As we packed up the museum during the first week of September a few objects in particular caught my eye, so I decided to use one of them for this month’s object. On the second or third day of d-week I was working with Allan, one of our museum assistants, to pack up a case featuring objects from the Boer War (1899-1902). As we opened up an old chocolate tin to see if we could find its label, we found some 112-year-old chocolate! I thought that was pretty cool, so here it is, this month’s object of the month: the Queen Victoria chocolate tin.
All of the army and navy troops serving in South Africa over New Year 1900 were sent a gift of chocolate in a red tin like this by Queen Victoria as an attempt to boost morale and as an expression of gratitude. The tins were issued in two sizes; the one formerly on display in the Museum is one of the larger tins which would have included two bars of chocolate. As you can see in the picture above, the front of the chocolate tin features an image of Queen Victoria and the date 1900. Across the bottom are the words “I wish you a happy New Year” and Victoria’s signature.
The three largest chocolate manufacturers in Britain, Cadbury’s, Rowntree and Fry, teamed up to produce the boxes and agreed that no brand name would be stamped on the tin. Queen Victoria, however, wanted the soldiers to know that she was sending them good British chocolate so the brand was stamped on the inner packaging. While many soldiers enjoyed their chocolate, others (such as the owner of this box) kept the contents in the tin and brought it all home as a souvenir.
At the time the chocolate box was issued, the 2nd Battalion The Black Watch was serving with the Highland Brigade in South Africa. It wasn’t until a year later that the 1st Battalion would join them, arriving in December 1901, to reinforce the 2nd after it had suffered heavy casualties at Magersfontein. The war continued until May 1902.