Thursday, March 1, 2018

WW1 Trench Art Matchbook Holder, 6th Battalion, Queens Regiment, Royal West Surrey, Private Raymond William Revill, Matchbox Slip

As promised, here is another new posting on yet another interesting piece that I recently picked up.

While I was cruising around town, and hitting my local "junk store" haunts, I noticed this little gem in the back corner of a display case.  After a bit of back and forth, bargaining with the shop owner, this beautiful bit of WW1 history was mine!

This little brass box is a matchbook holder that belonged to a British soldier from West Surrey, in the UK.  It is an original item brought back from the Trenches of France during WW1.

These little covers are quite amazing, and many of them give quite a bit of history about the original owners.  This holder is what is commonly known as "trench art", or rather an item made by a soldier in the field for personal use, or as a war souvenir.  This holder falls into both of those categories.  It is both a personal use item and a personal souvenir of the war.

This cover was crafted by hand, from a piece of old artillery shell brass.  The artwork on the surface was also done by hand, with a small stamping tool, probably a sharpened nail, or something of the sort. I can picture the soldier now, sitting in the trenches of France, and passing the time making this little holder.

During the WW1 Years, nearly every soldier smoked, and boxed matches were the most common way of lighting up your pipe or cigarette.  To keep your box of matches from getting crushed in your pocket, a matchbook holder was used to hold and protect it.  The soldiers had a ton of time to kill, so that time was often filled with eating, sleeping, and making some bits of trench art.  One of the more common items to make were these little matchbook holders.

The front of this holder is marked:

R. W. Revill 
6.=Batt Queens

The back is marked:


Inside the matchbox, was a little note from a prior owner, giving a few more details.  This gave me a good place to start my research.  I contacted Surrey History Center and Museum to see if they could help in tracking down some history on R. W. Revill and his unit (I could find nothing on Revill in my searching).
They were quick to get back to me, and this is what they had to say:

Thank you for your e-mail of 15 January concerning a matchbox cover inscribed R W Revill of 6th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.

According to R W Revill’s medal index card and the medal volumes for the First World War, both of which are available on the family history website Ancestry, his full name was Private Raymond William Revill, his regimental number was G78558 and he served just with the 6th Battalion.

The 6th Battalion was formed in Guildford in August 1914 and was designated a Service Battalion, which was raised for just the period of the war. Unfortunately, Raymond William Revill is not mentioned in our rough recruitment register of those who enlisted at Guildford, reference no. QRWS/1/3/3. Neither do his service papers appear to have survived (an estimated 60% were destroyed during the Second World War). However the G prefix to his number means that he enlisted between August 1914 and about December 1915 for three years or the duration of the war.

He does appear to have survived the war since he is not mentioned on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

Battalions of the New Armies

6th (Service) Battalion
Formed at Guildford in August 1914 as part of K1.
August 1914 : under command of 37th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division.

6th (Service) Battalion (QRWS/14/-)

The two names on the back of the cover reference two of the major battles that the unit participated in, The Battle of the Somme, and The battle of Arras.  Both were bloody and terrible.

I did some extensive digging through some old UK photo archives, and ran across a couple of beautiful photos of a few men from the 6th Battalion in the trenches.  Who knows, one of them might be our soldier Revill !  Both photos are from the Imperial War Museum Archives.

6th Bat. Queens Royal West Surrey Reg. Arras, March 1917

6th Bat. Queens Royal West Surrey Reg. Arras, March 1917

Since I picked up this little holder here in the US,  it could be a safe guess that he may have emigrated after the war, or possibly it was brought over by a relative.  There is no way to know for sure, but at least we have a bit of Raymond Revill's wartime story to go with it.
Here is the photo album.  Enjoy.

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