Thursday 8 December 2016

Royal tin gift worth its weight in gold

Greg Harkin

Published 17/12/2011 | 05:00

IT is a tiny Christmas gift. But for those who received it during World War One, it was a welcome boost.

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Now a little tin box sent by Princess Mary to an Irish soldier for Christmas 1914 has been found intact and donated to a museum.

Lieutenant Corporal Andrew Alexander Andrews was one of thousands of Irish soldiers who received a small tin as battles raged in the trenches of France.

Inside the little tin box was a Christmas card, a small tin of tobacco and a picture of the princess with the message: "Merry Christmas and a Victorious New Year."

Lieut Corp Andrews, from Dunfanaghy in Co Donegal, was later seriously wounded in the Battle of the Somme in No Man's Land on July 1, 1916. He crawled back to Allied lines two days later and returned to Ireland.

Caroline Carr, the curator of the Donegal County Museum, was gobsmacked when the box was handed in by Lieut Corp Andrews's daughters.

"The brass embossed tins were sent out to the front by Princess Mary, who was the daughter of George V," said Ms Carr.

"The contents were different for each tin, and it is incredible that the contents of this one are in perfect condition. Obviously we are delighted to get it.

"The family wanted it preserved for future generations to see it."

The tins -- measuring 13cm by 8cm so they could fit into a soldier's uniform pocket -- were sent to 350,000 serving soldiers as World War One entered its first Christmas.

They were paid for by a public appeal in Britain and Ireland that raised £200,000. The box and its items will go on display at the museum in Letterkenny in the new year.

Irish Independent

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