Trench Art

October 31, 2017 in Editorials

To quote Patton “War is Hell”. But, his quote does not define the different degrees of hell. Waiting to go into battle is a form of Hell itself. As a soldier you spent countless hours, days, weeks, and months preparing your body and mind for the moment of wading into battle. Your nerves are on high alert, your anticipation is eating at your soul and physically you are like a jungle cat ready to lunge. But until the exact moment of engagement, you have time on your hands. To pass the time, many of our boys exercised a little know art form known as “trench art”. The name was originally derived from the trenches of WWI when the soldiers created forms of art from shell casings, helmets, etc, as they waited to get the command “charge”.

We had some very talented artists engaging in the craft to the point of hand painting exotic artwork on helmets. The one pictured with this month’s article is a hand painted helmet from the 77th Division of WWI executed in the form of a wall clock! How creative can you get? As WWII developed, it was not as much trench in origin, as just waiting to go into action. The art form became more sophisticated and detailed in concept and execution. Here we have photographs of a P38 lightning airplane trench art and the pilot (sitting in the cockpit of a Lockheed P38 Lightning) who crafted it from shell casings and brass. The details are excellent and extremely unique. The ultimate gift (other than making it home in one piece) to mom from her son in the Pacific theater was a salt & pepper set crafted from Japanese shells as pictured here. The candlesticks are made from 1941 dated 75mm shell casings, and the combination ashtray and match holder is from a 1917 shell casing, a .45 shell sliced in half and some British coinage from 1914-1918.

As always, we strongly encourage you to contact a person with more than passive knowledge of WWI & WWII war souvenirs BEFORE disposing of your military relics. As a member of the Tennessee Military Collectors Association we would be more than happy to assist you in determining the market value of your relics. You may contact us @ Jones Antiques / The Bunker at 6 South Washington on the East side of the Courthouse Square in historic downtown Cookeville, Tenn. The Courthouse Square is exactly two miles north of I-40, exit 287. Feel free to contact Rick Jones @ 931-303-6739 or David Jones @ 931-239-0142.

by Rick Jones, Cookeville, Tennessee