'WW1 trench flute' to be played at Woodbridge concert

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionAndrew Fairley said the flute was sold at a junk shop in Brentford

A flute believed to have been created in the trenches during World War One is to be played in public for the first time in at least 50 years.

Andrew Fairley, 74, bought the instrument, which is made from items including tobacco papers and bullet casings, from a junk shop in 1963.

He will play it as part of a concert in Woodbridge, Suffolk, on Sunday.

"It's amazing that it survived," he said. "It's very basic but I've worked out several tunes for it."

Mr Fairley, who lives in Felixstowe, said he had contacted the Imperial War Museum about the instrument and was told it was a one off.

"They said all the materials were contemporary with that period, but they can't confirm that it was made in the trenches as we don't have any first hand knowledge," he said.

Image caption The flute is about 30cm (11in) in length
Image caption The logo of tobacco companies can be clearly seen wrapped around the instrument

He said the flute had been waxed, possibly with boot polish, to hold it together.

"It's made out of cardboard, probably from a parcel," he said. "The tone hole, or embouchure hole, is a bullet casing cut down and the blow hole is also made from brass bullet casing.

"Holding that part together is rifle pull through cord. They had to make do with simple stuff, anything that was available in the trenches."

Mr Fairley said he had no record of who made the flute.

Image caption An embouchure hole is thought to have been added to make the flute easier to play

The concert at the Community Hall will also feature a piece of music composed in the trenches in 1914 and given its first public performance on Christmas Day that year. Noel, by Fernand Halphen, was published in 1919.

"It lasts about two minutes and is a charming little piece," he said. "Halphen was quite an important composer in his day as a youngster.

"He had great promise but unfortunately didn't survive the war.

"It's going to be an emotional tribute for me, hopefully for the audience too."

To hear the flute being played, watch BBC Look East on BBC One in the East on Friday 25 April at 18:30 BST.

More on this story

Around the BBC