Princess Mary’s 1914 Christmas Gift - The Brass Box contents

Last month’s article looked at the creation and distribution of Princess Mary’s Christmas gift box in 1914 to servicemen and women, including members of the New Zealand Expeditionary force. This month we will look at the contents of one of those boxes.

The Princess Mary boxes provided a useful container for items and even today they often contain badges, insignia and other keepsakes from WW1, and often WW2. Like the box held by Sir Peter Jackson (1), the ‘Plimmerton Box’ holds medals and mementos that create a history for one WW1 serviceman.

As the First World War entered 1917 there was a need for both volunteers and conscripts to make up the reinforcements needed at the front. For the 26th draft, only two recruiting districts had sufficient voluntary recruits to complete their quota, Nelson Bays and Bay of Plenty (2).

    On the postcard above one can see the patriotic pride hand-written on the postcard produced in Nelson for the departure on 6 February 1917 of their complement of volunteers heading for Trentham, Wellington.  

At Trentham final medical checks were carried out and inoculations started. The 26th draft would have been allocated to a ‘Reinforcement.’ The collar badge indicates that initially the recruit was attached to the 29th Reinforcements. Each intake of reinforcements into the New Zealand’s Infantry Regiments up to the 34th, had a distinctive badge worn on the collars and on their cap. The 34th reinforcements onward were issued with a standardised 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Forces collar and cap badges (3). 

29th Reinforcements cap badge


The 29th Reinforcements would also have been allocated to a ‘region.’ The shoulder strap left has been cut from a 1914 – 1918 New Zealand Army field jacket. It shows that the private was allocated to the 29th Reinforcements. The brass letter above the 29 shows which of the New Zealand Infantry Regiments the private was assigned, in this case the Canterbury Regiment. 




C(anterbury) 29th New Zealand Reinforcements –shoulder flash


As each intake of reinforcements entered camp, there was a selection of men suitable to train as commissioned and non commissioned officers. The two sets of stripes show that at one stage the rank of corporal was held. Sometimes when the reinforcements arrived overseas and were allocated to regiments, they found that the regiment already had a full complement of NCOs, so the reinforcement men reverted to basic ranks.

1914-1918 New Zealand Corporal Stripes

    PMGMen2 1917 C Coy 29th NCO’s  

The 29th Reinforcements departed on the Ruahine on 15 August 1917, landing in Glasgow, Scotland and then being taken by rail to the training camp at Sling, Wiltshire, England.

During training, the 29th Reinforcements were allocated to various regiments. The collar badge indicates that prior to departing for the Western Front, this serviceman was in the 12th (Nelson) Company, 1st Battalion of the Canterbury Regiment.

    12th Nelson Infantry cap badge. PMGNelsonInf2  
    If a serviceman was discharged during the war as a result of wounds or sickness they would be issued with a distinctive badge, suitable for wear on the lapel of a jacket or suit, the Honourable Discharge badge. These badges were individually numbered on the reverse and would have been issued with the appropriate certificate. This badge was in the brass box along with two service medals.  



WW1 Honourable Discharge Badge.


Servicemen and women were entitled to different medals depending on their service.

The first medal was not in the brass box but is included to show one of the three common medals. The 1914-1915 Star “was approved in December 1918 for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of war between 8 August 1914 and 31 December 1916. A total of 2,366,000 were issued and each was individually stamped with the regimental number, rank, name and force they served with (4).” The medal shown was issued to 11/147, Trp A M Smith of NZEF (New Zealand Expeditionary Force). The service number 11/147 (11 the regiment and 147 his unique service number) indicates the Wellington Mounted Rifles with Trooper Alan Murdoch Smith serving with the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Trooper Smith departed for service in 1914 was wounded at Gallipoli and discharged in 1916 as no longer physically fit for service.

    PMGMedal9 PMGMedal10  

In the brass box was the British War Medal. This medal had been approved in 1919 “for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who had rendered services between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. Recipients were required to complete 28 days of mobilised service (5).” A total of 6,500,000 British War Medals were issued and like the 1914-1915 Star, they were individualised with regimental number, rank, name and NZEF engraved around the rim.

    PMGMedal12 PMGMedal13  

The final medal is the Victory Medal, also called the Inter-Allied Victory Medal. This medal was developed as a result of an international agreement at the Inter-Allied Peace Conference held prior to the Treaty of Versailles (June 1919) and was issued with the basic design by 14 nations. The British Empire Victory Medal is dated 1914–1919. 1921 was the year in which the war ended ‘in point of Parliamentary law,’ but in 1919 under common law relating to the status and function of the monarchy (6)’. To qualify for the Victory medal, a serviceman had to be mobilised in any service and have entered any theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. There were 6,500,000 (plus) of the Victory Medal issued and like the previous two, were individually named.

    PMGCivil2 PMGMedal14  

The three medals, 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal were often called ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, with Pip being the 1914-1915 Star, Squeak the British War Medal and Wilfred the Victory Medal. Pip, Squeak and Wilfred was a very popular cartoon strip concerning the adventures of an orphaned family of animals. Pip, a dog, assumed the role of father, Squeak, a penguin, the mother and Wilfred, a long eared rabbit, the young child(7)’.

The final item in the brass box is a Returned Serviceman’s badge. The Royal New Zealand and Services Association or RSA, was formed in 1916 by invalided soldiers returning from the Gallipoli campaign.

    PMGReturnedSerCropped2 The RSA's aim was to provide support for service men and women and their families. Royal patronage was bestowed in 1920(8).  

Next month there will be two stories, the first will be an update of Frank Leslie Ross, his life in Plimmerton and his service to the wider community. The second on how to research a World War One veteran and how the Plimmerton Residents' Association can help you.

Allan Dodson May 2013

 1)  Sir Peter Jackson family history: Evening Post 25 April 2013
 2)  26th draft – state of recruiting : Evening Post 8 January 1917
 3)  Badges and Insignia of the New Zealand Army : Geoffrey P Oldham
 4)  1914-1915 Star : Wikipedia
 5)  British War Medal : Wikipedia
 6)  British Empire Victory Medal : Wikipedia
 7)  Pip, Squeak and Wilfred : Wikipedia
 8)  Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association : Te Ara, Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966
 1)  Postcard - Good Luck to the 26th: FN Jones (15) Nelson – private collection
 2)  29th Reinforcements collar badge – private collection
 3)  C Company 29th Reinforcements – shoulder strap with badges – private collection
 4)  1st New Zealand Expedition Force (1914-1918) Corporal Stripes – private collection
 5)  C (Canterbury) Company NCO’s at Trentham 1917 – private collection
 6)  Honourable Discharge badge – private collection
 7)  1914-1915 Star - Front and Obverse – private collection
 8)  British War Medal – Front and Obverse – private collection
 9)  British Empire Victory Medal – Front and Obverse – private collection
10) Royal Returned and Service Association badge – private collection
Last Updated: 04/06/2013 11:39pm