On 14th October 1914, the seventeen-year-old Princess Mary, the third child and only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, launched the Christmas Gift Fund, with the aim of sending a personal Christmas gift to each soldier and sailor fighting for Britain. As she explained in a letter released by Buckingham Palace, the gifts would be 'something that would be useful and of permanent value'. Fundraising proved a great success and approximately £162,591 was raised, most of which came from small individual donations from members of the public.
The brass boxes were designed by Messrs Adshead and Ramsey, and were embossed with a profile portrait of Princess Mary. They each contained one ounce of pipe tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a pipe and a tinder lighter, as well as a Christmas card from the King and Queen and a photograph of the Princess. Alternative gifts were sent to non-smokers and nurses.
For more information, please visit the Imperial War Museum website.