Young Citizen Volunteer's Souvenir of the First World War

Engraved shell cartridge case 1918
Engraved shell cartridge case, circa 1918

The Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV) was formed in 1912 and joined with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1914 to become its Belfast battalion. Following the conversion of the UVF into the Ulster Division, the YCV became the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles. Known as the 'Chocolate Box Soldiers' because of their immaculate turn out, they were recruited largely from Belfast's middle class.

When an artillery gun was loaded with a fixed artillery round and fired its shell, it was then unloaded with the brass cartridge case being ejected from the breech. Operational situations permitting, the spent shell cases were collected for return to the munitions factories for refilling. Some Royal Artillery gunners became expert at engraving illicitly scavenged brass shell cartridge cases, which they then sold to other soldiers. The brass cartridge illustrated has the cap badge of the 14th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles. Also, a poppy is engraved into it with St Quentin and 1918, where in March that year the Battalion was decimated trying to stop the advancing German Army.

18 Pdr shl IWM MUN 500Left (© IWM (MUN 500)), an 18pdr High Explosive Fixed Round. The element that is fired out of the barrel is the 18pdr Mk II shell, which was made in 1917, and it was fixed to a recycled 18pdr Mk II cartridge case made in 1915. It was known as a 'fixed round' because the cartridge case and shell were factory assembled as one unit. When handled at the gun this design led to faster loading and in addition, the cartridge case acted as a seal against the loss of propellant gases, thereby increasing the gun's efficiency. The shell, fitted with a No. 80 Mk IV Fuze, is 21.75 inches long, and 4 inches in diameter.