WW1 DIY project: Princess Mary's 1914 gift box

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05 November 2020
In the next part of this WW1 miniatures series learn how to make a Princess Mary gift box and contents.

About Princess Mary's gift box

In November 1914 an advert was placed in the National Press asking for contributions to a Sailors and Soldiers Christmas Fund, which had been created by Princess Mary – the 17-year-old daughter of King George V. The aim of the advert was to provide everyone wearing the King's uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a gift from the nation.

With the money raised an embossed brass box was designed by Messrs Adshead and Ramsey, engraved with an outline of the Princess, the monogram 'M' and the words 'Christmas 1914.'

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Inside the tin

The contents of the gift box varied depending upon who was to receive them. The majority contained a pipe, a lighter, 1oz of tobacco and twenty cigarettes in distinctive yellow monogrammed wrappers. Non-smokers and boys, however, received a silver and brass bullet pencil and a packet of sweets instead. Nurses serving abroad were treated to chocolate, and Indian troops often got sweets and spices.

Many of these items were sent in a slightly larger cardboard box, as once the standard issue of tobacco and cigarettes were placed in the tin there was little room for much else, apart from the greeting card. 

Love exploring history in miniature form? Dolls House & Miniature Scene magazine is packed with projects to inspire from a wide range of eras – there's something for all tastes and interests!

How to make a miniature Princess Mary gift box

In making a facsimile of this box in miniature and using the data available and photographs of the real thing the tin in this tutorial has been filled with tobacco, cigarettes, a card from Princess Mary, her photograph and a silver bullet pencil. This model tin is just a fraction larger than a true 1/12th scale, as it would be too small to work with if it were any smaller. The compromise in the scale does not harm the project and it's still an interesting WW1 artefact to replicate in miniature. 

You will need

  • Thin card
  • Sharp scissors 
  • Sanding stick 
  • Roket Card Glue by Deluxe Materials 
  • PVA glue in a fine tip applicator
  • Gold/brass paint 
  • Offcuts of wood
  • Silver foil 
  • Cocktail stick 
  • Silver paint
  • Prints of original labels, card and photograph 


1. Cut two rectangles of card 3/4in x 1/2in and trim one down so it is just a fraction smaller than the first. 

2. Round the corners on each piece by snipping each one off, then gently sand into a curve. 

3. Cut a strip of thin card 3/16in wide and long enough to go around the smaller rectangle.

4. Run the strip of card through your thumb and forefinger to give it a bit of a curve. 

5. Use Roket Card Glue by Deluxe Materials to gently glue this strip around the smaller rectangle and make the join along one of the longer sides. Leave to dry. 

6. Take a fine tip glue applicator and ordinary PVA glue and tube-line draw the design of the box on the larger rectangle. Use a photograph of the real tin for inspiration to get an impression of the top of the tin – a head, the letter 'M' either side and a border. Any more than this will be too difficult on a project so small. Leave to dry. When it's clear and hard it's ready for the next step. 

7. Paint both the bottom and the top of the tin with gold/brass paint. Leave to dry.

8. Cut two little blocks of wood the same size that will fit side by side inside the tin. They should be approximately 1/4in x 5/8in and 3/16in deep. 

9. Wrap each block in silver foil. 

10. Prepare a yellow label for each block, writing the contents on the wrapper with a fine pen. If you're able to print at home, you can alternatively copy and paste the picture here of the real thing, reduce it to size and glue to the packets. 

11. Fit the little packages into the tin leaving just enough room for the pencil. 

12. Bullet pencils were made from a real decommissioned brass bullet, with a sterling silver tip, which held the pencil. An easy way to make one is by painting a portion of a cocktail stick. Cut a piece of stick about 3/8in long. Paint one end gold/brass and the other end silver.



13. The Christmas card and photograph from Princess Mary have been copied from the photos of the original items. These were then pasted into a document before being reduced to this tiny size and printed on a colour printer. 


Enjoyed making a miniature Princess Mary gift box? Explore more of the WW1 series and learn how to make miniature gas masks, miniature Trench Art or miniature poppies. 

Need more inspiration? Check out our WW1 Pinterest board. 

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