Tag Archives: South Africa

All Over By Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Squamous Cthulhumas, or whatever other mid-winter holiday you celebrate!

Here’s a bit of family Christmas history to share. I might well have shown this off here on the the Warbard in the past, but I’m half-full of eggnog and can’t be arsed to search my own blog again on this Christmas Eve.

A relative’s World War One Princess Mary’s gift tin from Christmas 1914.

A South African relative was on the Western Front in France from Autumn 1914 onward, arriving as part of the first South African infantry contingent sent to France. These tins were the brainchild of the then-teenage Princess Mary, and sent out by the thousands to troops in France. James Elliot van der Reit was killed in action in April 1918, having survived nearly the whole of the Great War.

The tin must been returned to his family in South Africa, and was passed on to me a few years ago as part of the cleanup of my late grandmother’s house. You can see more notes and a larger version of the photo if you click on the photo and go to my Flickr account.

I was reminded of my tin (which usually lives tucked under my computer monitor) by a BBC News story about the tin boxes of gifts still sent to British troops; these Princess Mary tins were the first of what has become a standing tradition for the British military.