The Wipers Times on telly

Back from London, I’ve now watched Wednesday’s TV film of The Wipers Times.

Regular readers know that usually when there’s a Great War drama on the telly, I tend to snarl a bit before blogging  rancorously about the things they’ve got wrong. We’ve had so many duds (Birdsong, The Village…) that I had almost come to believe that writers taking on the War must be forced  by binding contract to be ludicrous.

This one was different – pure pleasure from start to finish. The writers (Ian Hislop and Nick Newman) were loyal to the spirit of the paper, and the sketches dramatising Wipers Times articles and adverts were genuinely funny.

Better than that, though, the presentation of the soldiers was credible, especially Roberts and Pearson, the two editors.. These were soldiers for the duration only, civilians in uniform who had brought their sardonic sense of humour to the Western Front with them, as a way of coping. Their satire was not ‘anti-War’, just a statement of how the War looked to a soldier who had not left his intelligence at home.

There was no shirking the nastiness of war, and I liked the use of the ‘My Chum’ poem to give expression to the deeper feelings that otherwise were just a subtext.

If the centenary produces a few others as good as this, we’re in for a treat.



  1. Posted September 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    It’s on youtube here:

  2. Posted September 16, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    I agree, although I question whether the Michael Palin character would have been on such nod-and-a-wink terms with a subordinate. I also winced at the anachronistic use of ‘Here’s the thing…’ in the dialogue, but only one wince in a whole programme must mean it was doing something right.

    • Posted September 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      I doubt that many senior officers were as twinkly as Michael Palin, but I do think that many treated their juniors with a humane paternalism.
      One thing I liked in this film was the way it presented the relationship between officers and men – which was rather like that between good teachers and their students. Never any doubt who was in charge, but an atmosphere of freedom, friendliness and mutual support.

      • Posted September 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Edmund Blunden and CS Lewis (young, inexperienced officers) remembered their sergeants with affection and respect. and said they were like fathers.

      • Roger
        Posted October 1, 2013 at 2:23 am | Permalink

        Alleged question at a Sandhurst exam:
        You are in an absolutely hopeless situation. Half your men are dead, you have run out of ammunition and used up all your supplies and are surrounded by overwhelming numbers of the enemy.
        What do you do?

        The correct answer is: Say “Right, Sergeant, carry on.”

  3. Posted September 17, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I agree, I enjoyed it all. My Chum made me cry.

  4. Posted September 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Jessica Meyer has an interesting review of the programme on her blog:

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