This is my first dipping of the toe in the forum waters since my brief hello yesterday. So, here goes.
I don't know if there is such a term as Boer War Trench Art, but I think that is what I have. This piece of ephemera is a very recent acquisition and I thought I would share with you. I think it is a section of a shell casing which appears to have been fired - it certainly bears the scars of such - Boer incoming? It seems to have been intended (perhaps) as a napkin ring and engraved as follows: "SIEGE OF LADY SMITH / 1899 1900 / E. ST. V.T.". Inside the ring, impressed, rather than engraved, is what I think may be the munition identifier "50 W" and the number, impressed separately, "8".
The ring bears traces of having been gilded.
This a chunky lump of metal weighing in at 60grams (2.2 ounces) and measuring 2 inces diameter exactly x 1 inch height x 2mm thickness.
I have tried to decipher "E. ST. V.T.", thinking maybe initials for a person or a place in Lady Smith. I have looked at contemporary maps and lists of indigenous defenders (Town Guard), but so far nothing that would work. I will continue to search, but I was wondering if someone on here, by some chance, might just know it, or could work it out with a better knowledge of the siege.
Have just been looking through the forum and find this thread
which at least tells me there are other pieces of similar trench art noted on the forum. That thread mentions a drive band for an arty shell, could that be what this 'napkin ring' is made from? I guess I need to understand how an artillery shell of that era was constructed.
Artillery shells (either cast or forged) fired from a rifled barrel normally featured a copper driving band around their circumference; generally near the base and intended to engage the rifling and impart a rotational effect to the projectile. If an artillery shell did not have a driving band, the wear on the rifling would be enormous. Boer artillery shells (Pom Pom shells apart) tended to be upwards of 75mm in diameter - whereas your "napkin ring" seems only to be c. 50mm in diameter.
There are a number of puzzling features about your artefact - not least the little wire loop and the striations (which might be taken as rifling impressions but are not). For what it is worth, my best guess is that your Ladysmith trench-art was fashioned from a shell nose cap.
These napkin rings were generally made from lengths of copper driving band from British 15-pound shells (as these were the most commonly found shells on the battlefields).
Pieces of driving band would be flattened, cut to the correct length, and then formed into circular napkin rings (hence they do not reflect the original diameter of the shell). There should be a solder joint where the two ends of the copper have been joined.
The initials are as likely to be those of a soldier as of a civilian, as battlefield "tourists" started visiting the siege towns even while the war was still being fought.
Yours show the correct grooves for a 15 pound shell. See below (example picked up at Modder River and brought home by Lieutenant Hugh Steuart Gladstone, 3rd Bn. King's Own Scottish Borderers). Some of the additional striations are from grazing on impact. The internal groves correspond with projections in the forged steel body of the shell, which kept the band from slipping when the projectile was fired.
Interestingly the punched lettering has been added with the drive band inverted.
Here is a similar pair, in their original velvet-lined case. These are engraved "COLENSO / 15.12.99", and have applied silver shields.
The war sparked quite an industry in the various siege towns. One of the first to start manufacturing souvenirs was a chap from Cornwall called Gerrans, who had workshops in Mafeking. His antics led to tragedy when a 6-inch Creusot shell exploded while he was working on it to remove the fuze:
On 6th December 1899, Mafeking Town Councillor J. Gerrans was injured while extracting the fuse from an unexploded shell. His foreman, Mr Green had to have one of his feet amputated at the ankle as a result of the blast. A Mr W. Smith, who was passing Gerrans' workshop at the time of the accident, was so badly injured that he died that day, shortly after being admitted to hospital. According to the Mafeking Mail, Gerrans did not return to his workshop (and then, just to look around) until 20th February 1900. Baden-Powell noted: "Gerrans’ shop for coach-building and iron-working was an important workshop for us in the defence, for here our guns were furbished up, repaired, and mounted on serviceable carriages. And Mr Gerrans himself is a leading light among the citizens, and is loyalty personified".
Gerrans returned to his souvenir making, and presented Joe Chamberlain with a clock made from a Long Tom shell when he visited Mafeking in January 1903. The Queen also has an example, which can still be seen at Sandringham.