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03 December 2018

Object of the Month: December - a cigarette tin

December’s Object of the Month is a cigarette tin, dating from World War II, which shows the coat of arms of Leeds City Council and the words ‘Christmas 1944’. This object was donated to the museum in 2004 and was sent to the donor’s father.

During World War II, there were various campaigns and collection funds all over the country to send gifts, mainly of tobacco, to soldiers overseas. One such collection was the ‘Leeds Christmas Gifts for the Forces Fund’ which ran from 1943 until 1945 and was set up to send serving men and women a Christmas gift ‘as an expression of the city’s good wishes’.

Men and women serving in the Army and Merchant Navy and Prisoners of War were eligible for a ‘memento’. The gift consisted of a gilt metal box, which was designed to fit into a service dress pocket, containing 30 cigarettes, a Christmas card, a photograph of Leeds, a greeting from the Mayor and an extra 130 cigarettes. The box and card both had the Leeds coat of arms and their Latin motto Pro Rege et Lego (For King and the Law). Those serving at home received a Christmas card, unless the fund was particularly good that year, in which case they would also receive a cigarette tin.

Organised by the Mayor of Leeds each year (Albert Hayes in 1943 and Charles Vivian Walker in 1944), the city council asked for donations and sponsorships from the residents and businesses of Leeds. During the summer and autumn months, requests were placed in local newspapers for people to submit the names and addresses of those fighting overseas to the Lord Mayor’s office to be recipients of the gifts.

This tin dates from 1944, which was not as successful as the previous year for donations. Numerous appeals in the Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer called for more donations and more details of those serving. On Wednesday 6 September 1944 it was reported that, ‘It may be that the good news from the Continent is having an effect on the response to the appeal.’ Christmas 1944 saw 17,919 parcels sent overseas to France, Belgium, Holland and the Middle East, with only 200 reaching prisoners in Germany. In July 1945 it was decided to continue with the fund for Christmas 1945.

This tin is not currently on display, but cared for in our collections store. It can be viewed by appointment.

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