There are many legacies from The Great War For Civilisation (as World War One was known) and "Trench Art" memorabilia is one important legacy......
In the French/Belgium 1914 Winter an activity emerged in townships and the second line, known as "Trench Craftsmanship"....battlefield materials were utilised to create souvenir memory items.
It was at this time that the military authorities decided to set up competitions and exhibitions of "war art". The goal was to promote the "glorious" soldiers to the population whilst framing the representation of the ideals of war.
One of these exhibitions, entitled "The Art of War", took place from 22 December 1915 to 22 February 1916 in the rooms of the Jeu de Paume at the Tuileries. It brought together nearly 2,800 works.
The popularity for war souvenirs was huge, fuelled by such exhibitions and competitions. The French Newspaper, LE PAYS DE FRANCE (shown below), describes one such competiton of "Trench Artists" (L’artisanat de tranchées) (Les Ateliers du Front), where prizes were awarded for best craftsmanship.
The craft comprises any decorative item made by soldiers, sailors, airforce personnel, prisoners of war, civilians, Chinese Labour Corps., auxiliary services, where the manufacture is directly linked to the Great War or its consequences, offering an insight to the maker's wartime feelings and emotions and their surroundings utilising materials they had available to them.
A large manufacturing industry developed during and after WW1 (selling souvenirs to "Battlefield Tourists"). Department Stores in the UK / USA sold engraved shell fuze heads, paperweights, clocks, dinner gongs, poker stands, engraved shellcases and anything deemed collectable for an increasing and escalating post-war market, where owning a war artefact was fashionable !
"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."
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