Although the term 'trench art' originated in the First World War, the practice of soldiers using battlefield waste to make art can be seen in earlier conflicts. The scale of the First World War meant that millions of used shell cases and other pieces of battlefield debris were available to creative soldiers. The objects they made were often simply decorative, but some also served a practical purpose. Most were sent home to family to as a decoration, while others were manufactured commercially.
This trench art clock was built by Sapper Stanley Keith Pearl in Ypres, Belgium, in March 1918. It is made from two 4.5-inch howitzer shell cases, with a commercial alarm clock mechanism. The clock hands are made from copper, the alarm cover from an 18-pounder nose cap, and the foot is an 18-pounder shell clip.
Pearl was 21 years old when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. While serving in the 5th Field Company Engineers, Pearl produced many well-crafted pieces of trench art, including an inkstand, napkin rings, a kitchen scoop and a model German aircraft. Pearl moved to Canberra after the war, and was working as a carpenter at the Australian War Memorial when it opened in 1941. He continued to work at the Memorial until his retirement, and generously donated his collection of trench art.