The Mystery of the Princess Mary tin

Discussion in 'British Army' started by Bay Horse, May 23, 2021.

  1. Bay Horse

    Bay Horse Can be a bit of a dark horse

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    I have a brass Princess Mary tin, which is a lovely thing to own. It was inside a locked wooden box belonging to my father-in-law, with a handful of other precious things - photos of his mother, telegrams etc.

    I don't know who it belonged to. It is possible that it may have been picked up in a junk shop for a few pounds, but given where it was located and the other contents found within, I think it has sentimental value.

    There are a lot of Princess Mary tins in circulation - there are hundreds for sale on eBay. They were intended to be distributed on Christmas Day 1914 to soldiers and sailors of the British armed forces, and I think contained tobacco, sweets and so on.

    Dad-in-law (John Frederick) was born into a farming family in 1922. His father didn't serve in the Great War and neither did his paternal uncle; they both stayed working on the farm. On his mother's side, one uncle served with the Australian army, having emigrated just before the war. The other uncles remained working on the farm apart from one, Fred, who was called up under the Derby Scheme in 1917 and killed in action right at the end of the war. My father-in-law's mother was close to this particular brother and named Next of Kin on his army records. Given that the box also contains postcards and Christmas cards to his sister in Flanders, I would have thought that the tin was Fred's - but, he didn't get called up until 1917.

    Was it just 1914, or were such tins given out every Christmas? o_O

    Princess Mary tin.jpg
     
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  2. AnnB

    AnnB Editor in Chief who is Hot off the Press!

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    I have a feeling that the tins started being distributed for Christmas 1914 but ended up still being handed out throughout the war. I’ve got one here (somewhere) which belonged to one of my father in law’s uncles, and he didn’t join up until the end of 1915.
     
  3. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Sorry wont insert for some reason... from Australian War Memorial....
    All British, colonial and Indian soldiers and sailors who WERE SERVING on Christmas Day 1914 were eligible...over 460,000 were distributed. However the difficulties of manufacturing over 2.5 million tins meant that tins were still being received in 1920. Tins sent out after Christmas Day 1914 contained a victorious new year greeting instead of a Christmas card.
    As our men were still British they got them too.
     
  4. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Found a little more on these boxes. Princess Mary Gift Fund Box.
    ‘afterwards, with the fund in surplus and many feeling left out, distribution was extended more widely to ALL who were serving, whether at home or abroad and to prisoners of war and the next of kin of 1914 casualties. This widened eligibility to an estimated figure of 2,620,019.
    Which is where the 2.5 million seems to come from.
    I think the reference to 1914 casualties could mean WW1 casualties so it could have been sent to Uncle Fred’s NoK
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2021
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  5. Bay Horse

    Bay Horse Can be a bit of a dark horse

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    Sorry, Sue - I missed the word 'Empire'. :oops:

    That would certainly work. o_O

    Also, could it have come from the older brother (whose name is on a plaque at Wagga Wagga as having served), but there is no close link there.

    I don't know. It's a nice thing to be able to pass down, but I just wish I could say to whom it had belonged.
     
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  6. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Colonial covers everyone else....
    :)
     
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