Trench Art

This tapestry belt is an example of needlework created by a serviceman; This tapestry belt is an example of needlework created by a serviceman. It has been decorated with tapestry work to spell out the name of its maker, W A Holland, and the ship in which he served, HMS Minotaur. HMS Minotaur was an armoured cruiser in which Holland served after his previous ship, HMS Warrior (also an armoured cruiser), was sunk on 1 June 1916 at the Battle of Jutland

This tapestry belt is an example of needlework created by a serviceman

souvenirs and ephemera

This tapestry belt is an example of needlework created by a serviceman. It has been decorated with tapestry work to spell out the name of its maker, W A Holland, and the ship in which he served, HMS Minotaur. HMS Minotaur was an armoured cruiser in which Holland served after his previous ship, HMS Warrior (also an armoured cruiser), was sunk on 1 June 1916 at the Battle of Jutland

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‘Trench art’ is a term that embraces a wide variety of objects made from the debris and by-products of modern warfare. These items are chiefly associated with the First World War, although similar items have been produced in many conflicts.

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‘Trench art’ is a term that embraces a wide variety of objects made from the debris and by-products of modern warfare. These items are chiefly associated with the First World War, although similar items have been produced in many conflicts.

Little, if any, trench art was actually made in trenches. Instead, it was usually made by servicemen to pass the time when not in the front line. While much of it was simple and amateurish, the production of some examples required metalworking skills or workshop facilities. Prisoners of war, faced with a constant battle against boredom and despair, produced similar items. Oftentimes, these were sold to their guards.

Many objects considered to be trench art were also made by local civilians for sale to soldiers. Frequently, this manufacture drew upon traditional local crafts, such as metalworking or lace-making. This industry continued after the war, with trench art-type objects being created for sale as souvenirs to visitors to battlefields and cemeteries, and such items are still manufactured to this day.

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  • Decorated shell cases

    souvenirs and ephemera

    Decorated shell cases; One of a pair of decorated shell cases engraved by a British soldier. Decorated shell cases are perhaps the most common type of trench art. This is one of a pair, engraved by a British soldier. The design was taken from a stencil, which was purchased from a Belgian soldier for five Woodbine cigarettes. The design was transferred to the shell case using iodine. A bent nail was then employed to engrave the design into the metal.
  • Trench Art crucifix, post 1918

    souvenirs and ephemera

    Trench Art crucifix, post 1918; The construction of this piece of 'Trench Art' suggests that it was made after the First World War. It is likely that it was produced for sale to battlefield tourists. However, the overall general conception of the crucifix closely reflects 'real' religiously-inspired trench art of the First World War.
  • The dangers of battlefield debris

    posters

    The dangers of battlefield debris; A post-war Belgian poster warning of the dangers of collecting battlefield debris. Such warnings did not deter many Belgians from making an income turning such potentially deadly items into souvenirs
  • Shell case, worked into an engraved tobacco jar

    souvenirs and ephemera

    Shell case, worked into an engraved tobacco jar; A British 13-pounder shell case, worked into an engraved tobacco jar by Turkish prisoners of war in the Middle East. The man who decorated it evidently possessed considerable metalworking skills; it is elaborately engraved with Islamic decorative motifs and calligraphy. Certain portions of the design are enhanced with an inlay of copper and silver wire, which has been hammered onto small indentations punched into the brass of the shell case.