FEW Christmas greetings have been clouded with as much sorrow as those of 1914.

Exactly 100 years ago, amid the horrors of the First World War, famous York industrialist and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree wrote cordial greetings to his workforce, speaking of the sadness that had befallen the country and the York factory.

His Christmas letter to the Cocoa Works Magazine has been passed to The Press by Nestle archivist Alex Hutchinson, and gives an illuminating insight into the mood at the factory.

"Today the war is thr thought uppermost in the minds of all, and we at the Cocoa Works cannot forget that nearly 500 of our men have already joined the forces," he wrote.

"Our thoughts and hopes are with them, especially with those who are exposed to dangers and hardships abroad.

"We follow their fortunes with interest and sympathy, and shall welcome them on their return.

"Two who used to work here - H.S. Wadsworth (Reservist), Melangeur Department, and W McLellan (Reservist), Gum Department - have sacrificed their lives in fighting for their country, and our hearts go out in warm sympathy to their families and friends."

He said the factory was "entertaining guests litttle dreamt of four months ago", namely 1,000 men from the 8th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, based in the New Dining Room Block, and several families of Belgian refugees who had been taken in by Rowntree's workers.

"The life and welfare not only of our own nation, but also of others, take the place of merely personal problems," wrote Mr Rowntree.

"Thus every Chrsimas greeting becomes a wish for a truer and more abiding peace than the world has yet known or - to use the old words to which the years only give greater significance - for the coming Kingdom of God. We believe that it will come - across the Europe of today we look for its coming - and it is in that conviction that we greet one another now.

"With cordial thanks to one and all for the help giving us in a difficult time, and with best wishes for Xmas and the New Year."