are small circles bearing the names of the Allies: Belgium, France, Japan, Montenegro,  Servia and Russia, superimposed on three furled flags.  The box is full form, and while showing some signs of handling and age, there are no severe dents nor any damage.  Included with this box is a reprint of the 1915 “Victorious New Year” wishes card that was delivered with the boxes during the war.

It is interesting to note that due to the demands for brass to support the war effort, the shortage of brass resulted in many of these boxes being distributed as late as the summer of 1916.  Orders for sheet brass were placed with companies in the United States which had not yet entered the war, and reportedly, a large quantity of this brass was lost with the sinking of the Lusitania.   As the war progressed and the demand for brass increased with the continued production of weapons and munitions, the quality of the boxes which were manufactured late in the war was poor, being made of a plated lesser quality alloy, as compared to these earlier pure brass specimens.  

This is a very attractive memento of the Great War and one of the earlier surviving examples of the efforts of the people at home to provide comfort and support for the service personnel at the front.   (0372)  $55



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