THIS interesting piece of First World War history was recently brought to our offices by Cyril and Eunice Burrows of Sedgley. It is an old artillery shell which the family have had for so long that its exact origins have been forgotten and it was used to hold a set of fire irons.
The brass shell casing has been decorated with the words "1914 Roulers". That is the French name for the Belgian city of Roeselare, which was occupied by the Germans from 19th October, 1914, until 14th October, 1918. The city became a major military base for the German army and suffered heavily as a result, with around two-thirds of the buildings destroyed by British bombardment.
Perhaps this shell was decorated by a patriotic Walloon (French-speaking Belgian) to mark the fall of the city.
The markings on the shell case show that it is a German 7.7cm feldkanone shell, manufactured late in the war, in June 1918, by Friedrich Niemeyer (FN) from brass supplied by the Haniel Luege works near Dusseldorf.
This kind of trench art is quite common, given the millions of spent artillery shells that were left over during the war. "Trench art" is the catch-all term for a wide variety of objects, but it is something of a misnomer as very few, if any, were actually made in the trenches. Instead, soldiers would work on these pieces in their free time, away from the front line.
Much trench art was produced by local civilians for sale to soldiers. In fact, it was quite an industry and one that continued long after the war ended, with many pieces made for the tourists that have visited the battlefields in the years since.