Decorated Shell Casings from WWI – Aisne 1917

Remember those old war newspapers we found in grandma’s storage space last year? We came across another interesting find recently: decorated shell casings (douilles d’obus) from 1917. To pass the time in the trenches, soldiers used shell casings as canvases to create their own works of art. You can see other examples by searching images.google.fr. Sadly, some of them are being sold on Ebay for as little as 15€. I will probably donate them to a museum someday, but I will definitely not be making a few euros off les poilus‘ sacrifices for France.

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They include the word Aisne (a département of France on the border with Belguim that saw a lot of action during WWI), the year 1917, leaf patterns, the initials VR, and the name Valentine.

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I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took to hammer down the metal to form the letters and shapes.

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Maybe the initials of the soldier?

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Valentine; perhaps his girlfriend or wife?

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According to this munitions website, the black line means this shell was an obus explosif.

I’ve uploaded the photos to my Artifacts of French History collection on Flickr.

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.