Printing Comes To The Rescue

Printing can be a source of inspiration in the worst of times, even during wars. The good example of how a printed piece of paper can lift your spirit is Wiper times. The magazine was published in trenches of Ypres in Belgium during First World War. It was the work of British soldiers from the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Nottingham & Derbyshire Regiment), 24th Division British Armies in France. It all started when Captain Fred Roberts discovered a printing press in the ruins of Ypres.

The machine was in a very good condition. Fortunately the captain who was sick of all the destruction and death surrounding him decided to quench its rage by printing a subversive satire magazine from the trenches and under constant bombing and enemy’s gas attack. The paper’s name Wiper Times was a slang for Ypres itself. Since soldiers could not pronounce Ypres  (French pronunciation) in French they simple called it Wipers.

The magazine with its mock advertising, poems, jokes and bitter humour was hugely popular among British soldiers. Later on Captain Fred Roberts won a military cross for his courage and chivalry. In general the paper maintained a humorously ironic style that today can be recognised in satirical magazines such as Private Eye, Le Canard enchâiné and The Onion.

Recently BBC broadcast a dramatization, written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman. Captain Fred Roberts was played by Ben Chaplin and Lt Jack Pearson by Julian Rhind-Tutt with Michael Palin and Emilia Fox in supporting roles.

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