The M1916 German helmet brought back from the Western Front in 1918. (COURTESY OF THE JAMES LUTO COLLECTION)

In times of war, there are plentiful opportunities for small groups or individual servicemen to obtain a trophy or souvenir as a memento of a battle or some important event to take home with them as a keepsake. For many of the Allies’ citizen-soldiers, such items represented what was, for many, a once-in-alifetime adventure.

The hunt for souvenirs amongst troops on the Western Front was universal amongst friend and foe. It was, recalled one veteran, ‘rather like looking for mushrooms’. Private Frank Hawkings, writing in his biography From Ypres to Cambrai, recalled how quickly after capture a German soldier might be ‘relieved’ of his cash and collectables: ‘At dusk this evening a Hun appeared and slid over “C” Company’s parapet, much to the astonishment and fright of the adjacent sentry, who, however, soon recovered when the German informed him in fairly good English that he had come to surrender. We crowded round him, and while he told us that he was “a great kamerad English” and that he had been a waiter in a London hotel before the war, we relieved him of his buttons and badges as souvenirs.’

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