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18 Pounder shell ashtray - Souvenir

From the Collection of Lara RSL Sub Branch McClelland Ave Lara Victoria

Description
The lid of an 18Pounder shell which has been adapted for use as an ash tray.
Size
30cm circumference, 11cm width 16cm length
Object Registration
865
Historical information
Artillery shells were designed to be recycled and spent shells were returned to the munitions factory for re-filling, a mark engraved upon the head-stamp at each re-filling. Millions upon millions of shells were recycled and re-fired. Relationships with ‘objects’ were forged as recycled objects of conflict were welcomed into people’s homes. Such objects were embodied with personal experiences of war, later to become objects textured with memory, remembrance, and longing – attributes that clearly go beyond an object’s form and function. 18-Pounder Artillery Shells: The Great War Recycled and Re-Circulated
Categories :Material Culture Machine

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The intention of war is to kill, to maim and to destroy using, for example, the agency of 18-pounder artillery shells (so-called because they weighed 18 pounds). The shells were loaded in to the 18-pounder field guns used by the Royal Artillery and targeted to destroy German batteries and trenches as well as to shoot down aeroplanes.

Horse-drawn field gun, Canal du Nord, France. Taken by First World War photographer David McLellan. Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA
Horse-drawn field gun, Canal du Nord, France. Taken by First World War photographer David McLellan. Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA

In Under Fire, Henri Barbusse recounts how the incessant and diabolical din of war constantly bombarded the soldier body with the unendurable noise of bursting shells that caused pain to the ears (Barbusse 2010 [1933]: 207). The noise was so ‘monstrously resounding’ that one felt ‘annihilated by the mere sound of the downpour of thunder’ (Barbusse 2010 [1933]: 206).

Artillery shells were designed to be recycled and spent shells were returned to the munitions factory for re-filling, a mark engraved upon the head-stamp at each re-filling. Millions upon millions of shells were recycled and re-fired.

A mound of spent shell cases, Nord, Nord-pas-de-Calais, France. Taken by war photographer, Tom Aitken, 1918. Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA.
A mound of spent shell cases, Nord, Nord-pas-de-Calais, France. Taken by war photographer, Tom Aitken, 1918. Available via the National Library of Scotland as CC BY-NC-SA.

People’s experience of the First World War did not end with the armistice. Whilst the noise of the artillery had ceased, the noise of war was remembered. Harry Patch on arriving home injured recalled being ‘jumpy for a while’ with the least noise prompting him to dive for cover (2009: 114).

Something else materialised. Relationships with ‘objects’ were forged as recycled objects of conflict were welcomed into people’s homes. Such objects were embodied with personal experiences of war, later to become objects textured with memory, remembrance, and longing – attributes that clearly go beyond an object’s form and function.

The head-stamp of these particular shells displays the British broad arrow and the initials ‘EOC’ indicates that they were made at the Elswick Ordnance Company, England; the initials ‘CF’ signal that the charge was loaded with cordite, a standard propellant.



When Made
1927
Significance
Spent shells were illicitly scavenged from massive mounds by both soldiers and civilians alike to become personal souvenirs or to swap or sell. Spent artillery shells were crafted, often using a hammer and a bent nail. The crafting of trench art reflects the construction of an identity that offers momentary relief from the hell experienced in the trenches.
Inscriptions & Markings
Lot 27 1927, 18Pr, III, EOC, C/F, Defence broad arrow,
Last updated
11 Apr 2019 at 2:11PM