Trench Art

Do not have a lot of trench art items in my collection but have managed to add a couple of items from two recent auctions.

Not an expert in “Trench Art ” but tend to divide these items into two types, 1.)made by the service person in their down time & 2.) made by a civilian local to sell to the serviceperson as a trinket to send home or keep for themselves.

First item I would put in the second category.  It is a silk chain stitched embroidered representation of the cap badge of the 6th Manawatu Mounted Rifles.


Above is the original badge the embroidery is based on (image from the website).ww1-mmr-pillow-caseThe diagonally bisected black and white backing for this is in the colours of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment and was worn as a puggaree patch on their Mounted Rifles, felt hats. The Official History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles has a nice colour illustration both showing the badges and patch of the Regiment.wellington_mounted_rifles_insignia

Another example of this type of silk embroidery dates from the Second World War and has the nice touch of having the senders name and that of the intended recipient. Unfortunately I do not have either Gordon’s or Olive’s last names.trench-art-ww2Close up of the central image.

The central “Badge” is interesting as this is not based on an original item which the embroidery is then copied off, there was no “Southern Kiwi Infantry Battalion”badge. I believe this particular battalion is one of the Training Battalions based at Maadi Camp in Egypt. Maadi, just outside of Cairo (14 km south) was the sight of the major base camp for the NZ Division in the 2nd World War. The Training Battalions were split into Northern, Central and Southern to reflect the Military Districts then in use back home in NZ. The Training Battalions were to bring soldiers, who were recent reinforcements or returning from hospital, back up to speed before being posted back, or to, a Battalion.

Another example of WW2 trench art is this “Dinner Gong”.ww2-dinner-gongThe Backww2-dinner-gong-bckThe 4th Res M.T. Coy’s correct title is “4th Reserve Mechanical Transport Company” but was also known as the “4th Reserve Motor Transport Company” or simply 4th RMT. There were two RMT companies in the 2nd NZEF, the 4th & 6th. the 4th went overseas with the First Echelon, and was one of the first units of the New Zealand Division to take part in Lord Wavell’s campaign in the Western Desert in 1940. Later they took part in the disastrous Greek campaign. When Greece was lost, in common with all technical units, they lost their vehicles and heavy equipment. In Crete they fought as infantry. When Crete was evacuated they were re-equipped at El Maadi, and from then on they fought through the North African and Italian campaigns. The 4th RMT continued right to the finish, and took a leading role in the advance that captured Trieste.

This particular gong is said to have been made from a flattened out 25 pdr shell casing.

Another item made from shell casing is this Tankard.trench-art-ww2-tankardUsing my categorization I would put this in the civilian made but would then sub classify this is being commercially produced rather than a one off piece like the 4th RMT Dinner Gong. This particular type of tankard is quite common in NZ and I believe these were originally silvered but are more often than not found with most if not all, as with my one, of the silver polished off. Here is a link to the National NZ Army Museum website that has a informative page on the tankard:

Along the bottom of the design are the words “Brass used for the manufacture of this tankard was salvaged from the battlefields of North Africa”

Perhaps one of the most common items of Trench Art (at least I think they fall into that category) is the so called “Hate Belt”. The definition of these belts has, I believe, always been open to debate as they are also known as “trophy belts”, the suggestion being the items on the belts were taken as trophy’s from dead body’s. However most of the belts I have seen usually have more friend rather than foe buttons or badges on them. I think the “Hate” of these belts is a result of the material the buttons and badges are made of, soldiers hated polishing that brass.

A little different because of the use of cloth rather than brass, is a WW2 Money belt that a soldier has attached a few patches to.ww2-hate-belt

ww2-hate-belt-badgeThe patches are (from left to right) 3rd pattern 7th Armoured Division, 24th Guards Brigade (became the 24th Independent Infantry Brigade after Trieste, 1945), (un-official patch) Royal Artillery component of the 1st Infantry Division and 5th Infantry Division.

An example of post WW2 Trench Art is this Borneo/Vietnam period kit bag.vietnam-kitbag

Close up of the badge in the centre.vietnam-kitbag-badgeThe writing on the left hand side, in gold paint (which has worn badly) covers both his Malaya and South Vietnam movements and contain such places as Saigon, Vung Tau, The “Horse shoe”.

vietnam-kitbag-real-badgeThe central badge is a good attempt at this badge Anodised Aluminium “Staybright”, Vietnam period RNZIR Cap badge.

This kit bag is modeled on the US kit bag but as indicated by the N.A.T.O. code prefix “66” and the broad arrow, was manufactured in Australia in 1965.vietnam-kitbag-dateAnother kit bag but this one is a little earlier. This canvas bag dates from around the late 1940’s to at least 1953 (drawing is of a kings crowned badge). Belonged to a member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force who had a little artistic talent. Quite like the drawing of the badge on the front though I think the bird in the middle could do with a bit of a diet as he does look a little on the round side.

This wooden carved plaque was made as a gift for a guard by a Japanese Prisoner of War while he was being held in a camp in new Zealand.

The Featherston Prisoner of War Camp opened at the site of the WW1 training camp near the Wirarapa town of Featherston in 1942 to house 800 Japanese POW’s. The camp consisted of two groups the largest was mainly made up of Koreans and forced laboures who had been working at Henderson Field (Guadalcanal) but there were also 240 Japanese officers and enlisted men from the Imperial Army, Navy & Air Force. The largest of the Japanese groups was from the Japanese cruiser Furutaka, which was sunk during the Battle of Cape Esperance. In February 1943, 48 prisoners and one guard were killed when a protest by the prisoners over having to work, led to a POW officer  being accidentally shot and wounded .When some of other prisoners who were near to the wounded officer threw stones at the guards they opened fire on the protesters killing 48 and one of their own guards who was caught in the crossfire. Details of the incident were covered up by the New Zealand authorities and there is still some debate over details of the incident.

This plaque was given/sold to 468874 Reginald BOYLAND who seems to have been posted to the camp for only a short period of time from July to October 1944. The back of the plaque is dated 18 July 1944 not long after Reginald was posted to the camp on the 12th July.POW writting The plaque itself seems to have been made out of a few scraps of wood and was probably made in the same factory where many of the prisoners worked making furniture. I have seen a few other examples of these plaques online and believe there was a bit of a trade going in making these and other items for sale by the prisoners so they could make a little extra cash.

This next item, as well as being trench art, has a bit of a link to the above in that it was made out of a piece of a Japanese aircraft.

The artist who made this particular item was not a New Zealander but as he was part of the 2nd Marine Division would have spent time at the training camp at Mackay’s Crossing, near Wellington, from 1942 until relieving the 1st Division on Guadalcanal early in 1943.USMC clseFrom what I can find online Clark Clayton PROFFITT was born on 2nd January 1918 in Georgia and died 5th September 1997 in San Diego. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on 19th August 1938 and in 1940 was attached to Company “B”, First Battalion, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division.

My last item dates from the 1990’s and is from NZ’s 15-year long commitment to Bosnia-Herzegovina. This commitment began with UN observers who were reinforced in 1992, with the first deployment of Kiwi combat troops since the Vietnam War. In 1994, following a tenuous peace agreement in a multi-factional war, the first of three reinforced rifle companies was sent from New Zealand to Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 2007, New Zealand’s 15-year long commitment to the troubled Balkan state ended. This Zippo has had the black covering partially removed to show an almost six month deployment to Bosnia.

The inside of the Zippoun-lighter-open


One thought on “Trench Art

  1. Pingback: 2nd NZ Divisional Cavalry Regiment | kiwisoldier

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