Shopping at antique and flea markets can be a hit or miss thing. One time you might not see anything that you love. And then another time you see something that you just have to buy. That’s how it was with me the last time I went to one of my favorite antique markets.

I was walking along the aisles, I was stopped in my tracks by these beautiful and very unique vases. Hanging below them was a sign that said “TRENCH ART.” I had never heard of it before so I asked the dealer, and this is what I learned…

trench art vase

Trench art first appeared in 19th century wars during Napoleon’s wars. During WWI (1914-1918) it was an art that flourished in the trenches of the Western Front. Notice the “1917” engraving on the bottom of the vases.

trench art engraving

Soldiers would transform whatever scrap metal littered the so-called no man’s land, as well as behind the lines. Usually it was empty cannon shells.

trench art engraving on bottom

photo of artillery shells

Because they were confined to their trenches, they needed to keep themselves busy during the long lulls between deadly attacks. Brass cannon shells were changed into vases for dried flowers and often sent home to loved-ones.

trench art example

At the end of the war, those living around the devastated battle-grounds crafted commemorative vases and other mementos which were brought back home by war veterans.