Why was the charity formed?
The very first Christmas Box was the idea of Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. Princess Mary wanted to send a ‘gift from the Nation’ to all wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914.
In November 1914, an advertisement in the national press invited contributions for a ‘Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund’. There was an overwhelming response, and the money raised was used to provide an embossed brass box, with a variety of contents. For officers and men on active service afloat or at the front the box contained a pipe, lighter, 1oz of tobacco and 20 cigarettes. Non-smokers and boys received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets. There were also boxes for Indian troops, who received sweets and spices, and nurses were sent chocolate. Some of the items had to be sent separately from the box itself, for lack of space.
More than 355,000 gifts were successfully delivered in time for Christmas, but as time went on there was a shortage of brass and some did not receive their box until as late as summer 1916. Even in January 1919, a ‘considerable number’ had still not been distributed.
The fund finally closed in 1920, by which time almost £200,000 had been donated to provide more than two and a half million boxes with contents.
The present day Christmas Box!
Inspired by Princess Mary’s Christmas Box, 18,000 boxes were distributed in 2004 and were designed to be the same size as the standard 24 hour Operational Ration Packs so that they could use spare irreducible capacity, and avoid any extra distribution costs to the tax payer.
Each box contained a camera, toiletries, foodstuffs, a greetings card and other products to make Christmas more fun for our service people away from their families. The 2004 "Box" contained 22 items.
The 2004 box was originally a one-off idea, but proved so popular that it was decided to set up a registered charity to continue sending the boxes each Christmas.
What exactly will you find inside these boxes?
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