Jam Tins

overheard-in-an-orchardThe long line of empty jam tins snaking into the distance in Bairnsfather’s cartoon from the day before yesterday indicates that the plum and the apple contributed not only to the nourishment of the troops, but also to their armament.

“Jam tins are exactly what the name implies. In the early days all empty jam tins were, by order, collected, filled with high explosive and old pieces of iron, etc. and used as a hand grenade. Sammy will learn soon enough what a jam tin is in the present day fighting, and he will welcome any fresh fruit which comes his way.”(1)

Arthur Empey’s definition of a jam tin underlines its dangers, and why Sammy welcomed fresh fruit rather than preserves:

“A crude sort of hand grenade which, in the early stages of the war. Tommy used to manufacture out of jam tins, ammonal, and mud. The manufacturer generally would receive a little wooden cross in recognition of the fact that he died for King and Country.” (2)

(1) Smith, Lorenzo. Lingo of No Man’s Land.( 1918) 2014. 43. “Sammy,” he says, is “the soldier whom Uncle Sam sends to the front. Tommy’s American cousin … also called ‘Yank’ and ‘Buddie’ .[sic]”(67) Lorenzo Smith was an American of canadian extraction who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915.(vii)
(2) Empey, Arthur Guy. Over the Top by an American Soldier who Went. 1918. 296.

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”
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