Why was the Operation Christmas Box charity formed?
Sending Christmas Boxes for serving military personnel overseas is a custom, first conceived in 1914 by 17-year-old Princess Mary, daughter of King George V. The custom was revived in 2004, in which all Servicemen and Servicewomen deployed on operations over the Christmas period were issued with a gift box aimed at giving them a lift during the festive season. The December 2004 gift box was well received and with the MOD’s encouragement, uk4u Thanks! was registered and incorporated in May 2005 with the express aim of repeating the gifting each year.
In November 1914, an advertisement in the national press invited contributions for a ‘Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund’. There was an overwhelming response, and the money raised was used to provide an embossed brass box, with a variety of contents. For officers and men on active service afloat or at the front the box contained a pipe, lighter, 1oz of tobacco and 20 cigarettes. Non-smokers and boys received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets. There were also boxes for Indian troops, who received sweets and spices, and nurses were sent chocolate. Some of the items had to be sent separately from the box itself, for lack of space.
More than 355,000 gifts were successfully delivered in time for Christmas, but as time went on there was a shortage of brass and some did not receive their box until as late as summer 1916. Even in January 1919, a ‘considerable number’ had still not been distributed.
The fund finally closed in 1920, by which time almost £200,000 had been donated to provide more than two and a half million boxes with contents.
The contents of the modern boxes are very different from the originals and now include a variety of items that are gender free, good fun, that will not cause offence on grounds of religion or race and that will not perish whilst en route. The items are refreshed each year to maintain interest and to reflect comments received from recipients.
The present day Christmas Box
Inspired by Princess Mary’s Christmas Box, 19,000 boxes were distributed in 2005 and were designed to be the same size as the standard 24 hour Operational Ration Packs. The items contained in each Christmas Box include some gifts for immediate use and some to take home for enduring use.
We rely on your generosity.
Help us to reach out to as many of our troops as possible.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported us over the years, here are a few.