World War I Engraved Canteen

bergie

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Aug 2, 2004
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I was fortunate to find this beautifully engraved WWI U.S. canteen today at the house of a family member and was given permission to keep it. Note the location of Savenay, France where there was a medical facility and the June 2, 1918 date (I couldn't find a battle, unless I missed it, so perhaps the day it was engraved). Luckily, there are three initials rather than two. Not as good as a name, but way better than two initials. I'm hoping someone knows how to do deep research to find the name. Much appreciated. Person must have been a medic based on the insignia. Initials are KEC.
 

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Digger RJ

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I was fortunate to find this beautifully engraved WWI U.S. canteen today at the house of a family member and was given permission to keep it. Note the location of Savenay, France where there was a medical facility and the June 2, 1918 date (I couldn't find a battle, unless I missed it, so perhaps the day it was engraved). Luckily, there are three initials rather than two. Not as good as a name, but way better than two initials. I'm hoping someone knows how to do deep research to find the name. Much appreciated. Person must have been a medic based on the insignia. Initials are KEC.
Very Cool!!!! Congrats!!!!
 

Jose The Goon

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Great find !! Gorgeous WW1 canteen. As you say, most likely a medic's canteen.
I don't think this is important to your canteen, but just in case, on June 2nd, 1918 U.S. Forces stopped a German attempt to cross the Marne River @ Chateau Thierry.
LINK: (scroll down to June 2, 1918) https://www.loc.gov/collections/sta...and-essays/a-world-at-war/timeline-1914-1921/

Also, in this link there is an artist's image of the Medical facility @ Savenay.
LINK: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_445467

Also, here is another link that could be helpful. Maybe if you connected with people at Fort Devens, they might be able to help you track down the origin & who KEC was.
I'd bet they would be interested in what you have judging from the nature of their museum.
LINK: https://www.nashobavalleyvoice.com/...museum-presents-film-about-wwi-base-hospital/

Maybe if you can research military records of medics/doctors who were assigned to that hospital 1n 1918, you might be able to identify KEC. CHEERS!! & congrats on a great discovery. I'm going work on a frame for you. That is such a beautiful military relic in pristine condition.
 

Jose The Goon

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Bergie, because of your thumb & the bottom of the canteen not in the picture, the side with the initials KEC didn't come out too good. I tried the best I could but it looks kind of crappy. If you could take another picture like the one on the other side full length sans thumb, I'd be happy to chop & paste it so that it looks better. CHEERS !! J.T.G.
bergie's canteen.png
 
OP
bergie

bergie

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Great find !! Gorgeous WW1 canteen. As you say, most likely a medic's canteen.
I don't think this is important to your canteen, but just in case, on June 2nd, 1918 U.S. Forces stopped a German attempt to cross the Marne River @ Chateau Thierry.
LINK: (scroll down to June 2, 1918) https://www.loc.gov/collections/sta...and-essays/a-world-at-war/timeline-1914-1921/

Also, in this link there is an artist's image of the Medical facility @ Savenay.
LINK: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_445467

Also, here is another link that could be helpful. Maybe if you connected with people at Fort Devens, they might be able to help you track down the origin & who KEC was.
I'd bet they would be interested in what you have judging from the nature of their museum.
LINK: https://www.nashobavalleyvoice.com/...museum-presents-film-about-wwi-base-hospital/

Maybe if you can research military records of medics/doctors who were assigned to that hospital 1n 1918, you might be able to identify KEC. CHEERS!! & congrats on a great discovery. I'm going work on a frame for you. That is such a beautiful military relic in pristine condition.
 

pepperj

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Beautiful piece of history.
I guess this would be classified as "Trench Art". Looks like the soldier had lots of time to work on the canteen.
Seen other images that have tagged the description as work done by POWs.
 
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bergie

bergie

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Beautiful piece of history.
I guess this would be classified as "Trench Art". Looks like the soldier had lots of time to work on the canteen.
Seen other images that have tagged the description as work done by POWs.
Thank you - I just realized - could the lettering style help determine if this was US or foreign soldier?
 

Red-Coat

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What a nice canteen.

The American Expeditionary Forces hospital at Savenay was established by two New York City units: Base Hospital No.8 and Base Hospital No.9 (also known as the Post Graduate Unit). After arrival at St. Nazaire in France on 20th August 1917, they proceeded to Savenay the following day.

You’re correct that there weren’t any battles in the vicinity. Savenay is on the Loire estuary, close to the Atlantic Coast of SW France, wasn’t occupied by Germany, and a long way from the ‘Western Front’ even after the German spring offensive that began on 21st March 1918. The reference to “June 2nd, 1918 U.S. Forces stopped a German attempt to cross the Marne River @ Chateau Thierry” given above relates to the first battalion of the 5th U.S. Marines (Battle of Belleau Wood) but that was in Northern France, more than 500 miles from Savenay.

Savenay grew to become the AEF’s largest hospital complex with both permanent brick structures and temporary/tented facilities as further units were progressively located there. It had a capacity of 8,000 beds at its height, but plans to expand it further were cancelled towards the end of 1918 when it became clear that Germany would be defeated.

The complex comprised multiple general and specialist units treating not just the wounded but also those suffering from other ailments such as tuberculosis and providing longer term care for those needing recuperative help such as the provision of artificial limbs. It also served as a supply depot for arriving and departing AEF units and in particular as an ‘Evacuation Hospital’ for severely wounded soldiers being repatriated to the US.

Difficult to say what the ‘June 2, 1918’ date relates to, except that it doesn’t seem to be a historically important date for the war in that area. More likely, I would think it has some personal significance to a unit or an individual medic being stationed there rather than personal significance to a casualty (given the beautifully engraved caduceus emblem).

I think it will be a tough job to track down the owner from those initials, but good luck in your search.
 

Red-Coat

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PS: if it helps with your research, as far as I know, the AEF Medical Corps units which were stationed at Savenay during its period of operation were Hospital Base numbers: 8, 9, 69, 100, 113, 118, 119 and 214.

Addition (22/11/22): also Base Hospital no. 88 and Evacuation Hospital no. 29
 
Last edited:

Jose The Goon

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I'm going to think a little outside the box here. First of all, a question for our moderators;
Because this was found in a home & not in the field with a metal detector, does it qualify for Banner consideration ? If it qualifies I would like to give a vote for Banner.
Because of the beauty & age of the canteen, & given the fact that "IronCityDetector",
who is a collector of military memorabilia, specifically canteens, & has never seen one that intricately engraved, (post #14) I believe it merits my vote.
My mind wanders when I see finds like this & I, like many of you here, enjoy trying to figure out the mysteries behind the object that is found. Sometimes we can find a definitive answer, & sometimes we can't, but there are many knowledgeable people here that have the resources & expertise that, when shared with each other, can have positive results. If not, the effort is well worth it because we all learn new things every day & it's fun!!
In my opinion, I don't think this canteen's artwork could have been completed in one day. So it's curious as to what June 2, 1918 means. Was it the date the canteen was finished, started, or does it commemorate something else ? As "Red-Coat" states in post # 13, " Difficult to say what the ‘June 2, 1918’ date relates to, except that it doesn’t seem to be a historically important date for the war in that area. More likely, I would think it has some personal significance to a unit or an individual medic being stationed there rather than personal significance to a casualty (given the beautifully engraved caduceus emblem). "
Is it possible that "KEC" was a "Chief Surgeon" at the hospital complex or a higher up in management ? Is it possible that an expert engraver was commissioned by appreciative patients and/or staff to engrave the canteen that was to be given to a person on the day of their discharge from the military service ? Also, could the canteen have been engraved/created by a skilled professional artisan "stateside" after the recipient returned home ? (Maybe as a gift to be given upon the anticipated return home of the honoree)
Many possibilities as to the who, why, when & where of the canteen, but a great piece of military history nonetheless.
I'm sure there are many veterans of WW1 who had the initials "KEC" or (maybe a medical unit) but that can be narrowed down somewhat to those who passed through the Savenay Hospital complex during the war. A good start would be to contact the people at the museum at Fort Devens. They were interested enough to show a film about it & must have all kinds of records, or, at the very least, they can steer you (bergie) in a more helpful direction.
Best wishes and thanks for sharing your beautiful find. :thumbsup::goldtrophy:
 
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bergie

bergie

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Aug 2, 2004
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I'm going to think a little outside the box here. First of all, a question for our moderators;
Because this was found in a home & not in the field with a metal detector, does it qualify for Banner consideration ? If it qualifies I would like to give a vote for Banner.
Because of the beauty & age of the canteen, & given the fact that "IronCityDetector",
who is a collector of military memorabilia, specifically canteens, & has never seen one that intricately engraved, (post #14) I believe it merits my vote.
My mind wanders when I see finds like this & I, like many of you here, enjoy trying to figure out the mysteries behind the object that is found. Sometimes we can find a definitive answer, & sometimes we can't, but there are many knowledgeable people here that have the resources & expertise that, when shared with each other, can have positive results. If not, the effort is well worth it because we all learn new things every day & it's fun!!
In my opinion, I don't think this canteen's artwork could have been completed in one day. So it's curious as to what June 2, 1918 means. Was it the date the canteen was finished, started, or does it commemorate something else ? As "Red-Coat" states in post # 13, " Difficult to say what the ‘June 2, 1918’ date relates to, except that it doesn’t seem to be a historically important date for the war in that area. More likely, I would think it has some personal significance to a unit or an individual medic being stationed there rather than personal significance to a casualty (given the beautifully engraved caduceus emblem). "
Is it possible that "KEC" was a "Chief Surgeon" at the hospital complex or a higher up in management ? Is it possible that an expert engraver was commissioned by appreciative patients and/or staff to engrave the canteen that was to be given to a person on the day of their discharge from the military service ? Also, could the canteen have been engraved/created by a skilled professional artisan "stateside" after the recipient returned home ? (Maybe as a gift to be given upon the anticipated return home of the honoree)
Many possibilities as to the who, why, when & where of the canteen, but a great piece of military history nonetheless.
I'm sure there are many veterans of WW1 who had the initials "KEC" or (maybe a medical unit) but that can be narrowed down somewhat to those who passed through the Savenay Hospital complex during the war. A good start would be to contact the people at the museum at Fort Devens. They were interested enough to show a film about it & must have all kinds of records, or, at the very least, they can steer you (bergie) in a more helpful direction.
Best wishes and thanks for sharing your beautiful find. :thumbsup::goldtrophy:
Thank you to Jose for this lengthy and thoughtful post. Your earlier article link led me to email the Fort Devens museum and I received this reply, so hopefully things move along to some good news:

Wow, what a treasure you have! I really love that.
I was trying to locate the film we showed to see if it offered resources for researching the hospital. I haven’t been able to put my hands on it, but once I do, I’ll let you know if there is anything that might help you.
Kara Fossey
Executive Director
 

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