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Researchstudent

Trench Art

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Researchstudent

Hello 

 

I am currently researching for my university dissertation which is on Trench Art.

 

I was wondering if anyone has any examples they’d be willing to share, especially if the maker is known or there is a story behind it. 

 

If anyone would like to share I’d be very grateful. I will of course seek full permission to use and pictures and information in my work even though it will not be officially published and acknowledge as appropriate. I would also be happy to email a final copy to anyone who is interested. 

 

 

Thank you 

Edited by Researchstudent

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DavidOwen

So is your dissertation on trench art or theft and courts martial (your other thread) or the theft of trench art?

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Researchstudent
5 hours ago, DavidOwen said:

So is your dissertation on trench art or theft and courts martial (your other thread) or the theft of trench art?

Thank you for your reply.

 

my dissertation is about trench art. As part of my discussion I’m looking at what motivated it’s creation by soldiers specifically as opposed to civilians. I came across a comment during my reading that suggested that the taking of empty shell cases was an offence, especially early in the war and I thought it would be interesting to research a bit further and see if anyone was actually taken to task for it. 

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DavidOwen
10 hours ago, Researchstudent said:

Thank you for your reply.

 

my dissertation is about trench art. As part of my discussion I’m looking at what motivated it’s creation by soldiers specifically as opposed to civilians. I came across a comment during my reading that suggested that the taking of empty shell cases was an offence, especially early in the war and I thought it would be interesting to research a bit further and see if anyone was actually taken to task for it. 

Thanks for making that clear.

Good luck with your project.

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chaz

the taking of cases could have been a problem as many were returned for refilling and reuse.

google trench art books, there have been a few written, cant find mine at moment, also ebay has many pictures of trench art already viewable and probably a greater example than we could provide. Ive written on the forum before regarding what makes an authentic trench art as opposed to mass produced, are you looking into that side? 

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Researchstudent
3 hours ago, chaz said:

the taking of cases could have been a problem as many were returned for refilling and reuse.

google trench art books, there have been a few written, cant find mine at moment, also ebay has many pictures of trench art already viewable and probably a greater example than we could provide. Ive written on the forum before regarding what makes an authentic trench art as opposed to mass produced, are you looking into that side? 

Thank you.

 

yes I have many books on trench art and I’ve been in contact with Nicholas Saunders who has been very helpful. I am indeed looking at that aspect and I feel there’s a big gulf between the trench art produced as souvenirs and the “true” form. 

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David Filsell

For what it's worth, I suppose that it is quite uneccessary to tell you that the majority of items called trench art were made behind the lines, there clearly was not the time, skiil or tools available to do much in the trenches. and idling soldiers did not remain idling long. 

Many soldiers and sailors found time to embroider , the RFC had a ready stream of broken props to turn into photograph framed. Is that trench art?  I think so. It was easy to carry a roll of material with wool or sik needles and sissors in a pocket or a pack. Some are highly skilled and quite beautiful. Much was  also made by locals, (some of whom are still at it). The complicated stuff was made behind the lines by units or locals with skills men, the right tools and equipment, Add modern fakes and you have one hell of a job on your hands. I,like many others, have examples of the good the bad and the ugly - and its virtually impossible to accept any of them were made in the trenches, or if they were made by a Brit at all.

So remember - here be dragons.

Best regards

david 

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Gunner Bailey

 

10 hours ago, chaz said:

the taking of cases could have been a problem as many were returned for refilling and reuse.

google trench art books, there have been a few written, cant find mine at moment, also ebay has many pictures of trench art already viewable and probably a greater example than we could provide. Ive written on the forum before regarding what makes an authentic trench art as opposed to mass produced, are you looking into that side? 

 

Chaz

 

Have you any evidence that Trench Art was 'mass produced' ?

 

If that were the case there would be identical, multiple examples, which in 20+ years of being interested in it I've never seen.

 

I think what you mean are pieces made post war for tourists, much of which was made by farmers or local metal workers, but it was still individually made, piece by piece.

Edited by Gunner Bailey

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Gunner Bailey
2 hours ago, David Filsell said:

and its virtually impossible to accept any of them were made in the trenches, or if they were made by a Brit at all. 

Best regards

david 

 

David

 

I have a number of items that were made by my grandfather, a sapper who had access to tools. So yes some Brits did make trench art in their spare time during the war. He spent a lot of time in the trenches (he said more time than the infantry) but he did have spells out of the front line.

 

John

Edited by Gunner Bailey

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Researchstudent

Hi! Thank you for your messages they raise so many fantastic points for debate and I think captures the entire crux of the issue with “trench art”. 

 

In all honesty these are questions and classifications that I am still unpicking. I’ll tell you what my heart says and what my more academic side says 😂

 

In my heart I want to define “trench art” as anything made by soldiers in the front lines, or in reserve. I have seen at the IWM a beautiful professional pill box made by one of the royal artillery in a makeshift workshop in the back lines many of which were sold on. I’d argue all day long for that being “trench art” due to my belief (and this is a work in progress!) that we need to define “trench art” by using a “circles of proximity to war” model, where closest to the centre you have soldiers and others employed on active service, including the labour forces. Then you have the POWs, recuperating men etc, then civilians and so on. My problem lies in the documented “trench art” examples where returning soldiers were quite put off by the “vulgar” (not my words) selling of “trench art” pieces as souvenirs which were made way after the war by civilians. 

 

Also when I spoke to the fine art director at the IWM she told me that in their classification, mass produced lighters are the in same category as what I would call “ true trench art” as are prices of shrapnel, buttons from German and other uniforms etc. I would argue very differently. 

 

I think that the lack of provenance for so many pieces of “trench art” makes our job very difficult as we don’t know where they were made or who made them. I’m hoping at a further stage of my career to get some pieces in the lab and look at some pieces we do have provenance for so we can see if there is anything that can be helpful in terms of manufacturing traces on the metal, soldering temperatures, riveting techniques, chemical composition and so on that might help us see patterns that we can then use to try and place pieces we know little about. 

 

Its a fascinating topic and I’m not sure that we can ever reach definitive conclusions regarding such a varied body of material culture. But hey! It’s gotta be worth a try! 

 

Warm regards  

 

Sarah 

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chaz

With the tall vases, I can see no possible way they could have been done in a trench or for that matter anywhere without a mechanical press that would give such an even texture , having worked in metalwork for 40+ years I have grown up with hammers and presses and there is a difference. Secondly, the noise from soldiers banging could be heard by both sides even with wood and cloth sound proofing, then as has been said before, she'll cases were reuse able in many cases. Can you see private bloggs asking a nco in charge of the dump if he could have one ? On the subject, I can not see how the accurately swaged in mid position 'dents' could be achieved.

 

Can't post pictures as at work, spelling being corrupted by iPad dictionary....

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Researchstudent
6 minutes ago, chaz said:

With the tall vases, I can see no possible way they could have been done in a trench or for that matter anywhere without a mechanical press that would give such an even texture , having worked in metalwork for 40+ years I have grown up with hammers and presses and there is a difference. Secondly, the noise from soldiers banging could be heard by both sides even with wood and cloth sound proofing, then as has been said before, she'll cases were reuse able in many cases. Can you see private bloggs asking a nco in charge of the dump if he could have one ? On the subject, I can not see how the accurately swaged in mid position 'dents' could be achieved.

 

Can't post pictures as at work, spelling being corrupted by iPad dictionary....

I agree, I am going to be really interested to see if my courts martial search brings anything up on that front.

 

really interesting to get a metalworkers opinion on this and the noise is certainly something very valid. Plus when you think how much kit they carried it seems that the large shell cases are a reserve thing. 

 

I think that the smaller items like match book covers with the more “rustic” engraving could potentially have been done at the front. I’m working on an spreadsheet that I’m inputting data from different accounts of time on and off duty at the front, including sleep time to get a rough idea of if there were enough “idle” hours to allow someone to sit and engrave with maybe a basic tool like a nail or file - what sort of tool do you think would be most accessible or what sort of makeshift tool do you think would do the job? 

 

I think it likely that bits of material could have been collected at the front and brought back to be made into stuff. There are accounts of people selling things they’ve made to the base personnel to get cash for a few extras.

 

i think a useful avenue of research would be for me to better understand what types of tools would be available in the reserve lines and what their distribution was like. 

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GWF1967
20 minutes ago, Researchstudent said:

I agree, I am going to be really interested to see if my courts martial search brings anything up on that front.

 

really interesting to get a metalworkers opinion on this and the noise is certainly something very valid. Plus when you think how much kit they carried it seems that the large shell cases are a reserve thing. 

 

I think that the smaller items like match book covers with the more “rustic” engraving could potentially have been done at the front. I’m working on an spreadsheet that I’m inputting data from different accounts of time on and off duty at the front, including sleep time to get a rough idea of if there were enough “idle” hours to allow someone to sit and engrave with maybe a basic tool like a nail or file - what sort of tool do you think would be most accessible or what sort of makeshift tool do you think would do the job? 

 

I think it likely that bits of material could have been collected at the front and brought back to be made into stuff. There are accounts of people selling things they’ve made to the base personnel to get cash for a few extras.

 

i think a useful avenue of research would be for me to better understand what types of tools would be available in the reserve lines and what their distribution was like. 

Here are a few simple items.  All I'd suggest were made in reserve areas, either by support units, A.S.C, R.E, A.O.C, R.A etc. who would have easy access to workshop facilities, or by soldiers at rest. 

 The dog tag is marked to RX4/233981 - Henry Leadbeater ASC Remounts, the book lighter to Willie Vaughn Lewis, a labourer/aircraftman in the RNAS/RFC. 

Leather, wood and metal workers could all easily produce similar items either with materials to hand, or with pieces bought back from the trenches. 

 The vases probably wouldn't be complicated for a skilled R.E. metalworker. 

image.jpeg

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GWF1967

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Researchstudent
1 minute ago, GWF1967 said:

image.jpeg

That’s fantastic thank you very much indeed. Could I please have your permission to use these pictures? 

 

Also do you happen to know of any good books on the R.E? 

 

Thank you so much for sharing, much appreciated.

 

warm regards 

Sarah 

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Jools mckenna

This my only bit of small pocket sized ww1 trench art that I have.

WP_20190211_22_57_59_Pro (2).jpg

WP_20190211_22_58_19_Pro (2).jpg

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GWF1967
11 minutes ago, Researchstudent said:

That’s fantastic thank you very much indeed. Could I please have your permission to use these pictures? 

More than welcome. 

 

12 minutes ago, Researchstudent said:

Also do you happen to know of any good books on the R.E? 

 

It would be an idea to ask for some recommend reading in the "Books" section of the forum.  

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GWF1967

Trench art dog tags. 

 The coins are from Europe- India.  

image.jpeg

image.jpeg

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Jools mckenna

A quite nicely made pair of dolls chairs made from spent artillery shells.

WP_20190211_23_17_30_Pro.jpg

WP_20190211_23_17_57_Pro (2).jpg

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Kath

THE TRENCH ART OF THE BELGIAN SOLDIER; CURIOS FASHIONED OUT OF BATTLEFIELD DEBRIS. i. MADE OF A GERMAN OFFICER'S HELMET-BADGE, AND A CARTRIDGE, BY THE BELGIAN WHO KILLED HIM AN ASH-TRAY OR PAPER-WEIGHT- 3. THE CASE OF A GERMAN SHELL THAT STRUCK YPRES 
28 February 1917 - The Sketch - London. p.4

https://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001860%2f19170228%2f006

image.png.b0b9568ee46e0f5893798031d3acdd54.png

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GWF1967

image.jpeg1915 S. William 23332. Cheshire Regiment. 

Edited by GWF1967

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chaz

At work , on nights, out of sight of management 🤓 We could get away with making a few odds, back 30 years ago when I was restoring British bikes , the frames were taken in , shot blasted then run up to paint shop in the early hours for spraying, same applied to chrome plating. Old bushes pushed out new pushed in, rebores  and head skims done.. Our foreman was often missing, one doing his horses or the other doing his odd homer.  We could even braze up frame damage...... Now, on the battlefield, as you say what tools would they have? Pen knife, maybe a light hammer, maybe a nail not much more. Tin snips, pliers, I suppose wire cutters could be used, I have items soldered, bullets together, officers hat, coal scuttle badges bent and soldered on all of which must have been done behind the lines. The question, for many men who, at the time , could not write, is... Would there be an engineer or similar behind the lines who would take orders or commissions from line soldiers to do things like brazing or soldering etc. 

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Andrew Upton
3 hours ago, chaz said:

...On the subject, I can not see how the accurately swaged in mid position 'dents' could be achieved...

 

 

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robins2

post-55705-0-52851100-1351062172_thumb.jpgpost-55705-0-58443700-1351062278_thumb.jpgpost-55705-0-01577300-1351062290_thumb.jpgpost-55705-0-55193100-1351062360_thumb.jpgpost-55705-0-59447600-1351062370_thumb.jpg

fell free to use the photos

regards

 

Bob R.

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Michael Haselgrove

Sarah,

Sorry about the quality of reproduction of the photo below but it may be of interest although I suspect you have already seen it.  It is in the IWM collection and the caption is "A Belgian soldier working on his "Trench Art" in the September sun of 1917". (IWM Q 2960). 

All the best with your dissertation - a very interesting choice of subject.

Regards,

Michael.

DSC04646.JPG

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