The Wipers Times was recently brought to attention by the BBC in a dramatisation of the same name. It was a trench magazine published by soldiers fighting on the front lines during the First World War. It was produced by British soldiers from the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Nottingham & Derbyshire Regiment).
In early 1916, the 12th Battalion was stationed in the front line at Ypres, Belgium and came across an abandoned printing press. A sergeant who had been a printer in peacetime salvaged it and printed a sample page. The paper consisted of poems, reflections, wry in-jokes and lampoons of the military situation the Division was in. In general the paper maintained a humorously ironic style that today can be recognised in satirical magazines like Private Eye. It was names Wipers as this was the Tommy’s pronunciation of the town Ypres in Belgium. The magazine changed its name as the company moved along with the front line – The B.E.F Times, New Church, Kemmel and Somme Times. The final edition in Dec 1918 was known as ‘The Better Times’.
The magazine is full of comical items such as adverts – “Is your dug out in a dangerous position? We will insure it for you at a very small charge”, letters to and from the editor such as “complaint, if we must have the morning paper and milk, surely these might be left in silence at the dug-out-door. Can nothing be done? Signed Neurotic.”
At the Local Studies and Archives Centre in Ashton-under-Lyne you can find reproduced copies of ‘The Wipers Times at reference- MR2/20/45. Check our website for opening hours.
Jill Morris of Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre has contributed this post to the GM1914 blog, part of the Greater Manchester Archives and Local Studies Partnership project to commemorate the centenary of World War One in 2014.