Trench art and artists have been around a long time and was really accomplished by soldiers who spent a lot of time in the trenches, especially in WWI. Soldiers in war, or even in training, have a lot of idle time waiting for the action to begin. The instruments of war provide for the supplies in the performance of trench art. Most modern wars are fought with bullets, or ammunition, that provide the materials for trench art. Empty , or spent, bullet cartridges, or empty brass, offer some of the best and are usually plentiful, as are the ammo boxes, etc. This examiner’s first introduction to trench art was the Armored Cavalry Officer’s swagger stick. The Marines called it a short-timer’s stick named designating a marine about to rotate back home from a war zone. It was made from a projectile of either 30 caliber or 50 caliber on one end with the empty cartridge, or brass, on the other end. In between would be wood or in the case of the Cavalry, it would be a primer tube from a inside a spent 90 milimeter tank round. The primer tube had small holes to which a piece of leather shoelace was carefully, and artistically, woven to make a very decorative swagger stick. The brass was highly polished and it was part of this examiner’s uniform as a young tank platoon leader in Germany 9n 1957. The primer tube was steel and it made a nice contrast to the brass the ends.
Serving in Korea in the 1960’s , our unit noticed that the Korean range workers actually lived on the practice ranges collecting spent brass and bullets. They sold the spent items to local store shops where the brass, lead, other metals, were used to make brass items sold in the stores. This examiner purchased a brass lamp that also converted into a candle holder made entirely from spent brass collected on the tank and artillery ranges.
In was 1964 in Germany when the Armored Cavalry units on the border of West Germany received their new tanks, the M-60 with the new 105 milimeter cannon on the turrent. The old M-48 Patton tanks had 90 milimeter cannons. Units went to training ranges to test fire the new gun and this examiner brought home the empty brass of the first round (bullet) fired down range in the new M-60 tank. This empty brass cartridge has been in the family ever since and made into a very attractive ash tray. The ashtray itself is made of copper topped with a 50 caliber spent cartridge. Both the tray and the cartridge have foreign coins soldered all around the exterior. The coins were collected from all the different countries served in and included coins from West and East Germany, England, Viet Nam, Korea, France and Tiawon. The four cigarette holders are bend 20 pfenning coins from the then West Germany. There is one old German Reich Mark. This is our Trench Art piece.
As a reloader of many different calibers of ammunition, a bullet board was made for friends in the garage work shop…guess it can be called Garage Art. To the admirer of bullets, this is a very attractive controversial piece of art. It contains all the varies caliber of bullets reloaded by hand, but contain no powder or primer and are inert and harmless. Bullet key chains are also made and requested by friends for show and tell. The most popular are the bigger calibers such as the M-1 Garand 30 caliber round or the 44 cal Magnum pistol round. As long as there are empty bullet cartridges there will be someone making something that looks nice and called Trench Art.