Princess Mary’s Tommy Tins were designed and ready to be shipped to the Tommies in the Trenches a hundred years ago, but they were never sent. Some of the tins contained cigarettes, sweets and a pencil for the men to write back home with but the soldiers never received them, and the packs instead stayed in the country. Until now.
Over the weekend during the Chalke Valley History Festival in Salisbury, the unopened packs were unwrapped by Lady Emma Kitchener, the Great-Great Niece of Lord Kitchener, whose face adorned the famous British war recruitment posters. The tins that she opened were found in Ireland where they were part of a private collection of Great War memorabilia.
It all began when Princess Mary, daughter of King George V, started a Sailors and Soldiers Christmas Fund in November 1914 to give those wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 a ‘gift from the nation’. The tins came with a note saying ‘With best wishes for a victorious New Year from the Princess Mary and friends at home.’ However, it was expected that the war would be over as early as 1915.
Speaking of her task in opening the tins, Lady Emma Kitchener said ‘It was really extraordinary – a really, really moving experience, and I was tremendously honoured, and humbled actually, at doing such a thing. The smell as I opened them was a mixture of sawdust and damp.’