Trench art played an important role in WW I. Soldiers on both sides of the line spent some of their free time fashioning items from the litter and debris that was available to them. Not only was trench art fashioned at the front, soldiers recovering from wounds in hospitals often tinkered with similar items as physical/mental therapy. Examples of trench art fashioned by troops who were sitting out the war in POW camps are also available. Belt buckles were turned into match safes and lighters, bullets into doodads. One of the best-known forms of trench art was turning expended brass artillery shells into vases or other vessels. Most of the shells that we see were from the smallest German cannons (77mm, I believe). [They were fast-firing cannons like the French 75mm’s. It was amazing how quickly these smaller cannons could be fired]. Men took the shell casings and then added numerous designs, some quite elaborate. Flowers were etched and tapped into the sides, and so on.
This example, however, is from a far larger-caliber cannon. It is the largest caliber shell casing fashioned into trench art that I have encountered. The shell measures 6 1/4″ in diameter at the top, 7 3/4″ in diameter at the base, and stands 5 5/8″ tall. The shell has had dozens of vertical lines etched into it. On one side we see the initials “M.V.” The other side depicts a two-handled vase with flowers extending from it. Twin decorative handles are attached to the shell casing. Each handle is attached by two pegs. A peg on one handle is a bit loose. Care must be exercised when handling the vase. For normal display, however, one would never notice the fault. Attached to the casing’s bottom are three claw feet. The bottom also reveals that the shell was produced in October 1916 at a munitions plant in Magdeburg. We also see “Polte,” “613,” and “SP252.” It is very heavy (4″ lbs. 14 oz.), so extra shipping costs will apply.