Trench Art

Artefacts related to World War I

At the first sight, we would perhaps not link war with art. But if we do, we probably imagine the beautiful paintings and battlefields that were made roughly until the nineteenth century. But there are many artefacts made by soldiers and other people that relate to the great conflict of 1914-1918. An artefact is an item made by human hand, that can tell us something about culture and values. In other words, besides horror, the First World War also produced artefacts. Many of the artefacts come in this collection were made in trenches. The biggest problems, beside the constant threat and danger of the battlefield, in the trenches were the terrible hygiene and danger of various sicknesses. After these, the biggest problem was boredom. Perhaps surprisingly, the trenches could be boring. The major part of the time nothing happened, as long as you did not lift your head out of them. It is perhaps not a surprise that many soldiers started to make art from everything they could lay their hands upon. In this collection, the artefacts made in the First World War, often called trench art (which does not count for all sources because not all of them were created in the trenches) are divided two categories: artefacts probably literally made in the trenches, often made from material related to battle, while the second part of the collection shows objects were probably created as memorial. Most trench art was created by soldiers. For example, chalk carvings were popular. Contemporary postcards show carvings into the “wall” of rocky outcrops and dug-outs, confirming the existence of art in the battle zone. In other words, these items had to be made in situ. Besides these items, it is fair to assume that many smaller items -rings, drawings, knives, etc.- were made by soldiers in the front line or in the support trenches, especially in the more quiet parts of the battle zone. In addition to this, wounded soldiers would be encouraged to express their artistic inspiration in the form of handicraft while they were recuperating from their injuries. In this case, embroidery and simple forms of carpentry are most commonly used.

Acknowledgements: this source collection has been developed by Bjorn Pels with the support of Laura Steenbrink. The source collection makes use of sources provided by ‘Europeana 1914-1918’.

Decoration on a shellcase

A nurse brought this piece of art home after having been stationed in Russia and India. This was a cannon shell converted in a vase with a design with a flower on it. We can only speculate where the shell was coming from or who made it. Perhaps the nurse got it from one of her patients? This artefact does illustrate the fact that many shells, from bullets to cannons were transformed into pieces of art. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Decoration on a shellcase

A nurse brought this piece of art home after having been stationed in Russia and India. This was a cannon shell converted in a vase with a design with a flower on it. We can only speculate where the shell was coming from or who made it. Perhaps the nurse got it from one of her patients? This artefact does illustrate the fact that many shells, from bullets to cannons were transformed into pieces of art. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

War, religion and art

In wartime, religion could be important to keep up the spirit. This cross is made of bullets, which makes it a typical trench art work. It is not clear how the Jesus image is made. The French soldiers could use a little faith because they had to fight many tough battles on the Western front. Many of these battles had very little to do with tactics and it was sometimes difficult for the soldiers to believe in the cause of the war. For example, at the Somme more than a million soldiers died. While the Germans were trying to make the French army bleed out in Verdun, the allies tried to damage the German army by attacking at the Somme. The huge amount of casualties made no difference to the (dis)advantages of both parties: none of them won anything. This context makes this artefact illustrative to the situation in France. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

War, religion and art

In wartime, religion could be important to keep up the spirit. This cross is made of bullets, which makes it a typical trench art work. It is not clear how the Jesus image is made. The French soldiers could use a little faith because they had to fight many tough battles on the Western front. Many of these battles had very little to do with tactics and it was sometimes difficult for the soldiers to believe in the cause of the war. For example, at the Somme more than a million soldiers died. While the Germans were trying to make the French army bleed out in Verdun, the allies tried to damage the German army by attacking at the Somme. The huge amount of casualties made no difference to the (dis)advantages of both parties: none of them won anything. This context makes this artefact illustrative to the situation in France. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Trench art

Soldiers at the frontlines came from different backgrounds. So it was possible that they had had a handicraft job at home. This source shows the backsides of two bullets that are put together and little flowers are carved in the form of a little pigeon. Pigeons were very common because they are a peace symbol, which was the thing many soldiers were longing for the most. This object is also a pen so the soldier could write letters to the home front. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Trench art

Soldiers at the frontlines came from different backgrounds. So it was possible that they had had a handicraft job at home. This source shows the backsides of two bullets that are put together and little flowers are carved in the form of a little pigeon. Pigeons were very common because they are a peace symbol, which was the thing many soldiers were longing for the most. This object is also a pen so the soldier could write letters to the home front. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Trench art from Vlamertinge

These shells were found in Vlamertinge, near Ypres (Belgium) during excavation works. It is no surprise that there is a cemetery in the same village, because this is part of the Flanders Fields, where the Germans could not defeat the small Belgian Army. A small part of Belgium was never occupied but this region became the theatre of harsh wartime conditions. More specifically, four battles were fought in the region, with almost 1,5 million deaths and wounded soldiers. It was only at the very end of the war that the Belgian forces could break trough the lines of the German army. These bullet shells with coat of arms can be seen as symbols of pride and nationalism. Or are they a symbol of longing for home? The poppy is a famous symbol because it grows where other plants can not survive and it has a religious meaning as well. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Trench art from Vlamertinge

These shells were found in Vlamertinge, near Ypres (Belgium) during excavation works. It is no surprise that there is a cemetery in the same village, because this is part of the Flanders Fields, where the Germans could not defeat the small Belgian Army. A small part of Belgium was never occupied but this region became the theatre of harsh wartime conditions. More specifically, four battles were fought in the region, with almost 1,5 million deaths and wounded soldiers. It was only at the very end of the war that the Belgian forces could break trough the lines of the German army. These bullet shells with coat of arms can be seen as symbols of pride and nationalism. Or are they a symbol of longing for home? The poppy is a famous symbol because it grows where other plants can not survive and it has a religious meaning as well. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Serbian - French 37MM shell

Very often, trench art would involve the use of everyday objects, in this case a 37MM shell. The soldier would spend his personal time transforming them with some artistic adornment. This is a very detailed coat of arms of Serbia. Up to 450.000 Serb soldiers died during the First World War after the attack of the Austrian-Hungarian armies in 1914. Overall, they would lose 1.1 million people including many civilians, 27% of the total population. The Serbs resisted fiercely, but Serbia became occupied until the end of the war. After the war it became a part of the kingdom of Yugoslavia. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Serbian - French 37MM shell

Very often, trench art would involve the use of everyday objects, in this case a 37MM shell. The soldier would spend his personal time transforming them with some artistic adornment. This is a very detailed coat of arms of Serbia. Up to 450.000 Serb soldiers died during the First World War after the attack of the Austrian-Hungarian armies in 1914. Overall, they would lose 1.1 million people including many civilians, 27% of the total population. The Serbs resisted fiercely, but Serbia became occupied until the end of the war. After the war it became a part of the kingdom of Yugoslavia. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Recycling

For many soldiers, the thought of home was a sweet dream. Food could be scarce in the trenches and often, soldiers had very little to eat. The allies tried to weaken the Germans by ‘food blockades’ with controlling the seas. In Germany, around 474,000 civilians died, largely due to food shortages and malnutrition. This artefact is a sugar scuttle made from a shell, while bullets were transformed into legs and a handle. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Recycling

For many soldiers, the thought of home was a sweet dream. Food could be scarce in the trenches and often, soldiers had very little to eat. The allies tried to weaken the Germans by ‘food blockades’ with controlling the seas. In Germany, around 474,000 civilians died, largely due to food shortages and malnutrition. This artefact is a sugar scuttle made from a shell, while bullets were transformed into legs and a handle. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Artefact as a warning for gas attacks

This object was probably not created as an artefact. During the First World War, chemical weapons were used for the first time on a massive scale. Tear gas was first used in 1914, lethal gas in 1915 and mustard gas in 1917. The Great War is famous because of the gas attacks but it was less damaging then many people seem to think. British data, which were accurately maintained from 1916, recorded that only 3% of gas casualties were fatal, 2% were permanently invalid and 70% were fit for duty again within six weeks. Nonetheless death by gas was slow and painful. The object on the picture is made of a shell. It is possible that this object was used as an alarm to warn the soldiers and all people in the surroundings when there was a gas attack. After the war it came into use as a table gong. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Artefact as a warning for gas attacks

This object was probably not created as an artefact. During the First World War, chemical weapons were used for the first time on a massive scale. Tear gas was first used in 1914, lethal gas in 1915 and mustard gas in 1917. The Great War is famous because of the gas attacks but it was less damaging then many people seem to think. British data, which were accurately maintained from 1916, recorded that only 3% of gas casualties were fatal, 2% were permanently invalid and 70% were fit for duty again within six weeks. Nonetheless death by gas was slow and painful. The object on the picture is made of a shell. It is possible that this object was used as an alarm to warn the soldiers and all people in the surroundings when there was a gas attack. After the war it came into use as a table gong. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Dogfights with planes from bullets

The impact of air forces on the course of the First World War was not substantial. They were not in direct cooperation with the forces on the ground, which was crucial for their strategic use. However, during World War 1 air forces were used at a large scale for the first time. Not only planes, but also zeppelins and air balloons were used. Some soldiers transformed bullet shells into little planes. Watching planes fight, also called dogfights, was a temporary break from the boredom for the soldiers in the trenches. These fights between planes were quite useless, except to keep up the morale. Fighters were used as propaganda and it can be compared to a contemporary boxing game. Becoming a champion could make a soldier famous. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Dogfights with planes from bullets

The impact of air forces on the course of the First World War was not substantial. They were not in direct cooperation with the forces on the ground, which was crucial for their strategic use. However, during World War 1 air forces were used at a large scale for the first time. Not only planes, but also zeppelins and air balloons were used. Some soldiers transformed bullet shells into little planes. Watching planes fight, also called dogfights, was a temporary break from the boredom for the soldiers in the trenches. These fights between planes were quite useless, except to keep up the morale. Fighters were used as propaganda and it can be compared to a contemporary boxing game. Becoming a champion could make a soldier famous. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Good luck charm

The bullets on the chain are part of a "momento" or commemorate a specific event experienced by soldiers. At the same time the artefact as a whole can be seen as a good luck charm to ward off evil. The striker bullet has been edited. This object can be seen as a (limited) form of trench art. Waling out of the trench or ‘going over the top’ was very risky. In other words, soldiers could really use a good luck charm. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Good luck charm

The bullets on the chain are part of a "momento" or commemorate a specific event experienced by soldiers. At the same time the artefact as a whole can be seen as a good luck charm to ward off evil. The striker bullet has been edited. This object can be seen as a (limited) form of trench art. Waling out of the trench or ‘going over the top’ was very risky. In other words, soldiers could really use a good luck charm. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Trench art from China

We know very little about this artefact but it does have a particular feature, which makes it an uncommon World War 1 artefact. This shell is decorated with Chinese signs. It is hard to tell if it has been made by a Chinese. But support personnel was recruited in China. 86 Chinese graves are known in Belgium at the location where this object has been found (Lokeren). In total, approximately 140.000 Chinese soldiers men served for both the British and the French forces before the war ended. Most of them were repatriated to China between 1918 and 1920. It is not unknown how many of them died, but the estimations vary between 2.000 and 20.000. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Trench art from China

We know very little about this artefact but it does have a particular feature, which makes it an uncommon World War 1 artefact. This shell is decorated with Chinese signs. It is hard to tell if it has been made by a Chinese. But support personnel was recruited in China. 86 Chinese graves are known in Belgium at the location where this object has been found (Lokeren). In total, approximately 140.000 Chinese soldiers men served for both the British and the French forces before the war ended. Most of them were repatriated to China between 1918 and 1920. It is not unknown how many of them died, but the estimations vary between 2.000 and 20.000. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Artefacts as Memorial

Remarkable items used for remembrance

Artefacts as Memorial

Remarkable items used for remembrance

Flowers and ashes

It is possible that this artefact is made after the war. Or the person who made this was very talented and skilled. That does not mean it is not a special object. It is a vase and an ashtray with elements known for the period of the First World War. A German shell from Neurenberg was used, together with parts of a lamp from a carriage. Dogs and horses played a big role in the war. Nine million horses were used, for example as a draft horse. Dogs were used to search for dead and wounded people, but also to draft bigger guns, send messages and as a mascot. In addition to this, many ‘war rabbits’ (cats) were eaten. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Flowers and ashes

It is possible that this artefact is made after the war. Or the person who made this was very talented and skilled. That does not mean it is not a special object. It is a vase and an ashtray with elements known for the period of the First World War. A German shell from Neurenberg was used, together with parts of a lamp from a carriage. Dogs and horses played a big role in the war. Nine million horses were used, for example as a draft horse. Dogs were used to search for dead and wounded people, but also to draft bigger guns, send messages and as a mascot. In addition to this, many ‘war rabbits’ (cats) were eaten. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Artefact from Cairo

This example of trench art, like many other artefacts classified under that name, was not made in a trench. It was made in Cairo, probably in the workshop of the Ministry of Irrigation. Dr Harold Edwin Hurst made a dinner gong from the tooth of a hippo that he shot on the Nile for its meat, either in South Sudan or Uganda. The shell case was a present to him from a friend in the British Royal Navy who served through the Gallipoli campaign and the blockade of the Dardanelles. He picked up the shell case when the war ended and the cruiser Goeben was seized by the Royal Navy. The Goeben gained a formidable reputation as a surface raider in 1914, a threat to the British and French shipping industry in the East Mediterranean. After a brief destructive career, the cruiser was forced to retreat to the Dardanelles under the protection of the Turkish shore batteries on Gallipoli. She remained marooned close to Constantinople until the Armistice of 1918. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Artefact from Cairo

This example of trench art, like many other artefacts classified under that name, was not made in a trench. It was made in Cairo, probably in the workshop of the Ministry of Irrigation. Dr Harold Edwin Hurst made a dinner gong from the tooth of a hippo that he shot on the Nile for its meat, either in South Sudan or Uganda. The shell case was a present to him from a friend in the British Royal Navy who served through the Gallipoli campaign and the blockade of the Dardanelles. He picked up the shell case when the war ended and the cruiser Goeben was seized by the Royal Navy. The Goeben gained a formidable reputation as a surface raider in 1914, a threat to the British and French shipping industry in the East Mediterranean. After a brief destructive career, the cruiser was forced to retreat to the Dardanelles under the protection of the Turkish shore batteries on Gallipoli. She remained marooned close to Constantinople until the Armistice of 1918. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Flowers from the ‘Holy Land’

It is fascinating how soldiers tried to keep in touch with their loved ones at home. The post office was very important for this. Before the First World War, Palestine (The Holy Land) was part of the Ottoman Empire. British and Arab forces would conquer a large part of West-Asia. At the end Palestine would be a part of the British Empire. This book is a souvenir book with flowers, dried and collected, and sent to London in 1918. It can bee seen as an item of a more general picture of artefacts from the First World War. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Flowers from the ‘Holy Land’

It is fascinating how soldiers tried to keep in touch with their loved ones at home. The post office was very important for this. Before the First World War, Palestine (The Holy Land) was part of the Ottoman Empire. British and Arab forces would conquer a large part of West-Asia. At the end Palestine would be a part of the British Empire. This book is a souvenir book with flowers, dried and collected, and sent to London in 1918. It can bee seen as an item of a more general picture of artefacts from the First World War. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Sheehan O'Connor family collection

After the war all medals, souvenirs and pictures could become a collection of memories of the Great War. It is needless to say that the first world war had a huge impact on soldiers on the front. These collections can tell us a lot what the soldiers went through. Like the ‘Silver War Badge’, for soldiers who were disabled because of the war. Members of the Sheehan O’Connor family were part of the air force, a new part of warfare. This collection shows photographs of: top right - Captain DD Sheehan MP (RMF) with his son Lieut Michael J Sheehan (RMF); top left Lieut Daniel J Sheehan (RFC) in a Sopwith Pup with two RFC pin-badges, below him his brother Lieut Martin J (RAF) in a R.E.8 biplane with two single wings and an identity tag; bottom left their uncle-in-law Sgt Robert O’Connor (Leinster Rgm); end images are of Pte John Sheehan (Irish Guards) and Eileen Sheehan (VAD front nurse). Other items below right: the Great War Campaign Medals as awarded on their medal cards to all family members, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. Also DD Sheehan’s disability ‘Silver War Badge’; his officer's military whistle (since included) and three RMF buttons. The handgun, a Walther PPK 7.65mm automatic, was DD Sheehan’s personal pistol that he carried with him for protection in the county Cork region after the war. This collection is permanently exhibited at the Military Museum in Cork (Ireland). (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Sheehan O'Connor family collection

After the war all medals, souvenirs and pictures could become a collection of memories of the Great War. It is needless to say that the first world war had a huge impact on soldiers on the front. These collections can tell us a lot what the soldiers went through. Like the ‘Silver War Badge’, for soldiers who were disabled because of the war. Members of the Sheehan O’Connor family were part of the air force, a new part of warfare. This collection shows photographs of: top right - Captain DD Sheehan MP (RMF) with his son Lieut Michael J Sheehan (RMF); top left Lieut Daniel J Sheehan (RFC) in a Sopwith Pup with two RFC pin-badges, below him his brother Lieut Martin J (RAF) in a R.E.8 biplane with two single wings and an identity tag; bottom left their uncle-in-law Sgt Robert O’Connor (Leinster Rgm); end images are of Pte John Sheehan (Irish Guards) and Eileen Sheehan (VAD front nurse). Other items below right: the Great War Campaign Medals as awarded on their medal cards to all family members, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. Also DD Sheehan’s disability ‘Silver War Badge’; his officer's military whistle (since included) and three RMF buttons. The handgun, a Walther PPK 7.65mm automatic, was DD Sheehan’s personal pistol that he carried with him for protection in the county Cork region after the war. This collection is permanently exhibited at the Military Museum in Cork (Ireland). (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

British memorial on battle in Serbia

According to many people, the First World War started in Serbia. However, much of the (Western) research on the course of the war focuses on the Western Front. The Balkan was an important theatre of the war and it was a complex situation, which did not end with the end of the war. During the war, it was not only people from the region fighting in Serbia. For example, British soldiers of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry fought between 1917-1918 at Lake Dorian. Many of them who died there were also buried at a cemetery in the region. The memorial on this picture can be a commemoration to this. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

British memorial on battle in Serbia

According to many people, the First World War started in Serbia. However, much of the (Western) research on the course of the war focuses on the Western Front. The Balkan was an important theatre of the war and it was a complex situation, which did not end with the end of the war. During the war, it was not only people from the region fighting in Serbia. For example, British soldiers of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry fought between 1917-1918 at Lake Dorian. Many of them who died there were also buried at a cemetery in the region. The memorial on this picture can be a commemoration to this. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

The soldier and the baby

This is a lighter made of a radiator cap of a military vehicle. Both sides of the lighter are special. On one side a proud lion with the inscription ‘Britannia 1917’ is depicted. Two words are carved, probably names of battles. On the other side there is a completely different image. A baby is kissed by a soldier, which could stand for a wish to go home. This is an artefact that indicates two different sides of the war in one lighter. The lion could be a symbol of nationalism and pride. The other side could represent a wish to return home. The Belgian soldier who owned the lighter was wounded and traumatized by the war, but he was able to give the lighter in the to his grandson in the 1960s. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

The soldier and the baby

This is a lighter made of a radiator cap of a military vehicle. Both sides of the lighter are special. On one side a proud lion with the inscription ‘Britannia 1917’ is depicted. Two words are carved, probably names of battles. On the other side there is a completely different image. A baby is kissed by a soldier, which could stand for a wish to go home. This is an artefact that indicates two different sides of the war in one lighter. The lion could be a symbol of nationalism and pride. The other side could represent a wish to return home. The Belgian soldier who owned the lighter was wounded and traumatized by the war, but he was able to give the lighter in the to his grandson in the 1960s. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

German trench art

This artefact is made out of chalk, typical for South-England and Calais. Calais was a target when Germany invaded Belgium and France but the Germans never reached the city, which makes it a mystery how it came in the possession of a German soldier. Depicted is a cross, a symbol of the German army, with the text “Thiepval 1915“. This village played an important role in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In this region the French and British armies stopped the German invasion in 1914 with great difficulties. Apparently a German soldier made a memorial of the period a year later. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/(

German trench art

This artefact is made out of chalk, typical for South-England and Calais. Calais was a target when Germany invaded Belgium and France but the Germans never reached the city, which makes it a mystery how it came in the possession of a German soldier. Depicted is a cross, a symbol of the German army, with the text “Thiepval 1915“. This village played an important role in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In this region the French and British armies stopped the German invasion in 1914 with great difficulties. Apparently a German soldier made a memorial of the period a year later. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/(

Necklace

This necklace of horsehair is an example of art made by prisoners of war. It is made by a French prisoner of war, on a German farm in 1916. Prisoners were seen as useful: food was scarce and captured soldiers were potential workers. The number of soldiers imprisoned reached a little over seven million for all the belligerents, of whom around 2,400,000 were held by Germany. The tasks were not excessive and did not always have a connection with the operations of the war. Of 1,450,000 prisoners, 750,000 were employed in agricultural labour and 330,000 in industry. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Necklace

This necklace of horsehair is an example of art made by prisoners of war. It is made by a French prisoner of war, on a German farm in 1916. Prisoners were seen as useful: food was scarce and captured soldiers were potential workers. The number of soldiers imprisoned reached a little over seven million for all the belligerents, of whom around 2,400,000 were held by Germany. The tasks were not excessive and did not always have a connection with the operations of the war. Of 1,450,000 prisoners, 750,000 were employed in agricultural labour and 330,000 in industry. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Ash trey

Smoking was a common hobbit for many soldiers as long tobacco was available. This is an ash trey, made from a water bottle and ammunition. This example of trench art is special because it contains specific personal data on it. A soldier used a water bottle that had belonged to another soldier. It is possible that the lower part is made by another person. Tobacco was ubiquitous at the front and ever-present in prewar society. The war led to several changes to the European smoking culture: cigarettes became more popular than pipes, and women smoked more in the postwar era because wartime social changes led to questioning of nineteenth-century gender norms. This is most famously embodied in the “Flapper” archetype. It was also a period where modern cigarette advertising began. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Ash trey

Smoking was a common hobbit for many soldiers as long tobacco was available. This is an ash trey, made from a water bottle and ammunition. This example of trench art is special because it contains specific personal data on it. A soldier used a water bottle that had belonged to another soldier. It is possible that the lower part is made by another person. Tobacco was ubiquitous at the front and ever-present in prewar society. The war led to several changes to the European smoking culture: cigarettes became more popular than pipes, and women smoked more in the postwar era because wartime social changes led to questioning of nineteenth-century gender norms. This is most famously embodied in the “Flapper” archetype. It was also a period where modern cigarette advertising began. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

From button to artefact

This is a button with weapons of artillery from lieutenant Heavy Artillery Corps, trained in England, Stephen José Coelho de Magalhães. This may not seem special at first but the name is Portuguese. Portugal did not initially form part of the system of alliances involved in the First World War and thus initially kept its neutrality. However, tensions between Germany and Portugal arose because of German U-boat warfare, which sought to blockade the United Kingdom, at the time the most important market for Portuguese products. Clashes also occurred with German troops in the south of Portuguese Angola in 1914 and 1915. Unofficially, there were many hostile engagements between the countries. Portugal wanted to comply with British requests and protect its colonies in Africa. Ultimately, tensions resulted in a declaration of war from Germany to Portugal. Approximately 12.000 Portuguese troops died during the course of World War I, including Africans serving in its armed forces. Civilian deaths exceeded the prewar level by 220.000: 82.000 caused by food shortages and 138.000 by the Spanish flu. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

From button to artefact

This is a button with weapons of artillery from lieutenant Heavy Artillery Corps, trained in England, Stephen José Coelho de Magalhães. This may not seem special at first but the name is Portuguese. Portugal did not initially form part of the system of alliances involved in the First World War and thus initially kept its neutrality. However, tensions between Germany and Portugal arose because of German U-boat warfare, which sought to blockade the United Kingdom, at the time the most important market for Portuguese products. Clashes also occurred with German troops in the south of Portuguese Angola in 1914 and 1915. Unofficially, there were many hostile engagements between the countries. Portugal wanted to comply with British requests and protect its colonies in Africa. Ultimately, tensions resulted in a declaration of war from Germany to Portugal. Approximately 12.000 Portuguese troops died during the course of World War I, including Africans serving in its armed forces. Civilian deaths exceeded the prewar level by 220.000: 82.000 caused by food shortages and 138.000 by the Spanish flu. (Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)