Antiques & Collectibles - A Rare WW1 Militaria Gallipoli Campaign Trench Art Find

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Welcome to this week's instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

You might remember that a few weeks ago now, I attended the antiques fair at York Racecourse and purchased a rather fascinating piece of history.  A quite extraordinary WW1 Gallipoli campaign (Ottoman Empire) carved stone trench art set in its original tin.  It consists of a carved Bible stand, a large Bible, a small Bible and some slippers.  The large Bible has an inscription for “Suvla Bay 1915” (one of the 3 landing points for allied troops), followed by “Egypt 1916” and “France 1916”.  The smaller Bible is inscribed with “I Love You” and this sits on the carved Bible stand.  These are all housed within the original tobacco tin that the soldier would have kept them in during his service.

Having had a little bit of free time this week, I finally had the chance to start researching these pieces.  I contacted a few museums and I'm still awaiting a response, but in the meantime, I delved into finding out some more about the Gallipoli campaign itself and what I learnt was quite extraordinary.

So, as always, get that kettle on and let me talk you through this harrowing conflict and how these stone carvings survived one of the most famous battles of World War One.


Image:  the carved stone trench art


So, after the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany, it was decided the empire should be knocked out of the war.  On one side you had British, French, Indian, New Zealand, Australian and Canadian forces, and on the other side, you had the Ottoman Empire, or the Turkish Empire.


Image:  a piece of the carved stone trench art


Gallipoli was supposed to be a decisive phase of combat.  The plan was to sail a huge fleet up the Dardanelles.  By capturing the Ottoman capital, they thought the empire would be badly weakened and have to surrender.  Unfortunately, the plan failed miserably.  The fleet was badly outdated and many were damaged or sunk by Ottoman cannons and mines, forcing them to retreat.


Image:  a piece of the carved stone trench art


Instead, the allies made plans to invade by land.  It was to be the first battle for the troops of New Zealand and Australia (the Anzac).  Unfortunately, the landings were again a complete disaster.  Thousands were killed on the first day and the allies were unable to move more than a few hundred metres from the beach in eight months of fighting.


Image:  a piece of the carved stone trench art


Conditions in the trenches were appalling and bodies piled up in no man's land, making the area a breeding ground for flies and disease.  Water was also scarce, making the soldier's health problems even worse.

Lasting eight months, the allies were eventually forced to retreat in January 1916.  More than 100,000 troops were killed and hundreds of thousands more were wounded. 


Image:  A screenshot from The 'Imperial War Museum' website


I discovered some incredible recorded first hand accounts from soldiers who served during the campaign. Their descriptions of the conditions at the time and the loss of life they experienced is both fascinating and extremely emotional.  I highly recommend that you head to the 'Imperial War Museum' website and have a listen to these accounts, which you can do by clicking this link:

If you click on the 'Audio Object Record', as highlighted by the arrow in the image above, you can listen to the full 30 minute interviews of each of the soldiers.


Image:  a piece of the carved stone trench art


However, quite incredibly, amid the horrendous conditions, a strange connection grew between the enemies.  During periods of no shelling, soldiers from both sides would occasionally meet and exchange gifts.  There are also stories of soldiers being allowed to hang out washing on the barbed wire without getting shot.


Image:  a piece of the carved stone trench art


This got me thinking about my pieces of trench art.  Whilst they may well have been carved for a loved one back at home, there is always the possibility that they were one of the gifts exchanged over enemy lines.  Perhaps the pieces were exchanged over a period of time...?  Who knows, but wouldn't that be amazing?


Image:  a piece of the carved stone trench art 


Well, that's it for this week folks.  I hope you've enjoyed this week's instalment.  I really do love researching pieces like this.  It really does bring them to life.  Learning about the conditions that these men, some as young as 17 years old, would have had to experience during such conflict really does make me feel very privileged.  I hope to find out a bit more if I can and of course, I'll let you know if the museums are able to assist me.

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So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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