Understandably, it wasn’t uncommon for World War One soldiers to attempt to collect memorabilia or booty when travelling around France and Belgium that they could bring home, or trade for food, cigarettes or leave.
The most valuable souvenir an Allied soldiers could collect was a German ceremonial spiked helmet, also known as the Picklehaube. Helmets from certain regiments were considered more prized than others and it was these that would earn an Allied soldier a few days leave from the front line.
The helmets were so prized, in fact, that soldiers would sometimes venture into No-Man’s Land in order to search for a Pickelhaube, which was incredibly dangerous but a clear symbol of how much they were worth to those on the Western Front.
Another valuable source of memorabilia was a downed plane, which would provide countless souvenirs to those who were lucky enough to spot it early. The plane of Manfred van Richthofen, for example, crashed behind Allied lines in 1918, and it was just a matter of hours before its engine and equipment was completely removed, leaving just a shell.
Poet Wilfred Owen famously engaged in the sport of searching for booty, sending his brother the bloodstained handkerchief of a dead German pilot whose plane had crashed near Owen on the front lines. However, no amount of memorabilia could protect the Allied soldiers from the same fate of those who had lost their equipment, and Owen was killed soon afterwards.
"Booty and World War One". HistoryLearning.com. 2024. Web.