Trench Art

2014-12-14 20_09_18-37-85 Zuzanne 1927 _ Flickr - Photo Sharing!

In the trenches of World War I, there was a lot of boredom, idleness, and malaise, punctuated by brief stretches of terrible violence and death. Out of the former came what’s come to be known as “trench art”: handcrafted art made from available battlefield materials – such as spent artillery cases. There is a group on Flickr dedicated to collecting images of trench art, and some of its contents are really stunning to look at:

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77mm shell case turned into a vase.

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Decorated 4.5in cartridge base.

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Silver pendant encasing a piece of shrapnel.

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Mosin Nagant barrel display mount.

2014-12-11 16_25_06-Seaplane _ Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Seaplane model made of .50 BMG and .30-06 cartridges.

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Decorated French 75mm cartridge case, Somme 1916.

Trench art was by no means made just by soldiers – nor is it restricted only to World War I. “Trench art” has come to mean any art produced in connection to an armed conflict. It’s difficult to tell which pieces might have been made in the field by a combatant, and which were probably made after the fact, or as commemoratives by enterprising civilians. Nevertheless, trench art is beautiful in a unique way, and for me these pieces act as a sort of time capsule into the lives of people from history in very different way than other historical artifacts.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Adam aka eddie d.

    Beatiful works of art!

    I can’t even imagine how soldiers were able to create these
    pieces surrounded by the miserable conditions they had to face there.

    Not even the most basic necessities for life were provided for them,
    let alone tools or a workshop.

    There are some very nice trench art pieces in the
    Hungarian Museum of Military History too, if some of you ever travels here it’s worth a look.

  • William Johnson

    This is the military equivalent of scrimshaw from whalers looking to occupy their minds. The national POW museum at Andersonville has some nice examples as well.

  • Andrew Hobby

    If you’re ever in DC, go to the Air and Space Annex Museum right outside the city. It is FANTASTIC and in addition to having an absolutely mind-blowing collection of air and space craft, they had a great trench art exhibit (not sure if that’s a permanent display).

  • WasThere

    you should see the works of art that soldiers, airmen and marines do to T Walls, some really incredible works.

  • Taylor TX

    Awesome post! The historical stuff is one of the biggest things I look forward to here. The new gear is nice too, but this greatly pleases my inner history nerd.

  • dan citizen

    Some trench art is pretty affordable too.

  • Grindstone50k

    I like the one of the dude with the hooker. His expression is awesome “VD? Oh shi-“

  • They made them in WWII also.

  • The plane model has to be from WWII, as it uses .50 BMG in its construction.