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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Princess Mary Tin & Contents

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Less Bullet Pencil!

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Guest Hill 60

Ian - Don't you think that the prices of these tins are ridiculous? It was only about 10 years ago the empty tins couldn't be given away and the full ones brought in about £50!

Oh, I wish I'd bought the full ones when I had a chance :(

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Aurel Sercu

Ian and Lee,

This probably has nothing to do with the Princess Mary Tin ...

It's just that 6 or 7 weeks ago (18 April) our team found the remains of a Somerset Light Infantry soldier (shoulder title) on the Boezinge Canal Site, probably fallen July 1915. Apart from buttons, 4 pipes, 7 coins, a knife and a sort of good-luck charm (a bullet in a very small purse) he also had this with him :

A little plastic or mica thing. At first sight, still in the mud and dirty, we thought it was one of those mica eye 'glasses' in a primitive gas mask. Sorry that I don't have the exact size (handed to the authorities together with the remains of course), but I guess it must have been approx. 7 cm x 4 cm or so. Neither do I know if it was complete.

But I do remember what I thought when I first saw the words on it, and the decorative flowers : something from a Princess Mary Tin ?

Probably not, but do you have any idea ? Something that was some sort of standard present or so ?

By the way : I think the text won't be readable on this photo. It is : Kind Remembrance and Best Wishes.

Aurel

(Diggers)

post-11-1054743571.jpg

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Aurel,

It looks like the remains of a silk postcard to me.

Certainly nothing I have seen in a Mary Tin

Lee,

You are right there mate. The one in the picture I sold last year for £132. The silliest prices are now for the cards on their own and the Princess mary pictures. A Princess Mary picture and card by itself wen for £76 on eBay 2 weeks ago.........madness!

Ian

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Guest Hill 60
Aurel,

It looks like the remains of a silk postcard to me.

Lee,

You are right there mate..........madness!

Aurel - I think Ian is spot on with his assumption that it is a piece from a silk postcard. It is quite a poignant reminder of the past isn't it?

Ian - Scary prices! It's one of the reasons I have slowed down buying medal groups. I've now started picking up 'Peace Medals' issued by local town councils etc, they're still cheapish!

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Aurel Sercu

Ian, Lee,

I must say I have my doubts about the possibility that it is a silk postcard.

The item I photographed was definitely not silk, but plastic-like and certainly transparent (apart from the flowers, that were in relief). That's why we first thought it was the 'plastic' or mica of a gas mask, which we are very familiar with and have found quite often. If it looks white, around the lettering, it is because the white sheet of paper on which I had put it to photograph, is shining through.

Should anybody else have seen something similar ... I just wanted to know if it was something common, standard, sent or given to many soldiers, as a present or so.

But a poignant reminder it certainly is. Like rosary crucifixes, scapulars, sweetheart rings, foreign coins to be taken home as a souvenir...

Aurel

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Guest Hill 60

Aurel - Some of the silk postcards I've seen had a 'plastic' covering tightly fixed over the silk. This could be one of those bits of 'plastic' that has the pattern imprinted on it.

Then again, I could be way off the mark :lol:

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Aurel Sercu

Lee,

Thanks.

And you could be right of course. I didn't know about silk postcards having a plastic covering, but what you wrote makes sense. In that case the rest of the card (3/4 ?) may have been cut off, or disappeared after folding it.

Aurel

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Aurel,

I have had another thought about this (amazing what a workout can do to clear the mind!). The problem I have is that the use of plastic or mica was not very common at the time in packaging as it is today. However, I wonder if it is a plastic/mica cover for a box of chocolates sent privately or in a soldier comforts package?

Otherwise i go back to the silk and what Lee has said.

That's as far as my thinking takes.

Ian

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Aurel,

Ahhhhhhh!

Is it a mica/plastic cover for a Xmas card?

Ian

:)

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Fleur

Aurel,

I have seen celluloid / plastic postcards from the first world war for sale before.

As I recall they were more likely to be of german origin, but there is nothing to say that they weren't being produced for the Brits too.

Some of these cards had what be termed as hidden scenes where , if you held them up to the light, it would shine through the card revealing perhaps a sunset, or a town on fire (I am sure I have seen celluloid cards of Arras that fit this description - but I can't be sure)

Could this be what your mystery object is??

I will have a look in some of my postcard ref books and se what other info I can dig out on this.

I do know that the german Mica cards were very ornate.

I'll get back to y'all on this one :D

Fleur

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Geoff Parker

Watch out for the Princess Mary tins, I am reliably informed that these

tins are now being manufacturered in India and sold on the UK market

as originals. I've see a few myself, with contents, that look a little bit iffy.

And when a dealers got three or four of them for sale at the same time

you've got to be a bit suspicious.

Geoff

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Aurel Sercu

Thanks, Fleur and Ian, for helping me with the identification of this mystery object.

Sorry, Ian, if again I'm wandering away from the topic you started (Princess Mary Tins). Again : nothing to do with it. It's just that I have always been intrigued by 'plastic' we found on the Boezinge battlefield. Two years ago (5 May 2001) I was urgently called to the 'battlefield' by my co-Diggers. "We have found plastic sheets on the floor of what probably is the German Cactus Trench". I did not take them seriously. Plastic in a trench ?!

But when I arrived : they were right. Whether it was real plastic, I don't know (certainly not mica, but it felt like plastic). But what is more : the year was on it ! 1911.

Description : plastic sheets of 51 cm x 28,5 cm. Yellow background, 40 black circles (diameter 6 cm). Central text : "Gillette - Rasiere dich selbst - Sicherheits-Rasierapparat - Kein Abziehen - Kein Schleifen". And around it : a 1911 calendar ! On the same sheet 16 times in German, 6 times in French, 6 times in Italian, 6 times in Swedish (?). There was some stuff stuck to the sheets that felt like shaving soap.

Well, this of course has nothing to do with Princess Mary Tins, genuine or fake. I just couldn't resist letting you know about this find that at the time I found rather amusing.

Aurel

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Aurel,

I am sure that I speak for a lot of people when I say this is all fascinating stuff. Archeology has always pushed the bounds of disciplined study and you are lucky to be at the cutting edge!

The only thing that makes me unhappy is that I am not there myself :(

I wonder who produced this German plastic sheet - Bayer?

Has anyone else any ideas?

Ian

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garyem1

Ian, I agree with you.

I would also like to say that if it was not for that stretch of water between us and France, Aurel and his diggers, would have more diggers than he could handle. ( and i mean genuine volunteers) Good luck to Aurel and his diggers for the work they do. Much respect to them.

garyem1. Dover, Kent, England.

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mordac

Hi All:

I've been keeping my eyes open for a Princess Mary Tin for a little while now however, Geoff's post about knockoff tins has me concerned. How do you know a tin is an original and not a knockoff? Are there any id marks or stamps on the tin? What's a fair price for an empty and a complete Princess Mary Tin? Thanks for your help.

Garth

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Guest Hill 60

Garth - I've seen prices for empty tins between £25-50. The prices also depend on condition etc and I don't go near complete tins..the temptation to grab and run is too strong :ph34r:

Have a look at Paul Hinkley's site:

Princess Mary Tins

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Guest Ian Bowbrick

Garth,

If you are looking for a Princess Mary Tin, I have a couple going out to trade sometime. If you are interested please let me know.

Ian :)

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mordac

Lee - Thanks for the web link, this will be a valuable tool for spotting knockoffs. I found an empty Princess Mary Tin in a local second hand shop for $5.50 CDN (about £2). It seemed to be in reasonabe condition, with a smal dent in the bottom. I'm heading back for a much closer look!

Ian - Would you please send me an e-mail with info on the tins. In the end, I think the problem might be the postage cost and insurance shipping a tin to Canada. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Garth

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Geoff Parker

Garth

Did'nt mean to scare you off buying a tin. Most of those you see around

are quite genuine, but if they still have the contents in that is when its time to be wary. I was told by a dealer I know very well that these were now being reproduced in India, and certainly there seems to be a large number turning up at fairs over the last year that are complete and contents look too new and in perfect condition.

I've no objection to purchasing a repro one that is complete but I'm not paying some outrageous price for it because its being sold as an original.

I think I paid about £10-15 for mine (empty unfortuantely) a few years ago. I suppose it comes down to if it looks the part and the price is right, buy it.

Geoff

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Clive Maier

I’m afraid I am a bit late in getting round to this one. I can’t help on Princess Mary tins, but I do know a bit about plastics.

Aurel Sercu found two examples: a fragment of a greetings card and a printed plastics sheet.

The greetings card was transparent and embossed. There were very few transparent plastics known at this time; the only realistic possibilities are cellulose nitrate (celluloid), viscose (cellophane), and cellulose acetate. The latter was used during World War I for doping the fabric covering of aeroplane wings. Cellulose acetate film had been produced as early as 1909 but to the best of my knowledge it was not at all common until much later. Cellophane film was also known at the time, but only just. Manufacturing was established in Switzerland and France around 1913. I don’t think the material was made in England until much later. In any case, cellophane film would have been rather thin and insubstantial; not a good candidate for a greetings card. By far the most likely material is celluloid. Appropriately enough, this is related chemically to gun cotton and is violently inflammable. The birth of the modern plastics industry is often dated from the unveiling of celluloid in the form of Parkesine at the London International Exhibition of 1862. I think there are two possibilities for the greetings card. It could have been produced wholly in celluloid by printing, probably on the reverse side, and subsequent embossing under heat and pressure in a simple mould. Alternatively, the card could have been produced by conventional means and then been given a protective and glossy covering by laminating a celluloid sheet to the top surface. In this case, the embossing could have been done before or after lamination. During its long burial, the organic backing material would have decomposed, leaving only the laminated cover bearing traces of the printed substrate. I conjecture that the motive for using celluloid was to provide a small keepsake that would be far more durable and hardwearing in a tunic pocket than a printed card.

The second item, the printed plastics sheet, is remarkable. We don’t know whether the material was transparent before being printed but it seems evident that it is glossy and flexible. The flexible property disposes of the non-transparent materials known at the time so I think it is likely that this is an extremely early example of cellophane. The design suggests that the sheet was multi-printed with the intention of subsequently stamping out the 6cm roundels for use as individual packaging items. I think they could have been intended to cover and protect the surface of shaving soap that was furnished in a bowl or mug. It may be that the same sheet, this time uncut, was used to overwrap a carton of a dozen or so of these items. In any event, a waterproof flexible sheet would have been a real prize in the trenches.

I think this sheet could be a very important find but I would like to refer it for a more authoritative opinion to the Plastics Historical Society. I will contact Aurel Sercu off forum to see if that can be done. The PHS could also advise on conservation. Plastics tend to deteriorate very badly over an extended period of time and this is proving to be a serious problem for museum conservators.

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Will O'Brien

A little side issue on the Princess Mary tins (or rather their content) - Can anyone tell me if a soldier needed to be serving abroad to recieve a tin - I have in my possession the Christmas Card which I understood to have been my Great Uncle's (an assumption made as it was with a number of his papers & personal possessions). However my Great Uncle served in the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers & I have it from a reliable source (Ronnie) that they did not reach France until May 1915. As such if the tins were only to soldiers at the front the card cannot be my Great Uncles.

Will

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Aurel Sercu

Clive,

Thanks for your extensive reply with regard to the plastic we found.

What you write about both (transparent and embossed greetings card, and the printed plastics sheet) certainly makes sense to me.

I cannot examine the transparent greetings card, as it was found with remains, and thus handed to the authorities together with the remains. The plastics sheet seems to have the properties you describe. I will send you some samples, no problem.

I will contact you off Forum later tonight.

Aurel Sercu

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BMoorhouse

Aurel,

I would be interested to know if you identify the remains of the Somerset Light Infantryman. I realise that it is unlikely after all this time, but I also know how tenacious you can be.

Brendon Moorhouse.

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Aurel Sercu

Brendon,

As to the Somerset Light Infantryman we found 18 April : unfortunately no identification...

Just this : right after the exhumation the remains and all the items found with them are handed to the police, who later hand them (when it is a British soldier) to the CWGC Ypres. They try to identify. But of course in the course of the exhumation we ourselves meticulously keep an eye on all items that might have a number, initials, unit etc. And in this case there was nothing. Just a few pipes, that plastic item, and of course the SLI cap badge. I'm sure that CWGC will not find any additional information.

I guess we have to learn to live with that. This is our big frustration : no identification. (Apart from one French soldier.) The explanation is understandable. So far remains of 170 soldiers have been found on the Boezinge Canal Site (near Yorkshire Trench). Half of them : British. The great majority of these British soldiers must have fallen in the summer and second half of 1915, a period that there were no metal dog tags yet, just the fibre sort (green and red), which of course decayed soon.

The 1/SLI was on the Boezinge Canal site from end May 1915 till 7 July 1915. In that period they suffered approx. 70 fatal casualties (half of them on 6/7/July). 20 of them have no known grave, and remained on the battlefield. (For a reason I don't understand half of these names are on the Ploegstreet Memorial, not the Menin Gate Memorial.)

So when reading these 20 names, I know that one of them ...

Aurel

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