The Wipers Times

Synopsis: Just after the First World War Fred Roberts goes for a job as a newspaper journalist and tells the sub-editor how, in the trenches in 1916, he discovered a printing press in working order. Helped by ex-printer Sergeant Harris and with his friend Jack Pearson as his assistant, he sets up the Wipers Times - the name coming from the soldiers' pronunciation of the town Ypres. Despite disapproval from officious Colonel Howfield but with backing from sympathetic General Mitford they produce twenty-three issues of a satirical magazine - its articles represented on screen in black and white - which boosts morale and even gets mentioned in the Tatler. The press is destroyed by a German shell but another is found and the paper's title changed to fit in with wherever the regiment is deployed. Pearson and Roberts are both awarded gallantry medals but when Roberts is only offered the job of crossword compiler by the sub-editor he moves to Canada as a prospector while Pearson marries and opens a hot
Genre: War
Director(s): Andy De Emmony
Production: PBS Home Video
Rotten Tomatoes:
92 min


Sorry to keep you waiting.

Balloon's gone up.

Total chaos.

Deadlines brought forward,

printers on the warpath -

all kinds of merry hell.

But that's Fleet Street for you.

I wouldn't know about Fleet Street

but I'm familiar with merry hell.

Oh, of course. Of course.

The, uh, war.

Now, you have impressive references

here from Mr Gilbert Frankau

and Mr RC Sherriff.

Yes, I knew them back then when we

were all working on Tenth Avenue.

Tenth Avenue? In New York?

No, No. In Flanders.

It was a trench.

Oh, yes, the war. Very good.

I couldn't go of course.


I'm sorry. You missed quite a show.

Really? Yes, it must have been hell.

From what I've read.

We had some bad times.

But we had some good times too.

I'm sure. So perhaps you could

tell me about yourself, Mr...?

Roberts, Fred Roberts.

You do have my curriculum vitae?


But I'd like to

hear about you in your own words.

Frederick Roberts.

Formerly of the North Midlands

Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire


otherwise known as the Sherwood


A mining engineer by profession -

I worked in the Kimberley diamond

mines in South Africa

until friend

Fritz kicked off the firework party.

I see.

So you have mining qualifications?

Jolly useful in a pioneer battalion

charged with trench repair

and maintenance...

Though less useful

in a newspaper office.

I don't know - digging up

all that muck.

Yes, Mr Roberts.

My problem is that what we need here

is men with relevant experience.

So tell me.

Do you have any relevant experience?

Come on. Come on, lads. Quickly

Move it, move it, move it.

All right?

Come on! Come on!

Come on, lads.

Everyone all right?

Good lads.

Oh, to be in Flanders now that

winter's here.

It's April.

Is it? I find it frightfully

difficult to tell.

Usual drill, Sergeant.

Oi! Smith, Dodd, Henderson, Barnes.

You heard the officer.

Search the place for anything

we can use.

Preferably of the metal or timber

variety. All right, sir.

And be sharp about it, lads.

Fritz's love tokens seem to be

arriving with greater frequency.

4.2s, sir.

That's a relief. Thought

for a minute they were 5.9s.

No. Those are 5.9s, sir.

What the hell are you doing, Dodd?

Die Boche vermin!

You're wasting your time.

Put your bayonet away before you

hurt someone.

But it's a rat, sir.

Yes, I'm familiar with the species,


We've encountered one or two

since we've been in Ypres.

Ypres, sir?

It's what the Belgians call Wipers.

Oh right, sir.

Funny lot, the Belgians.

It's like the Napoo Rum

they got over here, sir.

Never seem to get any.

Napoo it's from the French, Dodd.

"Il n'y en a plus".

There is no more.

Well, why don't

they just say that then, sir?

Nothing here, Captain.

Napoo salvage, sir.

Very good, Dodd.

We'll make a sapper of you yet.

Quickly. Quick. Come on, lads.

Find me something, lads.

Look what we have here, sir!

Boxes of paper.

Excellent. Exactly what we're

looking for to reinforce trench 132.

Really, sir? Er no, Dodd.

I'm afraid you'll find when you've

been out here for a while that

paper doesn't offer much protection

against crumps and whizz-bangs.

Unless you're a red hat in HQ with

a cushy job, then the paper

stops you getting anywhere

near the shooting gallery at all.

Your cynicism could become

wearying, Lieutenant Pearson

except fortunately

I find it quite amusing.

Some tarpaulin here, sir.

Well, that might be useful.


Now what the bloody hell is that?

That, Smith, is an Arab.

I'm not stupid, Sar'nt.

The Arab is an Anglo-American

hand-fed platen press.

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Ian Hislop

Ian David Hislop (born 13 July 1960) is an English journalist, satirist, writer, broadcaster and editor of the magazine Private Eye. He has appeared on many radio and television programmes, and has been a team captain on the BBC quiz show Have I Got News for You since the programme's inception in 1990. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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