Official Canadian photograph of wounded men examining their trophies
This photograph depicts wounded Canadian soldiers behind the Canadian advance east of Arras in September 1918. They are showing trophies to each other, including a pistol in the hand of the front and centre soldier.
Soldiers collected war trophies with great enthusiasm, as a way of staking a claim to and remembering their own experiences. A ‘trophy’ could refer to both weapons and other paraphernalia originally belonging to the enemy army and to personal effects belonging to enemy soldiers. In acquiring trophies in particular, soldiers proclaimed themselves as in some way ascendant over the enemy; perhaps more manly, perhaps braver, or perhaps simply victorious.
Enemy weapons and pieces of enemy uniform were particularly popular forms of trophy. They were frequently acquired from corpses, as well as from enemy prisoners. An economy of trophy swapping and selling existed behind the lines. The sale of trophies to other troops was one way a soldier could increase his worldly goods.