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Basketry Used In Defense and War

Baskets and basketweaving techniques have been used historically for many purposes including defense and war. Basketry ammunitions containers protected shells while they were being transported, wickerwork gabions reinforced earthwork redoubts, woven willow body armor and shields were carried or worn by soldiers, willow formed the frameworks in the hats of Queen's guards, were used to weave carrier pigeon baskets, officer's kit baskets, observational balloon baskets and basketwork found its way into numerous other aspects of combat.

Ammunition Baskets
Deep oval oven willow baskets with solid wooden bases have been used for transporting munitions by the military since the First World War. Several readers of Baskets, Etc. have shared their finds.

German 88mm Ammo Basket
Solid wooden corners frame the woven side and end panels on this ammunitions basket displayed in the Webshots album of johnoreilly.

This image comes from Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century (1856)
This image comes from Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century (1856)
by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879).

Basket Armour
Stick armor and wickerwork shields used by western Native American warriors to protect their bodies from the onslaught of opposing forces is described by Otis Tufton Mason in his classic book American Indian Basketry.

Basketry Used to Rehabilitate War Wounded
Basketry was taught to wounded or crippled war veterans as rehabilitation or as a suitable trade for war invalids. Healing the Nation: Soldiers and the Culture of Caregiving in Britain During the Great War

Search American Memory for Gabions
Enter "gabions" into the search form to reach many related images and documents.

Gabion Basket
Woodcut of a Gabion used during the American Revolution, a cylinder basket, open at both ends, about three feet wide, and as much in height. They serve in sieges to carry on the approaches under cover, when they come pretty near the fortification. Illus. in: A new military, historical, and explanatory dictionary Thomas Simes. Philadelphia : Sold by Humphreys, Bell, and Aitken, 1776.

Gabions at Fort Sumter
Interior of Fort Sumter showing gabions supporting ramp to parapets, and bombproof shelters during the American Civil War.

Gabions Being Made By West Point Cadets
Stereoscope view of military cadets at West Point constructing woven gabions.

Making Gabions and Fascines
This Civil War era drawing pictures the 50th New York Engineers making gabions and fascines.

Pine Needle Hats
The pine needle hat and perhaps the pine needle basket itself owes its origin to the deficiencies on the home front caused by the hardships of war. The pine-needle hat was the tangible expression of the fact that necessity has ever been the mother of invention. During the American Civil War the supply of hats gave out so one woman used the pine needles and thread she had at hand to make a hat that was light enough to cover her man's head while he worked in the fields. Read about it in The Pine-needle Basket Book by Mary Jane McAfee.

Basketmaking was a Reserved Occupation in WWII
Those individuals in an occupation considered important enough to a country that those serving in such occupations are exempt, in fact forbidden from military service. Also known as essential services or "starred men".

Wickerwork Shields
Infantry, foot archers, cavalry and other combatants have carried woven shields made of wickerwork since ancient times. Search on "wicker" within this book for more examples.

The term pluteus is usually applied to a screen, made of wickerwork, which was employed to protect the soldier at they pushed the agger (materials for making a mound or earthwork) forward toward a besieged city. It was generally curved into a half -cylindrical form, and ran on three rollers. Wet hides protected it from firebrands thrown from the city walls.

Erhardht Limber

The limber (photograph 19) consists of a metal frame directly connected to the hollow steel axle. The side and middle rails are prolonged to the front, where they are connected by a splinter bar and covered by a perforated sheet-metal plate for a foot rest. The singletrees are attached to the splinter bar. A wooden pole is keyed in a seat at the front of the middle rail; at the rear a stout pintle hook is securely fastened. The wheels are of wood, but are of the same size and interchangeable with those of the carriage. The chest is secured directly to the frame. It is of sheet metal and is divided into compartments by one horizontal and four vertical partitions. Each compartment takes a wicker basket holding four rounds of ammunition. Each round is protected during transportation by a woven mantlet or cover. Habitually nine baskets or thirty-six rounds of ammunition are carried in the chest, the tenth compartment being filled by a box containing lubricants, small tools, and spare parts. The limber chest door opens downward to the rear, forming an ammunition table. On top of the chest is a cannoneer's seat, fitted with high side and back rests.

Bearskins Caps at the Palace
A bearskin is a tall fur cap worn as part of the ceremonial uniform of several regiments in the British Army. The Bearskin tall hat or “caps” worn by some British soldiers on ceremonial occasions go back to 1815 when they were made to commemorate Britain’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. They are still constructed over a traditional woven Somerset willow frame.

Somerset Willow
BBC Legacies describes the various ways basketmaking influenced the war effort including weaving willow airborne pannier baskets used for dropping supplies of ammunition, medical supplies and food to the troops.

Assembly of Supply Panniers
Image of the preparation of medical supply pannier from the Office of Medical History which is part of the Office of the Surgeon General MEDCOM Historical Program.

Deep Sea Fishing With Basket Traps
Use of basket traps helped feed the American-Filipino troops in Bataan during World War II allowing them to hold out many weeks longer than they would otherwise have before their fall to the Japanese.

Willow Basketry as Occupational Therapy at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, MD
Willow-basket making was among several educational options or curative workshops introduced to disabled patients returning from World War I.

US Army Medical Department Office of Medical History
References to willow and reed basketry being used for occupational therapy or curative workshops for returning soldiers who had suffered physical or psychological trauma during wartime.

US Naval Hospital Basketry Used As Occupational Therapy
This March 1920 photograph from the National Archive and Records Administration, Northeast Region - NYC depicts basketweaving being used for rehabilitation of war wounded at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Second view.

Learning crafts on the porch of Walter Reed
Basketweaving was among the rehabilitation therapies used after WWI at Walter Reed. Various products created during occupational therapy were offered for sale at Walter Reed General Hospital. Basketweaving for physical therapy of WWI veterans.

World War II
A soldier-patient hard at work on the construction of a basket during an occupational therapy session at Mill Hill Hospital in Middlesex, England, UK. Occupational Therapy classes produced a variety of products including baskets at Mill Hill Hospital during and after the Second World War.

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