As they left for war in Autumn 1914, the soldiers, and the country, believed that it would all be over by Christmas of that year. We know now that the brutal conflict was to drag on for another 4 years, but Christmas 1914 became famous for being the first respite from the war.
Many felt the need to show give a small token of appreciation to those who had put their lives on the line. And so, on 30th October 1914, Princess Mary launched her Christmas Gift fund. She asked the public:
“I want you now to help me send a Christmas present from the whole nation to every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front.”
And they did. Her appeal was met with an enthusiastic response, eventually raising over £162,000 (an incredible sum at the time). This led to the memorable Princess Mary’s Gift Box. It was a beautiful embossed brass box, 128 x 84 x 30mm (5 x 3.3 x 1.2 inches), containing one ounce of pipe tobacco, 20 cigarettes, pipe, a tinder lighter, a Christmas card and a photo of Princess Mary.
On Christmas Day 1914 alone, almost 500,000 Christmas tins were distributed to British service personnel. The boxes were sent to “every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front” in accordance with Princess Mary’s wishes.
A large number of these tins were subsequently damaged in the war, with many being blown apart by shells or corroded in the wet conditions in the trench. However, the boxes that have survived are now distinctive mementoes of the war’s first Christmas.
They are also absolutely fascinating historic artefacts – each tin is totally unique and may have even been there in the trenches 100 years ago protecting a young tommy’s keepsakes. They each tell their own story, and just looking at them you can see the small bits of damage, the smells and stains that tell the story of how they survived 100 years to remind us of the soldiers who suffered the extreme conditions of the Great War.
With the festive season approaching, it is especially important to remember those soldiers who would have received one of these tins. It’s hard not to think about a young tommy, sitting in his trench on Christmas Day, opening his Princess Mary Christmas tin as carols drifted across No-Man’s Land.
If you’re interested…
We have a limited number of genuine Christmas Tins available and ready to deliver for Christmas, with 5 coins all from 1918. But with such a limited number available you will need to be quick to own this ultimate Christmas gift… Check out the video to see Adam explain what makes this tin so special or click here to order yours now >>>
The Stories of British Coins Collection includes 16 of the most remarkable coins from over 200 years of British history, but many of them are in high demand and difficult to source, especially those which are historic artefacts in their own right!
Join Adam as he unboxes a fascinating coin collection that together tells the story of Britain.
The 10 Shilling Note, or ‘ten bob’, was a goodly sum in the old days – in the 1960’s it could buy 6 pints of beer, 10 loaves of bread, or 17 pints of milk.
It’s hard to imagine its decimal equivalent, the 50p, buying so much these days!
This old banknote has a fascinating history, from being issued by the Government in a wartime emergency, changing colour to avoid forgery from the Nazis and eventually being replaced by the world’s most popular coin.
The Emergency Banknote
In August 1914, the British economy was in turmoil because of the instability brought on by the oncoming war on the continent. Bankers and politicians were desperately looking for ways to secure Britain’s finances and prevent the banks from collapsing.
The Government decided that a large supply of banknotes had to be made available for the value of 10 shillings, making it easy for the public to make small transactions. However, The Bank of England was not able to prepare and print the required number of notes quickly enough, so the Government took the unprecedented step of deciding to issue the notes itself.
These banknotes became known as the Treasury banknotes and were unlike anything the British public had ever seen. Until this point the lowest denomination banknote was £5, and in those days this was such a large sum that many people would never have seen or used a banknote before.
That means that these Treasury notes now stand out as the first widely circulated banknotes in England.
The Wartime colour change
In 1928, the responsibility for printing Ten Shilling Notes was transferred to the Bank of England.
However, not long afterwards Britain once again found itself at war, and again found its currency under threat.
During World War II, Nazi Germany hatched a plan to undermine British currency. Through Operation Bernhard they believed that they had discovered a method to manufacture counterfeit ‘White Fivers’ and planned to distribute these in huge numbers to destabilise the British currency.
The Bank of England decided to take preventative action and, as a result, the 10 Shilling note was changed for duration of the war to a distinctive pink and blue in an attempt to prevent counterfeiting. It was also revolutionary in the progression of banknote technology by incorporating a metal security thread.
The Nazis could not compete with this high level anti-forgery technology and hence the British 10 Shilling Note stayed strong and supported the British wartime economy as it had done since its conception.
The 50p revolution
After undergoing a colour change during the Second World War, the ‘ten bob’ note reverted to the familiar red-brown until 1961, when a new design featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was introduced.
Despite a new design for the 10 Shilling Note featuring Sir Walter Raleigh on the reverse being approved in 1964, as part of the process of decimalisation it was dropped in favour of the new fifty pence coin introduced in 1969.
The principle reason for the change was to save the treasury money, the notes had an average lifetime of around five months, whereas a coin could last for fifty years. The 50p has since gone on to become the world’s most popular and collected coin, but nowadays few realise the fascinating history of its predecessor, the 10 Shilling Banknote!
If you’re interested…
It’s now been 50 years since the last 10 Shilling Banknote was issued – which is why you now have the chance to pay tribute to this famous old note with a LIMITED EDITION DateStamp™. But only a very limited number of 10 Shilling Notes will be released in this way, so you’ll need to be quick if you want to secure one for your collection! Click here to order one today >>