Princess Mary Gift Tin : Private H V Reynolds 1 Field Ambulance, AIF

Place Africa: Egypt
Accession Number REL41500
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Brass, Cardboard, Lead, Sterling silver, Wood
Maker Unknown
Date made December 1914
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Embossed brass tin with a hinged lid and remnants of an overall gilt finish. The lid features, at its centre, the profile head of Princess Mary within a circular wreath, flanked on each side by the letter 'M'. There is a decorative border portraying heraldic and military devices, and the words 'IMPERIUM BRITANNICUM', 'CHRISTMAS 1914', and the names 'BELGIUM', 'JAPAN', 'FRANCE', 'RUSSIA', 'SERVIA' and 'MONTE NEGRO'. The box contains a cardboard New Year's greeting card from Princess Mary, a small pencil in the form of a silver headed bullet, a cardboard liner (all part of the original contents), and brass propelling pencil.

History / Summary

Herbert Vincent Reynolds was born in 1896 at Sebastopol, Victoria. He enlisted for service in the First World War on 16 September 1914, his 18th birthday. Allocated the service number 622, he was sent to Broadmeadows Training Camp and was allotted to 4 Field Ambulance as a stretcher bearer.

He embarked from Australia with his unit on 22 October 1914 and disembarked at Alexandria in early February. Not long after arriving in Egypt, Reynolds transferred to 1 Field Ambulance. He spent the next two months training before sailing for the island of Lemnos on 5 April.

Reynolds landed at Gallipoli at 9am on 25 April and was immediately set to work. The beaches were still under very heavy fire and many Australians, and even some Turkish casualties, were given treatment before being sent to the hospital ships off shore.

During the August offensive, Reynolds became ill and on 16 August, was evacuated to Mudros with enteric fever. His illness was so severe that he was transported to England and on arrival was sent to King George Hospital in London. Reynolds recovered slowly and did not return to Gallipoli. He was sent back to Egypt in late February 1916 and returned to his unit in early March. In late March, Reynolds and his unit were shipped to France, arriving in Marseilles on 30 March.

Reynolds served throughout Pozieres and the following battles in both France and Belgium. He was wounded on 20 September 1917 during fighting on the Menin Road, receiving a gunshot wound to his left ear. He was evacuated to England on 23 September and spent over a month recovering, before being sent to an overseas training unit for the remainder of 1917.

Reynolds returned to France and rejoined his unit on 26 April near Hazebrouck. The men of 1Field Ambulance remained in this position during the German spring offensive and did not relocate until the Allied August offensive began to push the German forces back.

Reynolds and 32 other men from 1 Field Ambulance left the unit on 3 October for a holding camp before embarking for Australia from Le Havre on 13 October. They had been granted a special six month leave for having enlisted in 1914. He disembarked in Melbourne on 23 December and returned home to Sebastopol. He was discharged from the AIF on 20 March 1919.

Reynolds went on to become Mayor of Sebastopol serving in this position from 1936-37, 1941-42, 1947-48, 1953-54 and 1959-60. Herbert Reynolds died in 1978.

Princess Mary's gift tin was distributed to all British, Commonwealth and Empire soldiers and sailors who were serving on Christmas Day, 1914. HRH Princess Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary was responsible for a public appeal to ensure that 'every Sailor afloat and every Soldier at the front' received a Christmas present. Boxes such as this one, given to Australian troops in Egypt, would originally have contained a New Year's greeting card, a small pencil in the form of a .303 bullet and cigarettes. Because of supply and manufacturing problems the tins were still being issued later in the war.