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"TIMBALE/GOBLET/QUART": aluminium drinking-cup engraved souvenirs, from WW1 

Aluminium drinking vessels (known in French as Timbales / Gobelets / Tasses / Quarts) form part of the broad definition of "Great War Trench Art", once  engraved/etched/indented or scratched - being memory relic souvenirs, crafted by a multitude of peoples from the Allies and Central Powers.

(Example image of a Poilu working on an aluminium timbale)




above illustrated examples are from my collection

Manufactured drinking vessels were marked at some point in time after their making, to commemorate specific events of the war - place names, battles, names of loved ones for example. Many were used for propaganda purposes.

Group of soldiers, with some having drinking cups attached to their belts.

Whilst used in actual battlefield areas, these basic drinking vessels also provided sustenance for physically injured and mentally exhausted soldiers - for example, soldiers drank "Bene 'n' Hot" (Benedictine liqueur with hot water) given in Casualty Clearing Stations along the many ports in Normandy or Auxiliary Hospitals based in and around. Nurses would mix the medicinal drink with hot water to ease pain for some, or to raise the spirits amongst those on the wards. (One place in particular that gave itself up to become a hospital was the home of Benedictine D.O.M. - Palais Benedictine, Fecamp. (Hospital Auxillaire No: 34).


Marked or engraved aluminium souvenir vessels can be seen to fall into families of recognisable type categories, namely:

Basic crudely scratched/indented personal equipment canteen/drinking vessels actively used in battlefield environments.

Engraved personal canteen objects crafted in makeshift or permanent workshops, rest areas etc. Usually found behind combat lines, but in battlefield environments.

Timbales specifically commissioned by those wanting a memory relic of the war - bearing their own name or dedicated to a Family member, usually with a date and place, made by a third party who provided these to earn income to supplement war / disablement pension.

Below: showing the Initials of Family (reverse engraved 1916 on each) (from my collection)

Drinking vessels / feeding cups used by the French Red Cross, in larger or temporary hospitals, field hospital dressing stations then subsequently engraved. Some were objects created as a result of programmes aimed at rehabilitating the wounded through occupational therapy. Engraving small drinking vessels could be done by bedridden men, or convalescing men in workshops.

Objects worked upon by American Service Nurses - enlisted to France in the Army Services (1918/19) in Trenches and Hospitals, who engraved items in "Idle Time" to reference their military experience. (AEF American Expeditionary Forces for example .. or the AFS American Ambulance Field Service)

Items realized industrially for propaganda or patriotic purposes - examples show coloured flags, flowers etc. and sometimes emphasising "frontier occupations" between Countries.

"Production line" engraved timbale souveniers usually aimed for sale to post war battlefield tourists. These followed a set template pattern, being hand etched/engraved and decorated in repetitive styles. Some were coloured / painted (flags, faces etc.) and subsequently personalised with an owner's Name, Relative or Loved One.

Baptism cups were made as gifts to Sons and Daughters, with their names engraved, usually with a date 1916 / 1917, as this was a period specific to French soldier parents, believing that the War would soon be over by 1917 !


Hallmarked silver metal goblets were also fashioned by some jeweller engravers, commissioned to order with Names, Dates or Place names.

Drinking vessels bearing the legend: "Souvenir of the Orient" often decorated with a star and crescent, emblems of the Ottoman Empire, by those who participated in the campaign of the Orient of 1915 - 1916.

Objects personalised in Prisoner-of-War camps - possibly engraved by German Prisoners as favours for their captors, or Allied internees to remember their captivity or a message for a loved one.

Some rarer vessels, with added adornments (a copper turning-band or ring-medal for example).

 Zeppelin engraved memory items, from downed craft like one in Thessalonica, Greece, (engraved Salonica etc...)




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