Selected by Kate O’Brien, Archives Services Manager


Princess Mary’s tobacco tin, in the collection of Field Marshal Sir John Dill. These brass tins were sent to all service personnel on the Western Front and in the Navy, December 1914. The scheme was the idea of Princess Mary, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The public appeal for funds was so successful that in 1915 tins were also sent to all British, Colonial and Indian troops outside the British Isles, then all troops in the British Isles. This particular tin contains its original packet of loose tobacco, cigarettes, Christmas card and photograph of Mary. The cigarettes have been opened, but none extracted, and the loose tobacco is untouched.


It’s so unexpected, in the personal collection of a Field Marshal. Did Sir John, or a relative, carefully preserve this, or was it simply never discarded? Was he not a keen smoker, or was he perhaps too discerning to enjoy these? The desiccated cigarettes still smell very faintly of tobacco, after a hundred years.

Ref: Dill 5/4

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