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The Princess Mary’s Sailor’s and Soldier’s Christmas Fund

Her Royal Highness the Princess Mary’s Sailor’s and Soldier’s Christmas Fund was inaugurated on 14 October 1914, when Princess Mary (later Princess Royal) issued an appeal to the public for funds in order that a Christmas gift might be sent to all the soldiers and sailors at the front on  Christmas Day 1914.  A committee, under the chairmanship of the Duke of Devonshire and including Winston Churchill and Lord Kitchener, was set up to assist Princess Mary.  In  November 1914 it was decided to extend the scheme so that everyone who was wearing the  King’s uniform on Christmas Day 1914 should receive a gift. The distribution of the gifts was as follows:

Navy:  255,271


France and Belgium 355,716

Wounded (France and at home) 89,165

POWs and Internees 18,030

 Next of kin 5,000

 French Mission 4,600

Troops at Home (including Dominion and Colonial Troops) 1,337,889


India  294,000

Canada  70,000

Australia   53,300

South Africa   42,647

New Zealand  19,915

 Colonies   72,086

 Nurses:   1,500

The Standard gift consisted of an embossed brass box, one ounce of pipe tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a pipe, a tinder lighter, a Christmas card and a signed photograph of Princess Mary. A non-smoker’s gift was also produced, which replaced the smoker’s requisites with a packet of acid tablets, a khaki writing case with stationery, and a “bullet” pencil. Other gifts were assembled for Indian troops of various religions, which included sugar candy and spices.

Due to wartime difficulties gifts were still being distributed as late as April 1919. In May of that year the fund was wound up and surplus monies were transferred to Queen Mary’s Maternity Home.

         Princess Mary presented specimens of the gifts to the Imperial War Museum, together with the dies of the embossed lid of the brass box, the proof box and lid.  Further specimens of the gift were presented to local museums throughout Great Britain and the Empire.

For a more complete history of the fund, see the following article:

A Gift for Christmas: The story of Princess Mary’s Gift Fund,  1914 Dianna Condell   The Imperial War Museum Review, NO 4, 1989.