Strictly speaking, trench art is a phrase that describes folk art created by soldiers who were stuck in the trenches during World War I. But trench art as a more broadly defined genre includes all sorts of art objects made during numerous military conflicts going back to the early 1800s, including items produced by prisoners of war.

Leaving aside the question of era, there are several generally accepted categories of trench art. Some of the earliest examples are wooden boxes made by French prisoners captured by the English during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

By World War I, prisoners on both sides of that struggle were engraving and carving everything from spent shell casings to soup bones, transforming them into poignant mementos and useful historical records of the war to end all wars. Some pieces are particular to certain battle zones. For example, Turkish prisoners were known for their beaded snakes.

Those soldiers who did not have the time or tools to engrave spent artillery shells in the trenches often brought them home, where they would be embossed, fluted, and flared. Engravings on canteens and mess kits were probably done in the field, as were paintings on helmets.

Other examples of trench art include letter openers and knives made from bullets and shells; presentation plates hammered and engraved from flattened casings; lighters formed out of enemy belt buckles; and inkwells carefully crafted from fuse caps.

Soldiers recovering from their wounds also made trench art, usually in the form of embroidered badges and belts. Similar pieces made by wives and girlfriends waiting for their loved ones to return home are also considered trench art.


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Recent News: Trench Art

Source: Google News

A&E calendar: Music, theater and more in Kendall County
Kendall County Now (subscription), February 4th

"Cast Off: Michael Dinges," carved and inked discarded plastic and electronics objects, is among three exhibits to be displayed Feb. 10 to April 29 at the Schingoethe Center of Aurora University, 1315 Prairie St. in Aurora. Companion displays are...Read more

Commentary: Art based on military themes is well represented in St. Louis ...
St. Louis Public Radio, January 8th

Clark was a Revolutionary War General and the much older brother of explorer William Clark, who owned this portrait, and another unique war related piece is a World War I Trench Art Letter Opener of Stephen Rehg. This brass letter opener with bullet...Read more

Exploring Judy Waugh's trench art collection
ABC Local, November 10th

Judy is a collector of 'trench art', little objects made by Australian soldiers on the Western Front during World War One. The objects took various forms: tiny replicas of musical instruments; inkwells; snuffboxes paperknives and crucifixes. Soldiers...Read more

County Durham woman amasses trench art collection over 30 years
ChronicleLive, July 14th

For a project which aims to track down First World War trench art in the North East, Judy Sunter's home is the perfect place to start. Judy, who lives near Stanley in County Durham, has amassed a collection of more than 600 pieces of trench art, much...Read more

Newcastle University join forces with Beamish to hunt for First World War ...
ChronicleLive, July 7th

In the years of First World War trench fighting, the debris associated with waging an industrialised conflict was everywhere. In what is now called trench art, soldiers made creative use of everything from shell cases and bullets to army biscuits...Read more

If only trench art could talk ....
Danville Commercial News, March 14th

Trench art consists of war souvenirs made from things that soldiers — particularly World War I soldiers —found in trenches and on battlefields: uniform buttons, belt buckles, canteens, shrapnel, bullets, helmets, artillery shells … even bones. I...Read more

Trench art from Afghanistan helps Bushmills hero fund
Coleraine Times, March 5th

Lance Corporal Chris McKendry had made and sold trench art during his recent tour to Afghanistan and he made the presentation of the money raised and a piece of his trench art to President of the society, local war historian Robert Thompson...Read more

Trench art: a story of grace under fire
Sydney Morning Herald, February 26th

Slade, who's based at the Art Gallery of South Australia, envisioned a marriage between historical trench art and contemporary work, and came up with En-Trenched. The exhibition – supported by the federal government's Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture ...Read more