Lighter of the Great War / Trench Lighter / Briquet Poilu
Through this blog I aim to show a selection of lighters produced during and in the years following the Great War. Including trench art and industrial made lighters of the period. All the lighters featured are from my own collection.
Featured is a quite exceptional WW1 Trench art lighter made as a gift for a senior United States army officer.
The inscription reads.
Maj Gen Edwards FROM CAPT. W.W.WADE ADJT. 51st INF.BRIG COUVRELLES. 1918.
Major General Clarence Ransom Edwards (1859-1931) was a native of Cleveland Ohio. Graduating from WestPoint in 1883, he served in the Spanish American War (in the Philippines) he was promoted to Major General in 1917.
In August 1917 he was charged with organising the 26th “Yankee” Division from Connecticut. The 26th landed in France in September 1917. The 26th would become one of the most decorated divisions in France seeing some of the longest action of the AEF.
Couvrelles is located between Reims and Soissons near the rivers Aisne and Marne, this area saw the most intensive fighting for the AEF during the war.
Edwards had a difficult relationship with General John J Pershing, commander in Chief of the AEF Forces in France, just weeks before the end of the War Pershing took the opportunity to relieve him of his position.
Edward's 26th Yankee Division consisted of the 51st & 52nd Infantry Brigades along with the 51st Field Artillery Brigade. Captain Wade served as adjutant to the 51st Infantry Brigade; as such he would have regularly met with Edwards. Perhaps he had this lighter commissioned as a gift for him after he was relieved of command? Made of brass this lighter is finished to a very high standard, this type of engraving is very difficult to complete without making a mistake, the original snuffer cap is beautifully made.
Edwards retired from the Military in 1922. He is buried along with his wife and daughter in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
Edwards was a respected military man, being posthumously awarded the DSM in 1938, in the same year he had a training camp in Massachusetts name after him.
I would like to thank my good friend Rob Wilkinson for finding this wonderful lighter for me.
Featured is a nice WW1 era trench art medallion type pocket lighter featuring a Chinese Dragon.
The difference between the Chinese and Japanese Dragon is usually the toes, the Japanese Dragon usually has 3 toes and the Chinese 4.
Almost certainly manufactured to celebrate China's contribution to the war efforts.
In 1914 China had declared itself as a neutral in the War, however China had secretly offered 50,000 troops to retake Qingdao.
Japan had opposed the use of Chinese military forces during the Great War, however the allies were suffering huge losses, especially on the Western Front.
It was agreed that China could offer men for none combatant purposes, such as the digging of trenches and other labouring jobs, thereby releasing soldiers to the front line.
Members of the Chinese Labor Corp started to arrive on the Western Front late in 1916.
The contribution of the Chinese Labor Corp to the overall war effort proved invaluable. Members of the Labor Corp were even involved in early trials of the Tank, the allies believing their lack of understanding of the English language would help in keeping its development secret.
This lighter has an early tax stamp, the type used between 1911 and 1916, although it does look different to the type I am familiar with, much more basic or crude, I wonder if this is a counterfeit or fake stamp, to fool the tax man? it is just a thought.
Featured is a huge WW1 trench art book / Livre lighter.
Modelled as a Prayer Book or perhaps a Bible?
Made of brass with copper detail, the lighter is marked 1918 & Lyon, it is beautifully engraved with religious imagery and symbolism and I am sure it offered the owner & his family great comfort during very difficult times.
I purchased this lighter from Ebay in France 3 or 4 years ago, I was of course very surprised when this lighter arrived as I was expecting a small pocket lighter!