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Hello, Gents-

While not a big fan of trench art, I do enjoy unusual pieces of same, and wanted to share a nice one with you. This is very personal soldier-made. When the 332nd IR was sent from France to Italy in 1918, the 331sy Field Hospital was attached to them and made the journey also. This piece was an Italian shell made in 1917, with the Royal Crest stamped on the base, as well as SMI, for Societa Metallurgica Italiana, the manufacturer. I find the base art very interesting as the soldier captures a lot of the additional Italian activity. The Italian wording translates as "Souvenir of the Piave." It shows both naval and air activity, and two US airmen, DeWitt Coleman and James Bahl were KIA over the Piave in that battle. shot down by the Austrians. Cannot recognize the ship type specifically, but multiple navies were active in the Adriatic, including ours.

The piece was done by Wardner M. Morris of Ohio, a wagoner, in this case a truck driver. You can see from the carvings he was a Mason, joined the Army October 2, 1917 and drove truck #41628. As a collector of 332nd and US Military in Italy items, I'm pleased to have such a good record with personal observations of one of the 331st's drivers. Enjoy.



southridge

 

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I have a personal view on 'trench art'.We all know that most of it was made after the closing of WWI. There were thousands of tons of copper shells ... some were beautifuly engraved and sold/swopped for some food. When I see a 'trench art' item that bears the date of 1918 (in this case 1919)... I know that the artifact was made after the ending of the war. Nothing wrong with that but also nothing to boost about. It's a souvenir of someone that was there during a certain time. To make things more joyful, I have an ashtray and, for the love of God, can't find a living soul that can explain the rune on it. Very frustrating because I never asked my dad (+1965) were it came from and/or what it meant.
 

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Hello, Gents-

While not a big fan of trench art, I do enjoy unusual pieces of same, and wanted to share a nice one with you. This is very personal soldier-made. When the 332nd IR was sent from France to Italy in 1918, the 331sy Field Hospital was attached to them and made the journey also. This piece was an Italian shell made in 1917, with the Royal Crest stamped on the base, as well as SMI, for Societa Metallurgica Italiana, the manufacturer. I find the base art very interesting as the soldier captures a lot of the additional Italian activity. The Italian wording translates as "Souvenir of the Piave." It shows both naval and air activity, and two US airmen, DeWitt Coleman and James Bahl were KIA over the Piave in that battle. shot down by the Austrians. Cannot recognize the ship type specifically, but multiple navies were active in the Adriatic, including ours.

The piece was done by Wardner M. Morris of Ohio, a wagoner, in this case a truck driver. You can see from the carvings he was a Mason, joined the Army October 2, 1917 and drove truck #41628. As a collector of 332nd and US Military in Italy items, I'm pleased to have such a good record with personal observations of one of the 331st's drivers. Enjoy.



southridge

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Thanks for sharing. I too like the personalized and signed pieces.
 

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Trench art shells like these can be had for the price of scrap at fleamarkets over here.
Nobody seems to want them and they're very common.
Every house used to have a couple on the mantlepiece after the war(s).
Best regards,
A
 

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Trench art shells like these can be had for the price of scrap at fleamarkets over here.
Nobody seems to want them and they're very common.
Every house used to have a couple on the mantlepiece after the war(s).
Best regards,
A
Indeed Andrey, we are compatriots but maybe not of the same age. On the mantlepiece and at the front window of the house. You don't see them so much anymore in the houses and certainly not at the front window for everyone to see them. They were abundant when I was a young lad in the early 50ties. WWI and WWII shells were everywere, decorated or not. Personaly I was never interested (like said here above) in "trench art" that mentioned '1918' ... it was/is a sure sign they date from after the war. In principle there is nothing wrong with the item 'in se' but one must bear in mind that the artist could only mention '1918' after the ending of the war.
Far from me to judge the amateurs and collectors of these memorabilia but I always thought one should make the difference between the real time of the trenches and the time afterwards.
As an aside note, I keep a crucifix made out of rifleshells that only mentions '1914' ... the end of the war wasn't known yet. The second one I keep is an ashtray that mentions '1918' but has the name of my city "Louvain" on it.
The tird 'trench art' (an ashtray also) item must date from WWII and, like said before, I'm unable to find a person that can give me a correct explanation about the rune on it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Regarding WWI trench art, there are essentially two types: soldier-made and those made by the locals for sale as souvenirs (cottage industry). The souvenir variety can be interesting and sometimes even beautiful from an artistic standpoint. The reason I posted this item is because it is solider-made, commemorating the experience of one Doughboy in a theater of war. The 332nd, 331st Field Hospital and 102nd Base Hospital were all sent to Italy in 1918 to provide moral support for the Italians, and try to convince the Austrians that there more Doughboys than were actually there. They did succeed at that, and also fought in one of the last campaigns of WWI, which earned them the Vittorio-Veneto battle clasp for their Victory Medals. American airmen trained under the Italians at Foggia; their commander was Fiorello LaGuardia, later mayor of NYC. Most went to the Western Front, although some were assigned to the Italian Air Force, and two of our airmen lost their lives over the Piave River against the Austrians.

After the war ended, members of the 332nd IR were sent on peace keeping missions, with the 2nd Battalion going as far as Montenegro in Yugoslavia; all were followed by ambulance groups. The US Italian contingent did not come home until the Spring of 1919. The trench art presented here represents that experience, and the dates in which the soldiers were involved. As such it is a tiny diary of their experiences, and a real piece of military history as opposed to a cottage industry piece. The same holds true for trench art identified to North Russia and Siberia.

Thank you for your comments and appreciation of these special pieces.

southridge
 

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I never have had a piece of trench art in my collection although whenever I see it with the hope that something about the particular piece will pull my trigger. Nothing has to date; this would have come home with me. Great piece, thanks for sharing!
 

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Andrey, I would bet that the folks on this board and other WW1 collectors in the U.S. would clean out the dealers at your flea markets!;)

Unfortunately purchasing an airline ticket just to travel over there for that purpose is beyond most of us.
Well John, I will tell you a secret. It's not about trench art but about 3rd Reich items. I knew a couple of "merchands" (one was even a jeweller in his pension) that made several trips to the US just to buy German daggers and bayonets at militaria exhibitions and fairs. I don't remember the year exactly but it was when the USD stood at its lowest rate in comparison with the Belgian Franc (around 1980?, just a guess of the time frame). They not only got their trip out of selling the goodies they brought back in their suit cases ... they made an interesting financial gain ... and kept the most interesting pieces for free in doing so. The dream of any collector I presume ... buying a lot of stuff ... selling it with a gain ... and have the couple of items that interested them FOR FREE ... this must have been "collectors heaven" at work. The Jews (with all respect to the Jewish people, please do not doubt about this!) would call this "Geschäfte machen".
BTW, Andrey and myself maybe could fill a ship's container with 'trench art' just to please US collectors? :) Just kidding!!!
 
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