Tuesday 28 January 2014 by John Holloway. No comments
Education at the Memorial, News

Thanks to everyone who submitted answers to last week's Collection Detection challenge either here on the blog or on our Facebook page. Well done to those who knew the answer!

The answer

It is a bullet pencil. Consisting of two parts, a .303 cartridge case and a ‘bullet’ which holds a pencil, this souvenir pencil holder was given as a gift, as part of Princess Mary’s 1914 Christmas gift tin. The gift tin was the initiative of the 17-year-old Princess, who organised a public appeal to raise funds to ensure that every soldier and sailor of the Empire received a Christmas present. Public support was so great that they were able to extend eligibility to all those “wearing the King’s uniform on Christmas Day 1914”.

As well as the bullet pencil, the tins contained various items such as a pipe and tobacco products, a notebook, postcards, along with a photograph of Princess Mary and ‘Happy New Year’ message. If the recipient was a non-smoker, nurse or Sikh, they may have received a tin of spices, fruit lozenges, sugar candy or chocolate.

These tins were intended to be distributed to all those serving for the Empire in December 1914, however, due to the large number of recipients, it was impossible to make and distribute them by Christmas that year. Tins were sent in three stages between late 1914 and early 1915. It has been reported that some people did not receive their tins until much later in the war.


Private Herbert Vincent Reynold’s Princess Mary tin, and greeting card, bullet pencil and brass propelling pencil.

Bullet pencil

The Princess Mary tin above belonged to Herbert Vincent Reynolds, of Sebastopol, Victoria. Having enlisted in 1914 and trained in Egypt with 1 Field Ambulance, Reynolds landed on Gallipoli at 9am on 25 April 1915. Upon arrival, Herbert witnessed the heavy fire on the beaches and went straight to work, treating Australian and Turkish casualties before they were transferred to hospital ships off-shore.

In August, Herbert became very ill with enteric fever, and was evacuated, first to Mudros, then London, where he remained until February 1915. Re-joining his unit in March, he served in some of the most costly battles on the Western Front, including Poziéres, in which Australia lost over 6,000 men. Herbert was wounded in September 1917 during the fighting on Menin Road, and was evacuated. After a month of recovery, he again returned to action, this time in the town of Hazebrouck in Northern France. Herbert and the rest of 1 Field Ambulance, remained in this position during the dangerous German Spring Offensive. Then, in October, Herbert and 32 other men from his unit, all of whom had enlisted in 1914, returned to Australia, having been granted a special six month leave.

Herbert served in 20 Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps during the Second World War, and went on to become Mayor of Sebastopol. He died in 1978.

Private Herbert Vincent Reynolds

ANZAC Day 1973 in Ballarat Victoria. Herbert is at the back, wearing hat and sunglasses.

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