It was intended as a Christmas present to those serving at Christmas in 1914 and was paid for by a public fund backed by Princess Mary. It was Princess Mary's express wish that'every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front' should have the present. The gifts were devised in October 1914 and intended for distribution to all who were serving overseas or at sea, in time for Christmas 1914; afterwards, with the fund in surplus and many feeling they had been'left out', distribution was extended more widely - to all who were serving, whether at home or abroad, and to prisoners of war and the next of kin of 1914 casualties. This widened eligibility to an estimated figure of 2,620,019. Princess Mary's original intention had been to pay, out of her private allowance, for a personal gift to each soldier and sailor.
This was deemed impracticable and a proposal was made that she lend her name to a public fund, which would raise the necessary monies to provide the gift. From the outset the young Princess took a deep personal interest in the work of the Fund and in a letter released by Buckingham Palace, signed by the Princess, she explained the purpose of the Fund. The charm and sincerity of her appeal were irresistible. I want you now to help me to send a Christmas present from the whole of the nation to every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front. Could there be anything more likely to hearten them in their struggle than a present received straight from home on Christmas Day?
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