trench art


With an ever increasing interest in the Great War, so trench art is being seen as an important cultural thread in that period.  It is also all-encompassing - for any aspect of the Great War there will exist some trench art, somewhere, that pertains to that place, that battle, that event.

Below are photos from two exhibitions at the In Flanders Fields museum in Ypres, Belgium to which I lent items from my collection and the 2014 exhibition at Compton Verney in Warwickshire.  I have also lent items to Alexandra Palace, London for their current exhibition highlighting their role in the Great War, housing Belgian refugees, then internees and even prisoners of war. 

With the centenary period now upon us, museums are beginning to plan how they will mark that period, and trench art should play a key role in that. 

I am happy to help with any such preparations, lending items from my collection and/or knowledge on the subject.  

Please get in touch if your museum is considering curating an exhibition.

Western Front - Eastern Promises
Photography, Trench Art & Iconography of the Chinese Labour Corps in the Great War
Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London - October to December 2020

Chinese labour corps trench art

This exhibition will combine the unique collection of photographs taken by WJ Hawkins while an Officer with the CLC, from recruitment in China, on the long journey to France and in France itself, with perhaps the largest assembly of Chinese labourer trench art from the Great War ever displayed - 70+ pieces.
The exhibition will chart the history of the Corps from the foundation of the Chinese Republic in 1912, to the war years and the need for manpower in France, through to its disbandment 100 years ago, in 1920.
Chinese labourer trench art draws on ancient images, symbolism and iconography, and included in the exhibition will be explanations of the more interesting examples, depicting legends from China's rich past.

Art from Ammunition:  Trench Art from the First World War, Compton Verney, 2014

This exhibition covered a wide range of trench art from my collection.  The main element was a display to highlight the global nature of the war - this was not just Britain, France and Germany!!  From my collection I found trench art from 27 different countries who were involved in the war.  There was also a display of PoW work and one of items made from 'significant' things - pieces from zeppelins, fragments from ruined cathedrals, Cape Helles lighthouse etc.

CV textCV Global trench art

CV POW display

CV Relic display

The Commission for Relief in Belgium, In Flanders Fields Museum, 2013

This exhibition highlighted the work done by Herbert Hoover and the Commission for Relief in Belgium, feeding 9 million civilians in occupied Belgium and Northern France for the duration of the war.  The embroidered flour sacks produced during this period provided a stunning back drop to the exhibition.

hoover crb exhibition ypres

hoover crb exhibition ypres

The Chinese Labour Corps in the Great War, In Flanders Fields Museum, 2010

This exhibition highlighted the little known story of the 140,000 Chinese labourers shipped over from China to work behind the lines during the war, and clearing the battlefields after the war.  The trench art they produced was one enduring cultural impact used in the exhibition.  My two contributions are the two larger shells nearest the camera, that didn't fit in with the uniform display cases used for every other shell case and had to have their own made!!

clc chinese labour corps exhibition ypres