Silver cigarette box with braille writing

22 June 2017, Comments 0

Nowadays, when smoking is a barely-tolerated social habit, cigarette cases and boxes are not so common and it is difficult to imagine utilising one as a presentation gift.  However, for most of the 20th Century, this was not the case; and the Museum has very many examples of silver cigarette boxes presented to individuals, messes and competition winners.

So, how does this little, seemingly quite ordinary, box earn such a prestigious position in one of our WWI cases?

If you examine the box closely, you will notice that the letters of the inscription are not engraved but raised, reminiscent of old-fashioned printers’ blocks; but, possibly the real clue is that the words are repeated on the underside in braille!

This cigarette box was presented to Corporal Charles McIntosh of the 5th Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry (5HLI) by his fellow members of the Ranfurly Castle Golf Club.

Sadly, we do not know a great deal about Charles, except that he sustained this life-changing injuries and where it happened.

Charles, along with 5HLI and the rest of the 157 (Highland Light Infantry) Brigade were part of the first landings at Gallipoli on 12 July 1915. At about 0730, following the three-hour preliminary bombardment, the Brigade pressed forward with an infantry attack on Turkish positions; and the whole operation went rather well, forward trenches were taken with few casualties.

New orders were then issued: after further bombardment, each battalion was to send up 4 Officers and 25 soldiers to make the push forward.  The attack was at 1700 and by 1730, the frontlines were secured with more Officers requested to secure the many Turkish prisoners.

Sadly, the susequent Turkish counter-attack changed all that: fighting went on into the night; headquarters staff had to help supply the frontline with men and ammunition; and there were many casualties on both sides.  However, at the end of a hard night, with not much sleep, the valley if Kanli Dere was secured for the British.

At some time during this conflict, Charles lost his sight, and again we are not sure how, but it is not difficult to imagine the damage that could be done by a stray bullet or shell.  Indeed, many of Charles’s comrades died during that battle, so he probably thought that he had not done too badly!

Certainly, the members of his Golf Club were very proud of him, as not only did they go to a great deal of trouble to ensure that he could read the inscription, but they also gave him £100, which would probably equate to some £6,500 today.

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