First World War Christmas gift on sale at fair

A Christmas gift for First World War front line troops has gone on sale.

Exhibitor Jo Brayshaw holds a 1930s wall mask by John Douglas

The cigarettes and tobacco, which were given to soldiers on the front line in France in 1914, are among an array of treasures on sale at Yorkshire’s major spring antiques event, The Pavilions of Harrogate Antiques & Fine Art Fair, which opened yesterday (Friday).

Princess Mary, the 17-year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, was behind the gift campaign.

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The young royal organised a public appeal which raised funds to ensure that ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front’ received a Christmas present.

Due to the strong public support, which saw £162,591 12s 5d raised, the eligibility for the gift was widened to include every person ‘wearing the King’s uniform on Christmas Day 1914’ - about 2,620,019 servicemen and women.

It came in the form of a highly decorated tin box containing cigarettes and tobacco and a Christmas card from the Princess.

Duncan Phillips, spokesman for the fair, said: “In the year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, the present offers the opportunity for collectors to acquire a rare item of military history at an affordable price.”

The lid is embossed with a profile portrait of Princess Mary surrounded by a wreath.

Mr Phillips said the opening day of the fair had been the busiest in three years.

He added: “Things are improving. We have lived through some tough times with the recession and now the sun is shining on us at last.”