Frequently asked questions

Why was the name changed from uk4u Thanks! to Operation Christmas Box?

The Directors/Trustees of the Charity believe that Operation Christmas Box better describes the purpose of the Christmas Box and its contents

How many boxes are sent?

Since 2005, over 223,000 Christmas Boxes have been produced – one for each member of the UK Armed Forces, contractors and MOD civil servants serving on tours of duty overseas over the Christmas period.

Which military locations will be receiving the boxes, and in what quantities?

Every location where the Armed Forces are currently serving on tours of duty overseas; these include Kabul, Sarajevo, The Congo, the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and Royal Navy ships and submarines at sea over Christmas.

Each individual member of the Armed Forces, MOD civil servants and supporting defence contractors serving in these locations are provided with a box.

How are the boxes being transported?

They are transported through the military supply chain. There have been no additional ships or aircraft used to get them to their required destinations.

Isn't space on ship and air freight already tight in the run up to Christmas without these boxes having to be transported?

The distribution of the Christmas boxes has been carefully planned far enough in advance to be accommodated by the existing capacity of the military supply chain.  Early planning in partnership with the MOD ensures that boxes arrive at their destinations well before the Christmas period.

Who pays for the boxes?

Support from corporate and private sponsors and generous members of the public pay for the boxes.

When was the charity set up and why?

uk4u Thanks! (now Operation Christmas Box) was set up in May 2005. 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 with the express aim of repeating the gifting each year. 

Who is behind the charity and who is in the Operation Christmas Box team?

In 2017, the Trustees were delighted to welcome James Gray MP as our new Patron for Operation Christmas Box. The former Patron of the Charity was His Grace The Duke of Westminster KG CB CVO OBE TD CD DL until his untimely death in 2016. The Trustees are Allan Sims, Sally Little, Stewart Sharman and Charles Wookey, who were invited to be trustees as they have direct or indirect links to the military. The charity has endorsement of the MOD.

How do I contact Operation Christmas Box! ?

Contact details for the charity can be found on the Contact Us page.

Who are the sponsors for the Christmas Box?
Full details of the sponsors who have supported uk4u Thanks! and Operation Christmas Box can be found on the Sponsors' page.
How do you decide on the Operation Christmas Box contents?

Operation Christmas Box Trustees choose a number of different items they think that the Armed Forces personnel would enjoy at Christmas. The decision process includes MOD staff (with a significant input from PJHQ) and feedback from the recipients of previous years' boxes. In addition, considerable care is taken not to include items that might cause offence to local communities.

Are there different boxes for men and women?

No. The contents of the boxes are consistent, although there is an element of variety between them as some of the same items come in different colours, shapes, etc. The boxes will be allocated at random. Each box contains a wide range of contents that will appeal to both men and women equally.

What is the advice to people who wish to send parcels to unnamed service personnel who they do not know?

The MOD is hugely grateful for the fantastic generosity and support shown for our Armed Forces by the British public. Our Servicemen and Servicewomen are doing a tough job in dangerous circumstances and the support of the British public means a great deal to them. However, the issue of unsolicited parcels to operational theatres does cause disruption to legitimate mail and often the postal system to operational theatres has been completely overwhelmed leading to personal mail suffering significant delays.

As a result of this experience, the MOD conducted a study into post to operational theatres.  The conclusion of the study was that the impact on the operation of the supply chain of accepting 'unsolicited' mail is adverse. The reasons were:

Unsolicited goodwill parcels stress an already fragile supply chain whose primary purpose is to make sure troops in theatre are properly equipped with ammunition, rations, medical supplies and other essential items, to enable them to operate effectively.

The delivery of such mail to forward operating bases also necessitates additional re-supply flights and convoys which places our personnel at additional risk.

According to the MOD's estimates, which are based on a modest 2-fold increase in mail volume, the cost of extending the current system to accept 'unsolicited' mail would be £19M per year.

It is for these reasons that the MOD is keen to encourage the public to demonstrate their support in other ways, such as by supporting Operation Christmas Box!

What's the history of the 1914 box?

The 1914 Christmas box was the idea of the 17 year old Princess Mary, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone wearing the King's uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a 'gift from the nation'. Each brass box had an embossed head of Princess Mary on the cover, flanked by the bows of battleships and roundels of the names of the Allies.

What was in these boxes?

The contents varied considerably; officers and men on active service afloat or at the front line received a box containing a combination of pipe, lighter, 1 oz of tobacco and twenty cigarettes in distinctive yellow monogrammed wrappers. Non-smokers and boys received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets instead. Indian troops often got sweets and spices, and nurses were treated to chocolate. Many of these items were despatched separately from the tins themselves, as once the standard issue of tobacco and cigarettes was placed in the tin there was little room for much else apart from the greeting card.

What was the box like?

It was an embossed brass box and measures 5" long by 3.25" wide by 1.25" deep with a double-skinned, hinged, lid. The surface of the lid depicts the head of Princess Mary in the centre, surrounded by a laurel wreath and flanked on either side by the 'M' monogram. At the top, a decorative cartouche contains the words 'Imperium Britannicum' with a sword and scabbard either side. On the lower edge, another cartouche contains the words 'Christmas 1914', which is flanked by the bows of battleships forging through a heavy sea. In the corners, small roundels house the names of the Allies: Belgium, Japan, Montenegro and Serbia; France and Russia are at the edges, each superimposed on three furled flags or standards.

Where can I see one of these boxes?

The Imperial War Museum in London has original boxes on display as well as a full range of boxes sent by the Charity since 2005. 

SPONSORS

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us over the years, here are a few.

The Royal British Legion

The Royal British Legion

BAE

BAE

COONEEN

COONEEN

M&S

M&S

Vestey Foods

Vestey Foods

Westminster Foundation

Westminster Foundation

Sodexo

Sodexo

MBDA

MBDA

Kilfrost

Kilfrost

Airbus

Airbus