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The Channel Islands and the Great War
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Remembering William Honeycombe


Shell Cap


Shell Cap

Private Arthur William Honeycombe, Hampshire regiment

RoH entry

The creation of trench art that can be broadly defined as the making of items of decorative value from the waste material of armed conflict such as spent shell or bullet cases was much practiced during the Great War. It was undertaken by soldiers while they were in the trench lines or in the rest areas, by Prisoners of War (PoW), and by the civilian population. For some, their output would be the means of supplementing the few shillings or sous that were their weekly wage. It should be mentioned that trench art was not unique to the Great War, and that it has similarities in the scrimshaw produced by men on whalers in the 18th and 19th centuries as well as items made by French PoW from the Napoleonic Wars. Effectively, it was made anywhere where serving men had time on their hands.

The vase shown in the accompanying photographs has a somewhat different intent to that of being simply decorative or having been made to occupy spare time. Made out of a 5.9 inch shell case, on one side the inscription has been punched or engraved in:

"In Loving Memory of our Brother Pte W Honeycombe 1/15 Hants Died Somewhere in France."

While on the other side, in what appears to be the badge of the Royal Militia Island of Jersey, without the three leopards, is also punched or engraved:

"Killed in Action, Sept 4th 1918."

It was clearly meant to reflect the family's grief at William's loss in France or (more likely) Flanders not least that of his brothers Walter Davey who was serving with the King's Own Lancaster Regiment and Albert Henry, a Sapper in the Royal Engineers and who probably had the technical resources to make this vase.

From what can be discerned from his regimental number 43956 and his age, it would appear that William was among a batch of 35 Jerseymen who were conscripted in either late 1917 or early 1918 and who would serve with the Hampshire Regiment. William's father Samuel worked for Jersey's Evening Post selling newspapers and was also the Town Crier in St Helier.

The CIGWSG would very much like to thank the vase's current owner, Mr David Gainsborough Roberts, for his permission to include the photographs on its website.

Pictures by kind permission of David Gainsborough Roberts.