Tobacco tin issued as a Royal gift to members of the British, Colonial and Indian Armed Forces for Christmas 1914. This is the officer's tin, made of silver, all other ranks received brass boxes.
The tobacco tin belonged to Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Frederick Batchelar from Fitzherbert near Palmerston North. He was a member of the then New Zealand Mounted Rifles, 6th Manawatu Regiment during World War One, 1914 to 1918. This tobacco tin was a gift to the troops at Christmas 1914. Princess Mary, featured in profile on the tin, was the daughter of King George V and Queen Mary.
The website kinnethmont.co.uk notes: "In November 1914, an advertisement was placed in the national press inviting monetary contributions to a 'Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund' which had been created by Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone wearing the King's uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a 'gift from the nation'.
The response was truly overwhelming, and it was decided to spend the money on an embossed brass box... The contents varied considerably; officers and men on active service afloat 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....
The wounded on leave or in hospital, nurses, and the widows or parents of those killed were also entitled to the gift. Prisoners of war at the time had theirs reserved until they were repatriated.
Great efforts were made to distribute the gifts in time for Christmas, and huge demands were made on an already stretched postal service. More than 355,000 were successfully delivered by the deadline. As time pressed on, a shortage of brass meant that many entitled personnel did not receive their gift until as late as the summer of 1916, and in January 1919 it was reported that 'considerable' numbers had still not been distributed...
When the fund finally closed in 1920, almost £200,000 had been donated for the provision of more than two and a half million boxes with contents."