The first direct request for state aid for the performing arts came from a group of stage performers during the winter of 1914. A few well-known personalities, led by the actor Seymour Hicks and his musical wife Ellaline Terriss, decided that it would be a valuable contribution to the war effort if they went over to France and entertained the troops at Christmas time. Lord Burnham agreed to put up half the money for the expedition, and Ellaline Terriss describes how she and Hicks approached the War Office for the rest:

At first I don't think, from the questions we were called upon to answer, any such thing as entertainment for the soldiers in the War zone had entered the heads of those who were directing operations. Indeed, Lord Kitchener, after enquiring when we wanted to start and being told Xmas Eve, asked if we thought the British Army was going to stop fighting on Xmas Day?