We are creating a unified UKRI website that brings together the existing research council, Innovate UK and Research England websites.
If you would like to be involved in its development let us know.

AHRC research takes 'The Wipers Times' story a step further

Date: 12/09/2013

The trenches of the First World War are well-known for the harrowing poetry by the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Now 'The Wipers Times' programme, broadcast on BBC 2 last night, has brought to light the largely unknown, but equally evocative, comic strips that were created during the First World War.

Last night viewers of ‘The Wipers Times’ were treated to a 90 minute dramatisation of the true story of Captain Fred Roberts who discovered an abandoned printing press in the war-torn town of Ypres, Belgium in 1916, and decided to publish a satirical magazine called The Wipers Times. "Wipers" was the army slang for Ypres.

The Wipers Times was a publication full of humour and defiance, produced under unimaginably difficult circumstances - in the trenches and under enemy fire. The magazine was a hit with the troops on the western front. It was a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and triumph over adversity.

While the Wipers Times is arguably the most well-known publication from the trenches, it was by no means the only one. And now Professor Jane Chapman and her team of researchers at the University of Lincoln have used AHRC funding to uncover comics from the UK, Europe, Commonwealth countries, and the USA, to explore their unique depiction of epic events of the First World War and their influence on the public consciousness and cultural heritage.

Professor Chapman says: Although the excellent BBC drama the Wipers Times referred in dialogue to a soldier drawing on a wood block print, our research takes these real life WW1 stories much further. We have uncovered for the first time 250 forgotten soldier multi panel cartoons from trench newspapers in six countries.

Amateur cartoon artists in the trenches had to beg and borrow paper; iodine and paint brushes, normally used by medics for wounds, were sometimes used to create comic strip colour. Professor Chapman adds: "these popular communications were the armed forces' Great War equivalent of today's mobile phone citizens' journalism'

Examining attitudes to war as expressed through comics strips, as well as the various national, political and social tensions they conveyed, the researchers are uncovering the kind of views that comics offer in specific aspects of world war history. These sources can show a unique form of insight into depictions of heroes, enemy and victims.

The AHRC has made a short film on Professor Chapman's research into Comics and the World Wars.

Return to news list