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Trench Art

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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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Kath
41 minutes ago, Michael Haselgrove said:

"A Belgian soldier working on his "Trench Art"

Links up nicely with my post #20.

:)

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David Filsell

A lot of useful stuff here.

I don't think I would argue with the definition( genuine) trench art to describe the items put up by GWF or Robin 2. Essentially, most are not the work of skilled hands - and no worse for that. They are small items created with small tools - in some cases a punch and a hammer (or Birmingham screwdriver) - showing no need for major tools or skills.

However both Kath's and those put up by Jools are not, I judge, real 'trench art', in the basic sense. Perhaps the term War Commemorative items should be used for them and others like them in any writing on the subject.

Unfortunately, most of my small items are away from home having been loaned for a Great War display in Eype (coincidence) Church, Dorset, and are waiting in safe hands to be collected. The three I have to hand  - all paper knives, all with turkish/middle eastern influence - indicate the use of specialist tools and varying degrees of skill. All, I would  judge, were made out of the line.  One, a bizarre crucifix uses a rifle round cartridge, three spent rounds and a 'found' crucifix'. This I suspect is of 'local' French manufacture - but who can possibly know, Another is a propeller tip, brass bound turned, into a picture frame. Altogether the crucifix is  rather odd.

My biggest and best commemorative wartime piece is a large German Shell case wonderfully, skillfully, engraved by members of the Army Ordnance Experimental Workshop and presented to their colonel after the Battle of Amiens. Currently it stands in the hall full of walking sticks and walking poles, brolllys and a very odd Victorian combined paddle and and boat hook.  (Don't ask). It's in need of polishing, but left with its patina to ensure cleaning does no damage to a wonderful piece. If it was trench art it must have been a big trench, but the word workshop is clear evidence of its manufacture by skilled hands.! 

Sorry for the lack of pics - I still haven't  managed to find out how to post pics - yes I know its easy - but I just haven't bothered to try to crack it.

Regards

David  

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Kath

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/trench-art

"What is trench art?
Trench Art is a misleading term given today to a wide variety of decorative items, sometimes also functional, produced during or soon after the First World War (though the term is also applied to products of both earlier and more recent wars). They were made in all the countries engaged in combat. Ashtrays, matchbox holders, letter knives, model tanks and planes are typically found. Often they are re-purpose lead bullets, brass recovered from spent charge cases, and copper from shell driving bands, although carved wooden and bone pieces, and embroideries are also seen. However, few examples were fashioned literally in the trenches. Nor were all made by soldiers."

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trench whistle

This is the only piece of trench art I have that I believe to have been made during the conflict it is a somewhat polish worn matchbox cover marked to J W Dodd ASC MT with a ASC badge. The spine has Bourdon on it which is a commune of the Somme region. The rear has a JWD monogramme. I have been unable to track down J W Dodd but for your research purposes the design is uniformly applied by some sort of burring tool, the marks are similar to those made by a printmakers roulette (I did printmaking at college). These are small pocket sized tools that are quiet to use. I can see that a soldier, if from a print background, might have such a thing and could decorate small objects without difficulty. The problem for me in convincing me of trench manufactured items such as this is in the cutting and forming of the cover itself. Whilst at college I decided to make a matchbox cover to see how easy it would be. To cut the metal to size accurately takes pretty decent saws. To form the bends the metal needed to be heated to anneal it  so that it was soft enough to work with out stressing it, then it needed holding in a vice or former and hammered to form the bends.  I was starting with flat sheet, if I was starting with a shell the it would first need heating and rolling or hammering flat. None of this I can see being done in forward trenches.  Sorry for the poor photo but it really is the best my old camera could do!

DSCF2278.JPG

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Gunner Bailey

Here are some my grandfather's BRITISH trench art. The shell case is one of a pair (the other  one is with my cousin in the USA).

 

The knives reflect his service with the 21st Division.

 

 

SSCN1108.JPG

SSCN1109.JPG

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chaz

DSC_0472.JPG.24648f489b5e0d572e0d4e196c906dbd.JPG

DSC_0471.JPG

Edited by chaz
paper knife from Lens

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chaz

very basic opener, crude hole making, no add ons, what I would call true trench art from Vimy Ridge

DSC_0470.JPG

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chaz

two coal scuttles around 4inch long, one with turned handle couldnt be done without a lathe, the other not polished and handle missing but very similar even looking from above cut out, only differences are large opening and base slightly smaller on dark one.

DSC_0473.JPG

DSC_0474.JPG

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