A George V Grenade Table Lighter, 1916
A George V Grenade Table Lighter, 1916
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A George V Grenade Table Lighter, 1916

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Height: 9cm (3.5in)

 

Silver. In the form of a spherical flaming grenade inscribed ‘To / Pte. F. Kenchington / From / 130 Bde. R.F.A. / Kopriva 1917’, with wick rising from the flambeau finial fed by a fuel reservoir within. Maker’s mark of A.& J. Zimmerman. Hallmarked Birmingham 1916.

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Private Frank Kenchington was the comic talent behind a number of pantomimes served up to the troops on the Salonika Front between 1915 and 1918. He served with 85th Field Ambulance (3rd London) 28th Division and debuted with a rewrite of Dick Whittington featuring a private soldier who rises to become a sergeant and then a ‘proud full-blown’ Assistant Director of Army Medical Services. The productions poked fun at authority and were seen to help diffuse tension between the ranks by providing a rare licence for servicemen to express their frustrations and grievances about conditions at the Eastern Front. Despite inadequate clothing and accommodation to survive in such a harsh environment, malaria and influenza epidemics, and paucity of leave, the British Salonika Force was depicted in the British popular press as the ‘gardeners of Salonika’ since the campaign in Macedonia was considered by many to be a ‘side-show’ due to the apparent lack of activity there compared to the Western Front. Annual revivals (1921-31) in London of the 85th Field Ambulance pantomimes further provided a much-needed figurative ‘home’ for many ex-soldiers of the British Salonika Force who missed the comradeship and security of army life and typically felt lonely and alienated as forgotten heroes of the Balkans campaign.

Corporal Edward James Dillon 152 (dressed as "Alice") and Private Frank Kenchington 126, both of the Royal Army Medical Corps, members of a concert party members of a concert party while producing a pantomime for the troops in Salonika, 19 May 1917.