Trench crafts

Trench crafts

  • French soldiers decked out in German helmets at Neufmontiers.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Engraved sleeve.

  • Set of rings made from recovered metal.

  • Clipboard.

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Title: French soldiers decked out in German helmets at Neufmontiers.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1914

Date shown: 1914

Dimensions: Height 9 - Width 13.9

Technique and other indications: Edition E. Le Deley Print on paper.

Storage location: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrettes website

Picture reference: 06-519682 / 999.462

French soldiers decked out in German helmets at Neufmontiers.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

To close

Title: Engraved sleeve.

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 35 - Width 8

Technique and other indications: Embossed brass.

Storage location: Private collection

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambier

Picture reference: 07-515766

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambier

To close

Title: Set of rings made from recovered metal.

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Set of rings in aluminum, copper or pewter, made from metal recovered from rifle bullets, uniform buttons ...

Storage location: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambier

Picture reference: 07-516541 / 2007.2.76-77-78-79-80-81

Set of rings made from recovered metal.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambier

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambier

Publication date: November 2008

Historical context

Create to care

Until World War I, the duration of conflicts was generally quite short. As the war stalls and the trenches are in place, the soldiers, on the contrary, wait, entrenched in their galleries, for enemy attacks or an assault order; between two offensives or in the camps located on the second line where they rest before returning to the front, they find themselves idle. This unprecedented situation gave birth to a unique folk art: trench craftsmanship. A large number of conscripts, hitherto artisans or peasants, indeed know how to work with their hands and mobilize this know-how particular to the rural and pre-industrial artisanal world to occupy themselves.

Image Analysis

Recovery and diversion of military equipment

In addition to the materials at hand (wood, fabric), these creations are essentially made from items recovered from the battlefield, at the risk and peril of the soldiers who then expose themselves to enemy bullets. The quest for scarce raw materials is also carried out in abandoned houses, destroyed cities or on prisoners and the dead who are stripped of anything that can be useful. Like the cliché French soldiers decked out in German helmets at Neufmontiers, where the soldiers, wearing spiked helmets, pose in front of their booty, the product of this collection often constitutes a kind of war chest, especially when it has been taken from the enemy. Empty bushings, rockets (upper part which covers the shells), ammunition, decorations, coins and other metallic objects are thus transformed into vases (Engraved socket), inkwells, paperweights, lighters, rings or miniature models of tanks, airplanes and others. The pieces of metal are melted, cut, welded and then engraved or adorned with rifle cartridges, badges like the uniform button or the pistol bullet used for two rings of the ’Set of rings made from reclaimed metal. "And when I think that with that they make rings", exclaims the soldier of the clipboard: the ingenuity deployed in the craft of trenches is indeed all the more astonishing that the hairy ones have only the "means at hand" to manufacture these objects. In order not to overburden their equipment, they limit their utensils as much as possible and mainly use the tools that make up the standard soldier's paraphernalia: for example, they use their cousette or their knife to engrave and their helmet as a container for melting metal.

Interpretation

Significant objects

Initially very spontaneous, trench craftsmanship quickly gained momentum. The enthusiasm it aroused in the rear, among civilians, led to the creation of a veritable industry. Workshops dedicated to the manufacture of these objects are set up in second-line camps, professional re-education centers for war-disabled produce similar artefacts, and jewelers sell copies made by civilians. Exhibitions and sales are also organized to show the work of the hairy and support charitable actions. Everyone wants to see or own an object made by a soldier; rings in particular have had considerable success. For civilians at the rear, these unique creations represent not only a memory of friends and family who went to the front, but also a connection to the heart of the war. Having in front of them artefacts made with the materials surrounding the hairy, and especially those directly related to combat - ammunition, projectiles, weapons - gives them the impression of sharing part of the experience of the combatants. They get to know the death objects that kill their loved ones while participating, through their purchase, in the war effort, that is, in victory. The trench craftsmanship is the support of an important emotional and psychological investment not only in civilians, but also in the hairy people who express, through the iconography of these objects, the ideals for which they are fighting, their conceptions of the enemy, their desires or their fears.

  • War of 14-18
  • hairy
  • trenches

Bibliography

Stéphane AUDOIN-ROUZEAU, Annette BECKER, 14-18, rediscovering the war, Paris, Gallimard, 2000.Annette BECKER, “Graffiti and sculptures of soldiers, traces of war culture”, 14/18 Today-Today-Heute , n ° 2, 1998, p.116-127 [file: “Archeology and the Great War”] .Nicole DURAND, From Horror to Art, Paris, Seuil, 2006. Patrice WARIN, Trench craftsmanship and lighters from Poilus de la guerre 14-18, Louviers, YSEC Editions, 2001, 208p. Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, la Première Guerre mondial, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

To cite this article

Claire LE THOMAS, "Trench craftsmanship"


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