Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Art of War



With the approaching centenary of World War One many museums, including Fairlynch,  will be dusting down their 1914-18 memorabilia and even thinking of acquiring items for exhibitions.

For those planning to mark the centenary whose budgets are limited there are plenty of replica packs such as the ones currently being marketed by the National Museums of Scotland. Its World War One memorabilia pack consists of replica documents including a Joining the Ranks booklet, a Patriotic Pledge card, a Kitchener postcard, an I.D. card, an Invasion leaflet, a Help to win the War leaflet and recruitment cards. 

Genuine material can still be picked up locally however. One of the items on offer at the Bicton Street Auction Rooms in Exmouth is a 1915 first edition of Some ‘Frightful’ War Pictures by the celebrated illustrator William Heath Robinson (1872-1944).

At this early stage in the war when the book was published and perhaps before the full horror of the trenches became apparent the illustrations are remarkable for their light-hearted humour, almost in the style of a Comic History.

Auctioneer Piers Motley-Nash, shown above,  who took over the Exmouth business in July 2012 estimates a price of between £50 and £80 at the Auction Rooms’ General and Collectors sale on Monday 11 March.



Illustrations from 'Some Frightful War Pictures' by W. Heath Robinson:  Nach Paris! First lessons in the Goose-step

Repelling an Assault of 'Flu Germs
The Germans use Button Magnets
A Swiss Shepherd watches a Battle on the Frontier
The German Periscoper: "Ah, Himmel! Dot most be ze der peautiful Ben Nevis of vich ve 'ave 'eard so mooch!"
Also of interest to WWI collectors will be these examples of ‘trench art’ made by soldiers out of brass shell casings. The range of such art is vast, varying from crudely produced designs made by amateurs to elaborate pieces created by skilled craftsmen on active service.  The subject even has its own website at

Piers, who was an auctioneer and valuer at Potburys of Sidmouth for eight years, is confident that the area will continue to be a fertile hunting-ground for such curios with historic or cultural value. Budleigh Salterton in particular, a traditional retirement place for former military or colonial personnel, is a regular source of material. Having spent his childhood in Nigeria Piers has a keen interest in ethnographic collections as well as the more usual items such as furniture and paintings that can still be picked up at bargain prices.

For more information on sales at the Bicton Street Auction Rooms click on



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