Frequently asked questions

Since 2005, over 180,000 Christmas Boxes have been produced – one for each member of the UK Armed Forces, contractors and MOD civil servants serving on operational tours of duty overseas over the Christmas period and those in hospitals on Christmas Day as a result of serving on operations.

Every location where the Armed Forces are currently serving on operational tours of duty overseas; these include Afghanistan and locations such as the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island, The Congo, Cyprus, Bahrain and Diego Garcia.

Each individual member of the Armed Forces, MOD civil servants and supporting defence contractors serving in these locations are provided with a box.

They are transported through the military supply chain using spare irreducible capacity. There have been no additional ships or aircraft used to get them to their required destinations.

The distribution of the Christmas boxes has been carefully planned far enough in advance to be accommodated by the existing capacity of the military supply chain.  Early planning in partnership with the MOD ensures that boxes arrive at their destinations well before the Christmas period.

Support from corporate and private sponsors and generous members of the public pay for the boxes.

uk4u Thanks! was set up in May 2005. Sending Christmas Boxes for serving military personnel overseas is a custom, first conceived in 1914 by 17-year-old Princess Mary, daughter of King George V. The custom was revived in 2004, in which all Servicemen and Servicewomen deployed on operations over the Christmas period were issued with a gift box aimed at giving them a lift during the festive season. The December 2004 gift box was well received and with the MOD’s encouragement, uk4u Thanks! was registered and incorporated with the express aim of repeating the gifting each year.

The Patron of the Charity is His Grace The Duke of Westminster KG CB CVO OBE TD CD DL. The Trustees are Allan Sims, Sally Little, Brigadier (Retired) David Martin CBE and Wing Commander (Retired) Charles Wookey, who were invited to be trustees as they have direct or indirect links to the military. Sarah Clewes is our Fundraising and Projects Manager, her post is funded thanks to a succesful bid for a LIBOR fund grant.  The charity has endorsement of the MOD, who oversees the delivery of the boxes.

Contact details for the charity can be found on the Contact Us page.

Full details of the sponsors who have supported uk4u Thanks! and those who continue to do so can be found on the Sponsors' page.

uk4u Thanks! choose a number of different items they think that the Armed Forces personnel would enjoy at Christmas. The decision process includes MOD staff (with a significant input from PJHQ) and feedback from the recipients of previous years' boxes. In addition, considerable care is taken not to include items that might cause offence to local communities.

No. The contents of the boxes are consistent, although there is an element of variety between them as some of the same items come in different colours, shapes, etc. The boxes will be allocated at random. Each box contains a wide range of contents that will appeal to both men and women equally.

The MOD is hugely grateful for the fantastic generosity and support shown for our Armed Forces by the British public. Our Servicemen and Servicewomen are doing a tough job in dangerous circumstances and the support of the British public means a great deal to them. However, the issue of unsolicited parcels to operational theatres does cause disruption to legitimate mail and often the postal system to operational theatres has been completely overwhelmed leading to personal mail suffering significant delays.

As a result of this experience, the MOD conducted a study into post to operational theatres.  The conclusion of the study was that the impact on the operation of the supply chain of accepting 'unsolicited' mail is adverse. The reasons were:

  • Unsolicited goodwill parcels stress an already fragile supply chain whose primary purpose is to make sure troops in theatre are properly equipped with ammunition, rations, medical supplies and other essential items, to enable them to operate effectively.
  • The delivery of such mail to forward operating bases also necessitates additional re-supply flights and convoys which places our personnel at additional risk.
  • According to the MOD's estimates, which are based on a modest 2-fold increase in mail volume, the cost of extending the current system to accept 'unsolicited' mail would be £19M per year.

It is for these reasons that the MOD is keen to encourage the public to demonstrate their support in other ways, such as by supporting uk4u Thanks!

The 1914 Christmas box was the idea of the 17 year old Princess Mary, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone wearing the King's uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a 'gift from the nation'. Each brass box had an embossed head of Princess Mary on the cover, flanked by the bows of battleships and roundels of the names of the Allies.

The contents varied considerably; officers and men on active service afloat or at the front line received a box containing a combination of pipe, lighter, 1 oz of tobacco and twenty cigarettes in distinctive yellow monogrammed wrappers. Non-smokers and boys received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets instead. Indian troops often got sweets and spices, and nurses were treated to chocolate. Many of these items were despatched separately from the tins themselves, as once the standard issue of tobacco and cigarettes was placed in the tin there was little room for much else apart from the greeting card.

It was an embossed brass box and measures 5" long by 3.25" wide by 1.25" deep with a double-skinned, hinged, lid. The surface of the lid depicts the head of Princess Mary in the centre, surrounded by a laurel wreath and flanked on either side by the 'M' monogram. At the top, a decorative cartouche contains the words 'Imperium Britannicum' with a sword and scabbard either side. On the lower edge, another cartouche contains the words 'Christmas 1914', which is flanked by the bows of battleships forging through a heavy sea. In the corners, small roundels house the names of the Allies: Belgium, Japan, Montenegro and Serbia; France and Russia are at the edges, each superimposed on three furled flags or standards.

The Imperial War Museum has original boxes on display (and some of the more recent boxes sent by uk4u). More detailed information can readily be found on the Internet.  A full range of boxes sent since 2005 are on display at the imperial war museum london.

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Sponsors

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us over the years, here are a few.