Tag Archives: Orange County History Museum

WWI Trench Art

12 Nov

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites



For DiVoran’s birthday I took her to the Orange County History Center in Orlando, Florida so she could view the “Gone With The Wind” exhibition on display there.   She loved it. While she was enjoying the exhibits about that famous story of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, I strolled around the galleries on the other three floors of the building. It was a pretty impressive arrangement, with exhibits covering mostly Florida history.


One exception was the WWI Trench Art exhibit. I was simply amazed at what some of those soldiers had done with what was called, in one description, “War Waste.” There was no end to the creativity shown by the many different examples displayed. There were creations using the smallest rifle cartridges, to those using some of the largest canon shell casings. There were pieces ranging from a small crucifix, to a multi-bulbed desk lamp. And some of the artistic work was breathtaking!


To think that in the midst of one of the world’s worst conflicts, and in the cold and muddy trenches filled with the smell of death, that it was possible for men to be able to remove themselves (thoughts and emotions) in a way as to create such beauty out of some the very components that they were using to perpetuate that devastation.


It’s disturbing for me to think about the millions of young men who have had to go to a war for any reason, but especially those with such talent as displayed in these art forms. Of course, there was the much used reference of “Turning Swords into Plowshares” which didn’t help when I tried to imagine how much talent has been wasted over the centuries because of the many wars that have been fought around the world. There was a picture of a huge pile of shell casings, which must have been the source of some of the “War Waste” referred to in one of the articles about Trench Art.


There were several WWI posters (collector items by now) encouraging Americans to “Buy War Bonds” to support the war effort. I remember the stories about how the people of this country tried to stay out of the “War Over There” but how they rallied together to support out military once the U.S. joined the fight.


It reminded me of pictures and stories of my dad, who had been a medic and ambulance driver with the U.S. Army in France during WWI. I’m sure he saw his share of terrible things during that conflict, as did many, but like most of them he never talked about it to us.


If you get a chance to visit the Orange County History Center in Orlando, Florida in the near future, be sure to see the “WWI Trench Art” exhibit (there until 12/31/2014). If not, you can go on the internet and Google WWI Trench Art and you’ll be amazed, as I was, with what you will see posted there, and with many references to other links. Enjoy!


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