We have inherited many legacies from World War One (The Great War For Civilisation) and "TRENCH ART" deserves a place, as one.


During the Winter of 1914, an activity was developed in the townships and second line in France which was given an inappropriate name - "Trench Craftsmanship" (battlefield materials were taken and made into roughly executed souvenir memory items).

The craft was popularised following a competition in the French Newspaper, LE PAYS DE FRANCE,  in 1915, when selected "Trench Artists" (
L’artisanat de tranchées) were awarded prizes for outstanding pieces they had made !



Trench Art is any decorative item made by soldiers, sailors, airforce personnel, prisoners of war, civilians, Chinese Labour Corps. or other auxiliary services, where the manufacture is directly linked to the Great War or its consequences. It offers an insight not only to their feelings and emotions about the war, but also their surroundings and materials they had available to them.

Small objects were created in the front and second lines, which would have served the dual purpose of providing a souvenir of the fronts and whiling away the maker’s time. Larger and more detailed pieces were made in workshops by troops behind the lines. They had the materials, machinery, skill and occasional spare time, and money could be made selling souvenirs to soldiers heading home. In France and Belgium work to make souvenirs was also given to civilians displaced by the war. Objects were also made ‘at home’ during the war by those awaiting call-up; also by wounded and convalescing men, for whom handicrafts involving wood, metal and embroidery formed part of their rehabilitation. Souvenirs made by others were often personalised by adding inscriptions relevant to the new owner.....


There was a large manufacturing trade during and after the war (selling souvenirs to Battlefield Tourists). Major Department Stores in the immediate post-war period offered to turn war souvenirs such as shell fuze heads – often brought back by soldiers – into wooden-based paperweights. If ex-soldiers had no souvenir, they could be provided. This source evidences the widespread examples of bulkier trench art – such as dinner gongs and poker stands made from shell charge cases. 

"A huge amount of First World War trench art survives to this day and, since 1918, has been augmented by pseudo-trench art produced to cater to the battlefield tourist market on the former Western Front. In recent times, it has become accepted that this manifestation of First World War material culture is far from trivial or ephemeral, but that it offers crucial insights into people’s experience of, and engagement with, the war."
(courtesy: Paul Cornish, Imperial War Museums)

In 2001, large quantities of partially-worked trench art were discovered by French archaeologists at the site of a brass-work trench art "factory" run by a German POW labour company based near Arras during 1919.

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