The Wipers Times

January 1, 2014

9781844862337This was on my wants list, and came in my Christmas parcels…

Wipers was what First World War Tommies called the Belgian city of Ieper/ Ypres because they couldn’t pronounce it. From 1916 to 1918 a group of middle-ranking officers produced an irregular magazine that started out as The Wipers Times, as that was where their regiment was based at the time, and the name changed as it followed them about various grim places on the Western Front.

It was a curious and enjoyable read; it was intended to be humorous in the Private Eye mode, with a range of poetry and prose about officers, trench conditions, mud, rum rations, shelling and gas attacks. There is absolutely no sense of the horror, death and destruction going on around them, and whether the magazine lifted anyone’s spirits – if that was possible – or reached lower ranks, I do not know.

There was a wide range of parodies of such things as Sherlock Holmes short stories (and I reminded myself that the last of these stories was contemporaneous with the war, and dealt with Holmes outwitting German spies) and some wonderful mock advertisements of the sort that appeared on newspapers and magazines of the time. Incidentally, anyone interested in following the events leading up to the war may like to know that from today, the Daily Telegraph is putting the facsimile of its edition of 100 years ago online each day. The complete run of the magazine has been republished; it’s a curiosity more than a must-read, but very interesting if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

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