The story of the 'Wipers Times' is told in a series of film stories produced by Visitflanders

'Wipers Times' again raises a smile for 2016 Centenary

Posted on on 15 February 2016
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The jokes of the Wipers Times are again circulating, a century after the launch of the satirical newspaper for British troops fighting at Ypres during the First World War.

Two officers serving with the Sherwood Foresters had the unlikely idea of going into print amid the ruins of the Belgian town in February 1916.

The debut of the Wipers Times on February 12th 2016, with its characteristic trench humour, stands out as a rare moment of light relief in the Great War.

Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson founded the entirely unofficial Wipers Times after the discovery of a discarded printing press in a cellar.

With the help of a sergeant who'd been a London newspaper printer before the war, the press was put back to work under the ramparts of Ypres.

The paper's first editorial noted drily: "There is much that we would like to say...but the shadow of censorship enveloping us causes us to refer to the war, which we hear is taking place in Europe, in a cautious manner".

Nick Roberts talking about his grandfather, Captain Fred Roberts, at Flanders House in London (Photo: Centenary News)

In all, 23 editions of the Wipers Times were published, establishing a cult following among all ranks for their wit and irreverence despite the continuing  attentions of the military censor.

Fred Roberts, previously an engineer in the diamond mines of South Africa, took charge as Editor, with Jack Pearson as his deputy. 

A series of short films has been produced for the Centenary by the tourist organisation Visitflanders.

Nick Roberts, grandson of Captain Roberts, tells the story of the Wipers Times and extracts from the paper are read by serving British soldiers, veterans of the Sherwood Foresters, a London schoolboy and the First World War historian, Peter Doyle.

The Editor of the British satirical magazine Private Eye, Ian Hislop, introduces the films with this tribute to the Wipers Times: "It's an extraordinary publication; satirical, funny, sentimental, moving, which ran from 1916 until the end of the war."

Speaking at the launch event, Nick Roberts said his grandfather would have had the last laugh with the Centenary: "I know that he would have really enjoyed the fact that other people are still laughing at his jokes 100 years later.

The first of the 'Wipers Times' film stories can be found here, or go to the Visitflanders website for more information.  

Information & images supplied by Visitflanders (photo of Nick Roberts, Centenary News)

Posted by CN Editorial Team

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