Category Archives: 1917

War and its Waste

We often talk of war and its waste. And it is certainly true that war is wasteful of human lives and is wasteful in terms of money and resources which could have been spent on improving society. But what we do not often talk about is the literal waste generated by war: the tons of metal scraps, fragments, and garbage left behind after the armies have passed through.

Empty Shell Casings

Piles of Used Artillery Shell Casings

In this photograph we can see piles of empty shell casings, littering the side of a road in France. These represent the thousands of artillery shells that were fired by the allies against the Germans during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in 1917.

Interestingly, modern warfare not only created piles of scrap and garbage such as seen pictured here, but also provoked the first efforts at recycling. On the home front, drives were organized to collect scrap metal and even convince housewives to part with pots and pans to convert into bullets and other implements of war. And on the battlefield, spent artillery shell casings such as these would eventually be collected and then melted down to make more artillery shells. The circle of death was nearly complete.

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