World War One Trench Art: Creativity Can’t be Stopped

A model tank crafted by a World War One soldier

World War One Trench Art: Creativity Can’t be Stopped

Creativity can’t be stopped, even in the worst of conditions. Such was the case during World War I when soldiers and sailors used materials they had on hand to create art.

Available materials included shell casings, melted shrapnel, fabric, wood and bone.

Despite the name, trench art wasn’t just produced in the trenches. It also was produced on ships, in the air force, in prisoner of war camps and in hospitals.  Civilians living near war zones also produced artwork while some trench art was mass produced using war materials.

These works of art are valuable finds today. Many didn’t survive the metal drives of World War II.

Why Art?

The reasons men created art varied. Sometimes it was to alleviate boredom, but often there was a larger reason.  Men made gifts for loved ones back home, commemorated important battles or used art as therapy while in convalescent hospitals.

Civilians produced art to sell to tourists as souvenirs or as thank-you gifts.

Trench Art Examples?

The artists crafted a variety of things including models of weapons, jewelry, cups, tapestries, crucifixes, and containers.

Here are some examples of trench art that can be found in collections around the world.

A model gun crafted by a World War One soldier
A model gun crafted by a World War One soldier
A model crafted crafted by a World War One soldier
A model airplane crafted by a World War One soldier
A model submarine crafted by a World War One soldier
A model submarine crafted by a World War One soldier
A letter opener made by a World War One soldier
A letter opener made by a World War One soldier

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Updated:  20 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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