Trench Art?

‘Trench art is the recycled stuff of war.’  That’s the first sentence in a leaflet about ‘Finding the North East’s First World War Trench Art’.  This is a project aimed at recording trench art with a north-east connection, run by Beamish Museum and Newcastle University ( and

I picked up the leaflet last week and – by an amazing coincidence – two generous supporters of our project have brought in some fantastic examples – at least, I think they are trench art but we’ll have to get the experts in to tell us more.

The Croft family from Barnard Castle lost one son (George), had one invalided out of the army (Tom) and had two other sons who survived (Walter and Stanley).  A family connection has recently brought in two fascinating plates.  Each has a photograph stuck onto the middle of the plate – one is of George and the other is of Stanley – and then a peaceful landscape with blue sky and green grass and trees has been painted around.  Maybe Stanley brought back a couple of army-issue plates and had them painted?


Two more obvious pieces of trench art have come in recently.  It’s not absolutely clear exactly what they are but they seem to be lighters or little lamps of some sort.  One – about the size of a large watch – has a French coin inlaid on each side and a hollowed-out bullet as the cap.  The other is a finely-crafted miniature German helmet – a pickelhaube –  possibly made out of part of a defunct shell.  When you turn the helmet upside down, there’s something to strike a match on and a hole, perhaps for a wick, and a tray maybe for oil, all of which suggests it may have been used as a small lamp.

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If you have any objects from the First World War, we’d love to have a chance to photograph them and find out more about them.

Judith Phillips