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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Trench art item


Aurel Sercu

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A few days ago I was contacted by someone who asked me if I knew what exactly the item was that had got into his possession, and of which he sent me a photo.

Trench art, no doubt, consisting of 3 rifle bullets and a disk with the coat of arms of Diksmuide (French name : Dixmude). Diksmuide is on the River Yser, between the Belgian coast (Nieuwpoort) and Ypres, and Belgian front line throughout the war. (So the iitem normally should be Belgian or German).

It is approx. 7 cm long (almost 3 inches), with a diameter of the disk of 3 cm (a little more than 1 inch).

My question : what exactly is it ?

- It is something purely decorative, or does it serve a purpose ?

- It apparently is not a medal (nothing to be suspended, no hole)

- There are 3 different types of bullets. Are they different nationalities ? (German, Belgian, French, British ?)

- Does the bullet cross have any significance ? Something symbolic ?

Please satisfy my and my (Swiss) contact's curiosity ...

Aurel

post-8-1109333218.jpg

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First guess ... something not completed ... looks like it could have been a handle for something ... like a corkscrew ... but, when all else fails - a paperweight

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I was clutching at straws, Bob. It just seemed the right size (smaller than the photo) though not the ideal shape for delving into the nether regions of pipes! I do get the feeling that it had a purpose, though. Phil B

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I do get the feeling that it had a purpose, though. Phil B

Exactly, Phil.

I was sceptical when I read your pipe cleaner idea, but on the other hand, it does not look like a fantasy product or something. It must have had a purpose indeed. For a while I had thought of the pendulum of a wall clock, but as it does not look as if it was meant to be suspended ...

Aurel

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My latest rambling thought:- It was used to pierce something but only to a depth of half an inch or so as fixed by the two cross bullets. Can`t think what, though. At least it`s an improvement on my other thought - removing stones from horses` hooves. (A necessary tool on all jack knives before the sixties!) :) Phil B

PS The central "bullet" is appreciably longer than the other two and doesn`t have any marks from cartridge fitting.

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Hi Aurel

I was looking at your photo of the trench art item and referred to a book i have on trench art and wondered if it could be a temporary grave marker, just a thought.

Lindsey

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Zephyr4,

Yes, I believe that, but what puzzles me : did it serve any purpose, was it meant to do something with it, or just a 'meaningless' of 'functionless' item ?

Lindsey,

Temporary grave marker ? It's so small. Less than 3 inches long.

Phil,

The central bullet on the trench art item no doubt is French (39,2 mm). That is has no marks from cartridge fitting is normal : the marks of a French bullet are in the middle (slightly below it, toward the bottom that is), and are hidden by the two other bullets.

The one with the point pointing to the left (on the item), slightly bent, I think is British Lee Enfield (I always thought 0.303 inch is the length, but somewhere I found 0.312 inch (or 7.92 mm). I think it is the American manufacturing (with two grippings, one ribbed)

And I have no idea what the third bullet on the item is (pointing right). Certainly not German. (German bullets are 4.4 mm shorter than British. See the photo below.) Belgian ? I would say not, because as far as I know Belgian bullets had round points. (All of then ? No idea.)

The scanned bullets below :

- Right : British Lee Enfield (1.275 in pr 32.4 mm)

- Central : French (39.2 mm)

- Left : German (only 28 mm)

I would also like to point out that on the trench art item the points of the bullets seem less pointed than normal, less pointed that is than on my photo below. Have they been filed off ? Or are they worn off because the item has been used for something ?

And so we are back to where we started from : used for what ? :blink:

Aurel

post-8-1109371440.jpg

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Aurel

Looking again at this, I think that the item perhaps did not have a 'purpose'so to speak. It reminds me of a peice of jewelly, in its design. I would think it could be a 'test peice' so to speak, of a soldier that is trying out his skills at making things???

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I still think this is just a curio made by someone from around the town of Dixmude to make money after the war.

maybe a blacksmith or similar

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So we have the two extremes :

- non-functional, only a decorative souvenir,

- and multifunctional (except clipping nose hair... :rolleyes:

Lindsey, I am trying to imagine you with this piece of jewellery, but I'm not very successful. By the way, what did you have in mind ? A piercing ? And ... where ? ;)

The funny thing is : here we are, in an international discussion, about this work of art or craftmanship, made (almost ) 90 years ago, by God knows who.

I really wish the man knew about us. It certainly would produce a smile or even more on his face. I do hope he will manifest himself in my dreams tonight.

Aurel

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My guess is a thing for making indentations in something - a sort of 'dibber'.

Boy Scouts or cubs used to 'dib'. In fact I think they 'dib, dib, dibbed'

The action involved a twisting motion and the crossed bullets are to give purchase.

OR

A stopper for a bottle with a quite narrow neck, because of the decorative shield.

Whatever it is, I like it very much.

Kate

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Necklace!! of course...We are going through the 'piercing stage' at the moment in my house, my youngest REFUSING to have her ears pierced!!! despite already having had her belly button done!! Its a bit 'Abfab' here I think!!!

Just to clarify my comment on jewellry.. I did a course on silver jewelry making and learnt how difficult it is to 'make' the vision you have in your head. The skills are so important, which brings me back to my thinking, this could have been an 'apprentice' piece???

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This looks like the handle of a paper knife or such like. Does the central bullet have a slot in the pointed end where the blade was attached? (it looks like it may have, as the metal is deformed at the tip). Is that an attachment rivet or a mark on the metal?

Probably way off mark.

Cheers.

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Hi Aurel,

.303 is the calibre of the British bullet not the length. Regarding the prupose I am not sure it has one, as others have said it may be purely a decorative curiousity. Failing that Raster's 'handle' theory sounds good.

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My guess is a thing for making indentations in something - a sort of 'dibber'. Boy Scouts or cubs used to 'dib'. In fact I think they 'dib, dib, dibbed'

The action involved a twisting motion and the crossed bullets are to give purchase.

Kate

Kate,

Thanks. Also for stirring up a lot of nostalgia. I used to be a boy scout myself. (Until 45 years ago.)

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1. Necklace!! of course...We are going through the 'piercing stage' at the moment in my house, my youngest REFUSING to have her ears pierced!!! (...)

2. The skills are so important, which brings me back to my thinking, this could have been an 'apprentice' piece???

Lindsey,

1. I have (had) no daughters, but even I know that the best way to make a daughter have her ears pierced, is ... to forbid her to have her ears pierced. (I guess that's what made you to have yours pierced ! ;)

2. Yes, the item is certainly not perfect (not 100% symmetric). Looks like an apprentice piece indeed.

Jewellery ? My main objection is that there is no hole for a necklace chain or so, to suspend it.

Also : such an "aggressive" item (bullets !) for something to be worn by a woman ? (Or am I being sexist (again) now ?) :lol:

Aurel

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This looks like the handle of a paper knife or such like. Does the central bullet have a slot in the pointed end where the blade was attached? (it looks like it may have, as the metal is deformed at the tip). Is that an attachment rivet or a mark on the metal?

R.S.,

I have no idea. I have not seen the item myself, only the photo. And I must say I have had the same question.

However, my (Swiss) contact is away for a few days right now, but I will ask him asap.

Aurel

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Hi Aurel,

.303 is the calibre of the British bullet not the length. Regarding the prupose I am not sure it has one, as others have said it may be purely a decorative curiousity. Failing that Raster's 'handle' theory sounds good.

Giles,

You make me look so stupid ! But I assure you : when I wrote "length" I did mean diameter ! (But it was close to midnight, Belgian time.) I was in the army you know ! Even if that was 35 years ago. And even if I fired only 5 or 6 bullets !

But thanks for your remark, for I'm afraid you will have to clarify. I must say I thought that 0.303 was the diameter of the bullet. Now I see it is the calibre, and the calibre is the diameter of the barrel. Right ? But how is it possible to fire a 0.312 inch bullet (7.92 mm) through a 0.303 inch barrel (7.70 mm) ? I know the difference is only 0.22 mm, and yet ... Is the bullet squezed while firing ? And does that mean that the diameter of a fired bullet is less than of a non fired bullet ?

I guess I am making another silly mistake right now, leaving me embarrassed after your reply.

Aurel

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Mmmm. Cross of St Andrew? Any Belgian crosses like that? Did only Belgians serve at Dixmude? :unsure: Phil B

Phil,

Yes, we know the St Andrews cross too, but I don't see the link with the Belgian Army.

As far as I know the only troops at Diksmuide were Belgian. (And German of course).

There were British troops at a given moment more northward (Nieuwpoort, 1917 or end of the war, not sure), and there were French troops more southward, but that was close to Steenstrate.

Aurel

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