The Princess Mary Gift Fund box, intended as a Christmas present for troops and paid for by public contribtions, was an embossed brass box , approximately 5” x 3” (13 x 8 cm) and contained tobacco, cigarettes, a pipe, lighter and pencil and paper for writing home to loved ones.
All boxes included a Christmas card and a photo of the Princess. Not only front line personnel received the box, also the wounded on leave, nurses and the widows or parents of those killed were entitled to the gift.
The lid depicted the head of Princess Mary surrounded by a laurel wreath and flanked by the letter ‘M’, a cartouche with the words ‘Imperium Britannicum’ and sword and scabbard either side. Lower down on the box another cartouche contained the words ‘Christmas 1914’, etchings of battleships forging through heavy seas and roundels with the names of the Allies at the edges. Finally a copy of King George V’s greeting “May God protect you and bring you safely home” was included.
After much discussion it was agreed that non-smokers should receive an alternate box containing a packet of acid tablets, a khaki writing case containing pencil, paper and envelopes together with the photograph and Christmas card. It was also considered that the tastes of minority groups should be taken into account apart from the Gurkhas who were gifted the original box, Sikhs had a box filled with sugar candy, a tin of spices and the card, as did all other Indian troops, though a packet of cigarettes were added to some. Authorised camp followers, the ‘Bhistis’ received a tin of spices and the card. The smokers and non-smokers gifts were deemed unacceptable for nurses at the front on France who instead received the box with a packet of chocolates and the card.