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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Shell cases


Susie H

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Hello

Can anyone advise me what happened to all the used shell cases during the war? Were they just left where they were fired, in which case were they just buried at the end of the war or gathered up as scrap, or were they recycled during the war, returning them to the factories to be reused or melted down to make more shell cases.

Sue Harris

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Assuming you mean cartridge cases other that small-arms, they were salvaged and reused or recycled depending on condition. Obviously shell cases were blown apart if filled with HE, as far as I know there was no salvaging of enemy shell cases (eg that carried shrapnel) that landed on the allied side of the front line but am happy to be told otherwise.

Obviously 'shell case' is unnecessary verbosity, it is a 'shell' that is filled with something.

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On the other hand if we are taking about used brass cases these were usually reused, checked, tested, re-filled and stamped appropriately before being returned back to the front.

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Obviously 'shell case' is unnecessary verbosity, it is a 'shell' that is filled with something.

Not "obviously". A modern shell consists of a number of components viz a case, an explosive filling, sometimes other filling (eg shrapnel balls, gas, chemicals etc) a fuse (often not contained fully within the shell case) and a driving band (external to the shell case).

Brass was in short supply in WW1 (mainly because of issues in world copper production) and it was essential for all sides to recycle brass cartridge cases wherever and whenever possible.The Germans paid soldiers a bounty for recovered brass.

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On the other hand if we are taking about used brass cases these were usually reused, checked, tested, re-filled and stamped appropriately before being returned back to the front.

Apart from the ones nicked and turned into trench art!!

James

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Apart from the ones nicked and turned into trench art!!

James

There were limitations on the number of times a cartridge case could be (safely) reused so not all would be refilled but in such circumstances should have been sent for melting down. Some cartridge cases were mounted on wooden blocks and used as crude trench mortars, especially by the French

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