Wipers and telephones

Satirical Magazines of the First World War: Punch and the Wipers Times. The latter publication – compiled in a facsimile edition by Peter Davies in 1973 – was one of several trench magazines, written and printed in terrible conditions:

Its popularity can be seen in its longevity – not only did it have an extensive readership, but was printed for over two years. It ran from February 1916 until just after the war had ended. There were even two editions printed after the war under the name of “The Better Times”. Unlike the regular weekly instalments of Punch, the production of The Wipers Times depended on the editors being in reserve with an area where they could set up their printing press. The press had been salvaged from the ruins of Ypres by the Sherwood Foresters, and although the paper was not officially sanctioned by the B.E.F., it was additionally circulated around most of the Western Front.’

See also this collection of propoganda from the First World War and beyond at Macarenses, a kind of one-stop shop for the absurdity and unpleasantness of war and conflict. There’s a long-neglected blog as well. A casual quote from this Intelligent Life article, ‘A Boy’s Own Broadmoore‘ by the novelist Patrick McGrath, brought the random violence home:

On Christmas afternoon we used to have tea with the chaplain, a vast man called Basil James. He could hit a cricket ball clear over the Wall, but was so fat that he required someone to run between the wickets for him. My father remembered the Reverend James pondering his memories of the first world war and sorrowfully recounting how, while laying telephone lines in no-man’s-land, he had had to kill a German soldier with a telephone headset.

The excellent article is about McGrath’s childhood as the son of the head warder at Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum, then on the cusp between Victorian-era solemnity and isolation and the modern era. McGrath used the experience as the basis for his wonderfully bleak and gothic novel Asylum. See also Berkshire Record Office’s Inside Victorian Broadmoor. The above image is from Roundwood’s World, a site devoted to wargaming miniatures. A last word on Broadmoor takes us full circle:

‘The hospital’s closest fellow institutions are Wellington College and the Military Academy at Sandhurst, and it used to be said that a gentleman could be educated at Wellington, become an officer at Sandhurst, and end his days in Broadmoor, without travelling more than a mile or two in any direction’

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One Response to Wipers and telephones

  1. Pingback: Link of the day: Huddled in the Trenches, Reading | fine persecution

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