THE GAZETTE TOBACCO FUND in 1915

Monday, March 29, 1915

In billets, Estaires

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Dammed up the Courant de Meteren-Basque, a small stream which flowed through our billeting area, and made swimming pool for the men.  Alloted it to Companies at regular hours. This was much enjoyed by the men.  New clothing issued, and deficiencies in equipment made good.”  [1]

29 Mar 15THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: The Gazette Tobacco Fund was established after the First Canadian Contingent arrived in England in 1914 and continued through 1918. Its purpose was to solicit donations from its readers and the general public for the purchase of tobacco and related products for delivery to the Canadian troops serving in England and the continent throughout the First World War. Virtually every day during the war The Gazette published in its pages a continuous series of articles and advertisements such as those illustrated here. At numerous times throughout this campaign, the advertisements drew the attention of readers and donors to the fact that their contributions were being used for specific units of the Canadian Contingent, in particular units recruited in the Montreal area.

Each dollar contributed covered the cost of a package for an individual soldier. Each package contained the following: 1 Briar Pipe, 1 Rubber lined tobacco pouch, 1 Tinder lighter, 50 Cigarettes, 4 Ounces of tobacco, and a return post card addressed to the donor.

“The Gazette Tobacco Fund encouraged an exchange between Montreal soldiers and their families and friends. Like other tobacco charities in Britain and Canada, the newspaper included a return post-card, which would be sent back to the donor by the recipient, thus confirming the delivery. It also provided an opportunity for communications, however brief, with friends and loved ones, which was especially important as the war dragged on. The Gazette frequently published excerpts from these letters as well as their delivery time both to promote the fund and to encourage donors not to be discouraged that donations had been lost in the mail or worse. For many soldiers, the link that the Tobacco Fund created between the front and home became a further reminder of home when the fund began sending Canadian brands of cigarettes rather than contracting a British manufacturer to provide British brands. After receiving complaints, the Gazette contracted Imperial Tobacco to produce Sweet Caporals and Old Chum tobacco for the fund. The change prompted one letter to comment that the tobacco that he and his friends had previously received had been labelled ‘made specially for the troops,’ and this was seen as a mark of inferior tobacco by the Canadian soldiers. The current packages included tobacco that was ‘a pleasure such as we have been used to at home.’” [2]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, March 29, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089702.jpg
[2]   Jarrett Rudy, ‘The Freedom to Smoke: Tobacco Consumption and Identity,” McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, Montreal, Quebec, 2005, pg. 137.
[3]   “The Gazette Cigarette and Tobacco Fund for Canadians Overseas,” The Gazette, Montreal, Monday, March 29, 1915, pg. 6, col. 4

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