The Wipers Times Exposé: Staff, Suspects, and Witnesses

In tracking down details on Dorothy Violet Hall, the writer behind the ‘Chronicles of Fashion’ feature of the Wipers Times, I am at somewhat of an impasse. In my initial article, I mentioned that I believed, given his prominence in the Nottingham art scene, that her brother, Henry Cecil Hall, may be the key to unlocking details about Dorothy, but like Dorothy, I find myself at a standstill. My thinking now is that I need to widen the net further; an interesting comment left on the second article in this series, by table tennis historian Steve Grant, pointed out that Dorothy’s sister, Annie Selena Hall (1894 - 1976) was a runner up in the national table tennis competition in 1923, and competed in the world table tennis championships, held in London, in 1926 — you can read the article here. Also of interest, Steve points out that in the ‘Chronicles of Violet’, which featured in the 3 July 1916 issue of the Wipers — Violet is writing about ‘her poultry farm’ — as it turns out the Hall’s did keep chickens, which they sold via adverts in the Nottingham Evening Post.1

There are other fragments of information that are becoming apparent about the Halls, but not enough to form more than a fractured sentence here and there. I do, however, suspect the social scene in Nottingham at the time overlapped with the officers involved in the production of the Wipers and this is a path I am beginning to pursue.2

This post is more appendix than article, but I wanted to pull together a list of all the names who I believe were involved in the paper, those who I suspect were, and others who might have known ‘something’ — to consolidate all the information into one place* and in the hope of triggering more leads. In addition, on reflection of my research so far, one of the facets I am finding interesting is around the subject of evidence, popular narrative, and memory — the latter excellently covered by Dan Todman in his 2007 book, The Great War Myth and Memory.3 As such, at the end of this post, I have pulled together a few accounts on the Wipers from various years and sources.


The intention is to keep this post updated as new information comes to light, to keep all information in one place, as well as to leave breadcrumbs.

Changes listed below:

Update 11 November 2023. Major Changes are: Details about E. Couzens added to staff. Minor changes: Background changes to how this page works, so it can be updated more easily, as well as links to other entries in this series.

Update 29 July 2023. Major changes are: Sergeant Turner has moved from Suspects to Staff and a new Witness, Dr Alfred Caepeneel has been added to witnesses. Minor changes include: aliases used by Captain Patch added, and confirmation of the BBC journalist’s name.

Wipers Staff

I’ve compiled the following list of people who I am confident worked on the paper, having either seen primary source material to that effect, or their involvement has been well-established. This list is by no means complete, notably missing men from the rank and file, but I believe this is the most complete list of Wipers Staff so far.

Name Notes Sources
Sapper Earnest James Couzens

Engraver, known infamously for creating the illustration of the officer under the caption ‘Am I as Offensive as I might be’ (22 May 1916).

Born, 25 April 1882, Penge, Surrey. Died, 26 December 1955, Surrey

According to 1911 Census, and 1939 registry, profession was a wood engraver.

Spent most of his life at the address: 81 Carlton Park Avenue, Surrey.

Served in the Royal Engineers, service number 94321, between1 September 1915 and 5 May 1919. Earned the rank Corporal.

Wipers Times

1911 Census 1939 Registry England and Wales Probate 1858-1995

Medal Card

Royal Engineers Roll of Individuals entitled to Decoration
Gilbert Frankau Writer – behind poems in the Wipers Times such as: ‘Some Dream’ (20 March 1916), ‘The Nuts of the Old Brigade’ (3 July 1916), ‘Long Ago’ (25 December 1917). Wipers Times
Dorothy Violet Hall Writer of the feature ‘Violets Chronicles of Fashion’, for example see issue 3 July 1916. See the Identity of ‘Violet’ from Violet’s Chronicle of Fashion
2nd Lieutenant Stanley Melborne Mohr Publisher. See the Letters of Thomas Emmanuel Ward
Captain C.J. Lodge Patch

Writer of the spoof Holmes series ‘Herlock Shomes’, for example ‘Herlock Shomes at it Again’ (6 March 1916). The characters in the spoof were inspired by then Brigadier General Bertram Mitford, and Brigade Major- Captain Oliver Sutton-Nelthorpe.

He used the aliases; CLP, RMO, Pip Pip in his contributions to the Wipers, as well as being behind the articles ‘Camouflage’, ‘Thoughts’, and possibly ‘Profit and Loss’,

With thank to Michael Lucas for the information.
Michael Lucas, The Real ‘General Mitford’ – Sudan, South Africa, Loos, Somme, Passchendaele (Birchington: Michael Lucas, 2022)
Lieutenant Jack Hesketh Pearson Sub-Editor. Wipers Times
Sergeant George Turner The Printer, (Sometimes incorrectly credited as W. Turner)

Service number 16862
See the Printer and The Presses
Lieutenant J.O. Twiss ‘Officer in Command of the Printing Press’

Produced the Evening edition of the Wipers which was the Avesnes Advertiser

Worked on the paper when it was renamed the Better Times in 1918.
See the Forgotten Evening Edition of the Wipers Times
Captain Frederick Roberts Founder, Editor, and writer. Established
Lieutenant Thomas Moore Emmanuel Ward Wrote the spoof advert ‘Professor Dodgits Academy’ (22 May 1916) and possibly wrote further contributions. See the Letters of Thomas Emmanuel Ward
Lieutenant Richard Donald Bell Woods Publisher and later Editor, after April 1917. Also used the pseudonym ‘Gunner’. Wipers Times

The name Sergeant Tyler has been associated with the paper — as its printer — and was the name of the character in the 2017 stage-adaption of Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s 2013 Film — a change from the character name in the film.4 In a 2016 interview, Ian Hislop said:

All of the incredible stuff is true. We’ve even managed to find a newspaper cutting from the sergeant, Tyler, who used to work on Fleet Street, in which he writes back home to his local newspaper to inform them they’ve found a press and started printing a magazine for the troops. He tells them how well it’s being received and mentions that they should try to get their hands on a copy, as it will be worth a lot of money in time. It was an incredible thought to have.5

The article in question is the following, which appeared in the Nottingham Evening Post in March 1916:

“The Wipers Times.”


The war has been responsible for the appearance of many amateur newspapers at the front, which will undoubtedly have a more than sentimental value in future years. The 12th Sherwood Foresters (Pioneers) by, shall we say a fortunate accident, and now finding a little relaxation \[sic\] from more strenuous duties in producing a little journal which is gaining a rapidly increasing circle of readers. In a letter to his parents at West Bridgford, Q.M.S. Leslie W. L. Tyler relates how he become the publisher.

“The other week,” he says, “we found in a knocked-down shop a printing machine also some printer’s ink, paper, type, &c. Then we started to clean the half-bricks and mortar out of it and get it into ship-shape order. This we did and started to publish a paper periodically when time and Huns permitted, which we called the The Wipers Times, and Salient News. One or two of our officers joined us in the undertaking — the captain being editor, another officer sub-editor, and your humble was made publisher. Well, we got going and turned out the first issue of 100 copies. We all had one each and sent one to the colonel, second in command, adjutant, and all the officers. Two days after the first issue was published, the general commanding our division set for one or two. He went to G.H.Q., and now we have to send one to H.Q., every publication, one each for the Staff, one for Divisional Staff, and several others and we have to strike off about 250 copies each issue…. I am sending a copy to you under another cover. No doubt it will be of some value in time to come, so hang on to it like grim death.”

Q.M.S. Tyler, an old High School boy, who enlisted in the City Battalion at the outbreak of the war, says, “I Wish they would make all the ‘slackers’ join up and so help to relive some of the boys in the trenches and give them a longer rest when they come from the ‘doings’… Where will they be and what will they answer to the boys when they come home? I wouldn’t like to be one of them. For the feeling is rather warm against them out here.”6

The part I am finding interesting in terms of evidence, is that QMS Tyler has managed to ‘Pull our legs’ from beyond the grave — which I am sure the ghosts of the Wipers Times are quietly chuckling about. When I was going through the letters of Thomas Ward, I came across this one from 2 April 1916, one week after Tyler’s article appeared, which calls out Tyler’s letter for being ‘One long lie’.

Figure 1. Nottingham Archives/DD2402/1/20-22, Letters of Thomas Ward, 2 April 1916

Though Ward mistakes the Nottingham Evening Post for the Nottingham Guardian, it is certain that he is referring to the letter in the Post — with thanks to the staff at the Nottingham Local Studies Library for confirming no letter from Tyler, nor any reference to the Wipers, appeared in the Guardian at the time in question. From checking Tyler’s records, he was also only 19 at the time. The mentioned correction never appeared in the paper, but of note is that in the following days two other accounts of the Wipers appeared in separate publications, from officers within the battalion. The first was written by Captain E.J. Neale in the Hastings and Leonard Observer, and the second in the Guernsey Evening Press and Star by Major Harry Shirwell. Both are reproduced below — I can’t help but wonder if this was perhaps orchestrated to make a bit of noise (this was also the time that a copy was sent to Tatler) and, if so, was Tyler guilty of nothing more than being overenthusiastic?

Another name that has been associated more commonly with the printer on the paper is a Sergeant Turner, and from an email exchange with Nick Newman, he and Hislop believed it was Turner originally, but changed the name after coming across Tyler’s letter for the play.7 A visit to the archives of the Sherwood Foresters in August 2023, confirmed that it was indeed Sergeant Turner who was the printer, see part 4.


Figure 2. Is this a Wipers Staff photo? Credit: Family Handout/Press Association Wire

The following is a list of names who I suspect were involved with the paper at some point, however, I have not yet found any other information.8

Source Year




My notes


Peter [Last name unknown]

A sketch titled ‘Our Heroes Troubles’ is credited as ’Sketch by “Peter” Engraver, Sapper E.J. Couzens.

Wipers Times, 6 March 1916, p.2


Private Johnson

An article names Private Johnson as the private who discovered the printing press and was a compositor in civilian life.

Reproduced below.

Nottingham Evening Post, 15 July 1930. p.8.


Captain W.J. Asher

Article about camp journals (SWW). The journalist (perhaps T. Leslie Allen? See below) mentions one of his most prized possessions is a dog-eared copy of the Wipers Times .

They mention that the first issues were published in an old printing house just off the square of Ypres. Then mentions the editor was Lt. Col. S. J. Roberts, sub-editor Lt. Col. J. H. Pearson, D.S.O, and the publisher was Capt. W. J. Asher, of Mapperley Hall-Drive. Noting Asher still has a copy of each issue.

Nottingham Evening Post, 3 July 1944, p.3.

Awarded the MC for conspicuous gallantry in in 1917. Was taken prisoner in March 1918.

Only son of Mr and Mrs J W Asher Bridlesmith-gate Nottingham. Educated at Nottingham High School, where he was an active member of the OTC and obtained his commission in November 1914.

Attended a ceremony at Buckingham Palace to receive his cross in February 1920

Nottingham Evening Post, 27 February 1917.

Also very active in the battalions reunions, for example, see Nottingham Evening Post, 4 December 1931, p.10.


Captain William Hurst Sherwin

Obituary for Sherwin mentions that he was a captain with the 12th Sherwood foresters and was associated with the Wipers Time .

He was also chairman of the Nottingham Cricket Association and was well-known in the cricket world – from working at the firm of Gun and Moore, Ltd., in the production of cricket bats­­ – a role he succeeded from his father.

Nottingham Evening Post, 20 December 1952, p.5.

Sherwin also lived ‘just around the corner’ from The Hall’s. A 1919 article gives his address as Hope Drive, The Park Nottingham.

Nottingham Evening Post, 24 June 1919, p.5.


Lieutenant Colonel Morgan

Article recounting an interview on television that took place the night before featuring Turner and Morgan.

Mentioned as one of Sergeant Turner’s colleagues on the paper.

There is a letter in the Sherwood Foresters Archive from Morgan to Turner, confirming a friendship.

See Also

Sergeant W. Turner


T. Leslie Allen

Nottingham Evening Post, 18 November 1964, p.18

Museum of the Mercian Regiment, Sergeant Turner’s Papers, 2019-8020

Having contacted the Media Archive for Central England, I found it was not broadcast on ATV, which leaves only ITV or BBC.


BBC archives have been unable to find any trace of the interview in their archives.


Sergeant Oliver Holmes

Four original editions of the magazine were presented to the Derbyshire Archives by his daughter Mrs Minnie Collie, The article notes that the papers were originally presented to Holmes by Roberts. Holmes lived at Market Street, Clay Cross. He volunteered for active service duty in 1914 and served until 1919. He was mentioned in despatches and received the Oakleaf Decoration.

Long Eaton Advertiser, 13 January 1977, p.9.

See also, Nottingham Evening Post, 23 December 1976, p.4.

Oliver Holmes (1887-1960)

Service number 6963

1911 Census has his occupation as Iron Founders Pattern Maker.

Derbyshire record office reference for deposited copies:

D1712 - Sergeant Oliver Holmes of Clay Cross, First World War soldier - 1916-1918

Further information from Derbyshire archives

Oliver Holmes (1887-1960) served in the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, British Expeditionary Force. He volunteered for active service in 1914 and served until 1919. He was mentioned in dispatches and received the Oakleaf Decoration. He lived in Clay Cross, and for many years he was actively involved with the St John Ambulance Brigade, reaching the rank of Divisional Superintendent. He married Minnie Roe on 25 December 1913.


The following, mainly taken from newspapers, is where an individual has mentioned the Wipers Times. There seems to have been an attempt by the BBC in 1964 to create a documentary on the Wipers, led by a producer named Chris Rainbow (or Rainham) which never saw the light of day. From newspaper accounts, it appears he did pick up an array of photographs, accounts, and ephemera, and it would be interesting to find out what happened to them.

T.S. Leslie Allen is notable, as not only did he serve in the 12th Sherwood Foresters, but was also a local journalist in Nottingham, and I suspect some of the articles that mentioned Wipers in the Nottingham area may be by him.

Source Year




My Notes


Captain E. J. Neale

Provides an early account of the paper (see below)

Hastings and Leonards Observer, 25 March 1916, p.7.


Major Harry Shirwell

Provides an early account of the paper

(see below)

Guernsey Evening Press and Star, 28 March 1916, p.2.


Albert ‘Sabretache’ Stewart Barrow

Writer for Tatler who introduced the Wipers to a much wider audience. Known as the London Godfather of the Wipers Times.

See part one.


Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Roberts Mobbs

Article is about a War Bazaar in the town hall, to raise over £5,000 for the local Red Cross Society, The General Hospital, and the Prisoners of War Fun, and the Agricultural relief of Allies. There was a display of ‘War Relics’ and within these were copies of the Wipers Times, lent by Colonel Edgar Roberts.

Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 19 October 1916. , retrieved 10 July 2023.

Born 1882, was a professional rugby player for England.

He raised his own unit of 264 men, as “D Company” in the 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment which included many rugby players and over 400 men served in this battalion known as ‘Mobbs Army’.

He was killed in action on 29 July 1917 near Zilbeckke and is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial.


RSM A.C. Pykett

Sergeant Calladine

CQMS Tudge

CQMS Slack

CSM Hammersley

CQMS Elleray

QMS Tyler

Taken from the Toast list, of the 1916 Staff Sergeants Dinner. The menu for the event was printed on the same presses as the Wipers Times.

Museum of the Mercian Regiment, Sergeant Turner’s Papers, 2019-8020


Second Lieutenant Andrew Richard Buxton

In an entry dated 19 March 1916, he mentions that there is a paper issued here called the Wipers, said to be only 100 copies, and that he is fortunate to own No. 3 as a ‘someday’ souvenir.

Andrew R. Buxton: Rifle Brigade, a Memoir”,edited by Edward S. Woods(London: Robert Scott, 1918)

Born 1879

Died 1917

Rifle Brigade 3rd Battalion.


Sergeant Gooding

Sergeant Daley

Sergeant Rice

Corporal Boddice

Corporal Austin

Lance Corporal Tennant

Private Davenport

Private Oxley

Private Edison

Private Abell

Private Connaughton

Private Dunstan

Follow up article that mentions Captain Asher. (See Captain Asher) The article features a picture of a concert programme printed on the same presses as the Wipers times. Several names appear on the front of the programme and are listed here.

Nottingham Evening Post, 3 July 1944, p.3.


Alderman H.B.W. Creswell

An article from Creswell, saying he has received binding copies of the Wipers Times that have bought back memories.

He tells the story of finding the press, and Creswell also mentions that the former sub-editor of ‘The Coventry Standard’ was there later – but does not name him. It does give the impression the editor was involved.

See also Sergeant Pollock

Coventry Standard, 15 June 1962.


Sergeant Pollock

Mentioned in the Creswell article as being a Red-Cap present in the area.

See also Alderman H.B.W. Creswell

Coventry Standard, 15 June 1962.


Chris Rainbow (Also mistakenly referred to as Chris Rainham in other sources)

BBC producer who put a call out in several newspapers for a planned programme by the BBC.

Note there are two Sergeants involved whose names he cannot trace.

Gloucester Citizen, 22 August 1964, p.7.

It does not appear that this documentary was ever made.


BBC Archives have confirmed that there was a journalist named Chris Rainbow.


Colonel John Stubbs

Article stating that Col. John Stubbs, an army public relations officer at Bestwood Lodge, is looking for copies of the Wipers Times or anyone who has any documentary references to it.

Nottingham Guardian, 5 September 1964, p.6.


Arthur Gibson

A follow up to the Chris Rainbow call for information about the Wipers Times. Arthur Gibson responded, saying it was printed by the 12th Bn. Sherwood foresters and he remembers the humorous ads.

His address is given as 329 Nottingham Road, Derby.

Hull Daily Mail, 11 September 1964, p.6.

Derby Daily Telegraph, 15 September 1964, p.15.


A. S. Bacon

A follow up to the Chris Rainbow call for information about the Wipers Times.

Bacon, of 7, Home Close, Anlaby Park, Hull writes: they have a complete series of the Wipers Times (one of many to do so)

Hull Daily Mail, 11 September 1964, p.6.


Mr J. Barber

A follow up to the Chris Rainbow call for information about the Wipers Times.

Barber, of 208 Max Road, Chaddesden is pictured in the article with a set of bound copies of the paper. It states Barber served with the Battalion at Ypres.

Derby Daily Telegraph, 15 September 1964, p.15.


Major Stanley Whitehead

A follow up to the Chris Rainbow call for information about the Wipers Times.

Name checked in the article, and it mentions he served with the Battalion at Ypres.

Derby Daily Telegraph, 15 September 1964, p.15.


A. Foxley

A follow up to the Chris Rainbow call for information about the Wipers Times.

Named-checked in the article, address given as 4 Littleover Lane, Derby. Mentions E.A. Blasdale has a photo of Sergeant Turner.

See E. A Blasdale

Derby Daily Telegraph, 15 September 1964, p.15.


E. A. Blasdale

A follow up to the Chris Rainbow call for information about the Wipers Times.

Article mentions that Blasdale, of 10 Quarry Hill Road, Iklkeson, has a photograph of Sergeant Turner, who helped with another Sergeant to produce the paper.

Derby Daily Telegraph, 15 September 1964, p.15


T. Leslie Allen

Nottingham journalist who lived at West Bridgford.

The 7 September piece is a letter from Allen in response to the Colonel John Stubbs request, and Allen writes:

‘I was a sergeant in the 12th Battalion and occasionally saw the Times being set up in type (it was an awful hotch-potch of founts scrounged in the ruins of Ypres). It could only be produced as circumstances permitted, of course.’

He also states: ‘Its editor at the startwas Roberts.’

November article.

Is in reference to a TV interview the night before which featured Sgt. W. Turner and ‘one of his colleagues on the paper, Lt. Col. Morgan’.

It mentions Allen can remember seeing Mr Turner setting type for the Wipers Times in Ypres 1916

See also Col. Stubbs

See also Sergeant. W. Turner

See also Dr. Alfred Caepeneel

Nottingham Guardian, 7 September 1964, p.4.

Nottingham Evening Post, 18 November 1964, p.18.

Editor’s footnote under Allen letter reads:

Mr Allen, who joined the Sherwood Foresters at the outbreak of the 1914-18 war from the old Nottingham Daily Express, was the first Nottingham newspaper man to be in France.


Dr. Alfred Caenepeel

One of the founders of the Last Post Comitee, and the Flanders Field Museum.

Was in contact with Sergeant Turner, as well as Leslie Allen, and possibly others, in regards to the Wipers Times and the Ypres area.

If there exists a detailed account of the Wipers, it is likely it is in his papers.

See also T. Leslie Allen

See also Sergeant. W. Turner

See part 4.


Mrs Minnie Collie

Of Ashover, Derbyshire

Donated four original editions to the Derbyshire Archives.

See Sergeant Oliver Holmes

Long Eaton Advertiser, 13 January 1977, p.9.


Captain David Lewes

Auction report, noting the sale of a complete run of the Wipers Times, once belonging to Captain David Lewes.

Notes he was a friend of Roberts

Nottingham Evening Post, 20 July 1999, p.11.


Figure 3. First version of the Wipers foreword by Roberts, 21 July 1917, TNA/HQ/139/33/136, Papers of the Official Press Bureau

I mentioned in the first article that the Official Press Bureau (OPB) were involved in the publication of the facsimile versions. I have since seen the documents — communication between the publisher Herbert Jenkins, the Press Bureau, and Mi7a — and they are underwhelming, being more bureaucratic in nature that anything. Of most interest in the paper — on an unrelated note — is a letter from Jenkins asking for permission to write to Captain Muller, the captain of the SS Emden, with the intention to produce a book of his experiences — which the director of the Press Bureau shuts down as it would be ‘trading with the enemy’.

The file also contains an early draft of the foreword, titled ‘How it Happened’, written by Roberts, that appears in the 1917 edition and later 1930s facsimile editions of the Wipers. (you can find the published version here It is almost identical to what appeared in print except for the following:

  • In the original document, the walls of the casement were described as 15 feet thick. In the published edition, that has been changed to 50 feet thick.

  • On the initial popularity, the original says, ‘Had we only known what was going to happen we’d have printed 500’. In the published version this is changed to 300.

  • Added to the published version is the last line: ‘The Editor asks those who have so kindly helped him with "copy " to accept his grateful acknowledgment, especially Mr Gilbert Frankau.’

As in the introduction, I am finding this interesting from an evidence point-of-view and regarding Roberts’ foreword there are two important considerations. First, by the time of the 1917 edition, only 15 editions of the Wipers had been produced. The 1930s edition contained all 22 editions, but Roberts’ preface was left as it appeared in the 1917 edition. While claims such as that it was never printed 700 yards away from the front may well have been true at the time of the first facsimile edition, such claims did not necessarily apply to the production of the later issues of the Wipers. Second, as established in part two of this series, Captain S.M. Mohr took over the editorship from Roberts in May 1917 when Roberts was promoted. The claims from Roberts introduction are often regurgitated — to this day in fact — but I am more personally interested in the claims that are absent from the preface and whether they are potentially just a case of journalistic spin, or whether there are missing details to be found.

I have excluded any articles after 1953 in this post for copyright reasons, but I am trying to build a complete list, so if you know of any other accounts – especially ones closest in time to the Wipers’ existence – do please drop us a line. Likewise, if you have any info about any of the names mentioned above, and of course the Hall family, please get in contact either by leaving a comment below or clicking the link in my Bio.

(1916) Captain E. J. Neale, writing in the Hastings and Leonards Observer, 25th March 1916, p.7.

Captain E.J Neale, 12th Sherwood Foresters, of St. Leonards, who has been at the front for some months writes:–

“I am sure it will interest your readers and especially yourself to know that it is even possible to publish a newspaper in a ruined place, which was once a beautiful town, and the only living creature left is a cat, which has become quite affectionate; the other living things are Jack Johnsons, Woolly Bears, etc., and the sniper which, of course, makes things more interesting. We live underground and sometimes ramble in the daylight, when not too hot above. In one of these rambles, we came across some type, and collecting it, thought we would start a newspaper. We found the type was short of ’L’s; we presume that when the Huns went through the Kaiser took one for himself and distributed the others amongst his attenuated army. However, one day, to help us out of our trouble, he sent over a special messenger in the shape of a Jack Johnson, and a lovely crump moved a cellar and exposed a lot more type and appliances for printing, which we carried to our printing office, a dug out in which we have electric light and at a much less price than they charge at Hastings. Then we proceeded to get”matter,” and at the end of ten days brought out first issue out, known as the “Wipers Times and Salient News,” 25 francs. We printed 100 copies, none given away, and no returns, we Double the price each week, and never increase the circulation. This issue is published at 200 francs, and we could sell 500 at the price; they go like hot cakes – and the phone goes all day with ’Will you take 500 francs for a copy;” same result, they are all booked. The British Museum is the only place that gets a free copy. The printers are Sherwood Foresters and Co., Ltd. (The name of the place I will leave.). Every penny goes direct to widows and orphans of our own Battalion.

(1916) Major Harry Shirwell, Guernsey Evening Press and Star, 28 March 1916, p.2.

Major Harry Shirwell, of the 12th (Service) Battalion The Sherwood Foresters (Pioneers), who has just left the Island on his return to the front, brought to Guernsey some interesting war souvenirs in the form of three copies of “The Wipers Times or Salient News.’ Numerous periodicals are produced by our gallant men at the front, but”The Wipers Times” is unique, in that it is compiled, edited, printed and published under shell fire. The copies published are dated February 24 and 26, and March 6, and but one more number was to be published, as the producers were about to be sent back for a rest, and could not expect to take their printing machinery with them.

“The Wipers Times" was printed on a machine, and on paper recovered from the ruins of Ypres. The first printing machine was struck by a German shell, and utterly demolished. Fortunately, another machine was unearthed, and the later numbers were proceeded with. Each issue was strictly limited to 100 copies, one each being supplied to Lord Kitchener, Viscount French, General Sir Douglas Haig, General Plumer, Major-General Capper and the British Museum, the remainder being reserved for the officers of the Regiment and Division. Each number comprising eight pages and covers, sparkles with humour from cover to cover—the advertisements included, and the issue is a striking testimonial to the irrepressible Jollity of ’the British soldier, even when engaged in the grim business of war, in a sector which has witnessed more”strafing” than any similar area on the face of the globe.

The humour is such that it can only be appreciated to the full by the men on the spot, but it is nevertheless of a high standard. The contents include burlesques of the writings of Hiliaire Belloc and Horatio Bottomley, but they are eminently good-humoured, and the writers victimised would be the last to complain. A series of articles on the style of Hilaire Belloc demonstrate that there are but 16 Germans left on the western front, and about 150 on the eastern front. There is also a burlesque Sherlock Holmes story, each instalment, we understand, being written by a different author. Burlesque is found even in the price of “The Wipers Times.” The price of the first number is given as 20 francs. With the second number the price rose to 100 francs, and with the third to 200 francs. The fourth and last number—the grand double summer number (of exactly the same size), was to be priced at 5 centimes. Other souvenirs brought home by Major Shirwell included fragments of German armour piercing high-explosive shell, and a devotional book printed in Brussels early in the 18th century, and found in the ruins of Ypres. Major Shirwell has been at the front since October 6, and was wounded within a few hours of his arrival there.

(1917) The Ghain Tuffieha Gazette, Ghain Tuffieha Hospital Camp, Malta, 10 February 1917, p.1*

Journalism like everything else is being affected by the War and one phase has been the extraordinarily large number of service Magazines that have been produced.

A writer in the “Spectator” commenting on this fact says “To anybody of men or women with a corporate sense a journal or magazine seems to be as necessary a means of self-expression, as the public dinner”.

He goes on to state this this “accidental literature of the War” – in other words literature due to the accident of temporary congregation – is nothing very great in the way of literary effort, but that it forms a splendid index as to the spirit in which the war is being conducted.

This is undoubtedly very true and as an instance the circumstances under which “The Wipers Times” was first conceived may be quoted.

The idea of producing this witty little paper coincided with the discovery of a printing plant withing a few years of the new historic Cloth Hall at Ypres. The press was buried under several tons of rubble and debris, but that did not deter the producers, who speedily unearthed it.

The setting up of the type and the printing of the paper was interrupted and frequently dislocated by the inopportune arrival of German shells and we believe it was no uncommon occurrence for part of the type to be broken up and scattered of the four winds of heaven by a sudden strafing from enemy artillery.

However, both Editors and Publishers refused to be intimidated and the paper would then make a belated appearance.

Thus the Wipers Times, which by the way afterwards became “The Somme Times” and is not “The B.E.F. Times” had the distinction of being edited, printed and published in the Firing Line and without any outside assistance.

* This editorial goes on to talk about the Balkan News, which is also of note, as its first editor was an editress – a Miss Donaldson. There is also evidence to the effect the paper was used for both allied propaganda, and intelligence purposes in Salonika. This, however, is a story for another day. 9

(1918) Review of the 1917 Facsimile Version, Boston Guardian, 2 February 1918, p.3.

Only journalists, who know how difficult it is, under the best of conditions, to bring out a journal which shall be satisfactory, not merely to its readers, but – a much harder task – to themselves – can appreciate properly the feat performed by the editor, the sub-editor, and the printer a sergeant, who in former existence, as the editor humorously nuts it, had followed the craft. The first two numbers were produced on a printing press found in a battered building near the square of Ypres, with the editorial room a casemate under the ramparts. Type was short, and only one page could be done at a time not infrequently to the accompaniment of the crash of German shells. After the first two numbers had been printed, a German shell destroyed the “works.”

A new press and fresh type were procured: but the paper was never printed out of the front area and once the works were within 700 yards of the front line and above ground, while on one occasion proofs had to be corrected while the editor sat in a trench in the middle of a battle on the Somme.

Yet the staff not only “carried on.” But actually ventured to include illustrators by Sapper F. J. Couzens R.E., on a piece of wood with a penknife.

Four numbers of the “Wipers Times”were produced, and then, with changes of locale, came changes of the title. Viz. “The New Church Times” (Four numbers), “The Kemmel Times” (one number), and “The Somme Times (One number).

After this. For reasons not unconnected with the Censorship, the title was changed to the comprehensive one of the “The B.E.F. Times,” Which covered the last five numbers. Thus in all, there were fifteen numbers produced between 12th February 1916, and April 10th 1917.

(1921-22) Ypres Times (exact date unknown) *

By an Ex-Field Officer

“‘Ere y’are—-piper-piper! All the winners! Sensytion! \[sic\] Full account o’ the big fight. Piper!”

The irrepressible young subaltern at the door of the mess beneath the ramparts did it beautifully he did it to the manner born. It was a chill, raw February evening, and everyone seemed dispirited somehow­­—- we had just heard of the loss of two good fellows in the battalion; but that imitation London newsboy's raucous voice had a sudden magical effect. It relieved the tension; it woke us up to laughter. Everyone, even the " skipper" moved to the door to join in the joke. We saw half-a-dozen grinning faces looking over the subaltern's shoulder. He was actually displaying a newspaper – only one, alas! – hot from the press.

It was a miracle­­ – the thing had actually been printed in Y-pers. Our eyes drank in the title, the advertisements, the "editorial," the poetry, the "stop press news” like thirsty men: and some of us laughed so much that we could hardly stand. Then, as the little sheet was threatened with destruction, so great was our eagerness, a staff-captain, famous for his elocutionary powers, was deputed to read out the entire production after dinner.

More than five years have passed; but the scene is vividly before me as I write. "The Wipers Times” was funny – funnier to us, perhaps, than it will ever be to anyone who comes after us; but it was not all a jest. There was a strong undercurrent of something else in it. There were things in that first number, as there were in its successors, which struck a deeper note, as "Reflections on being lost in Ypres at 3 a.m.,” and many others. But humorous or serious, it was just what we wanted. It seemed to us then, as it seems to me now, a masterpiece amongst "trench journals" – redolent of the very spirit of the place and of us who dwelt in it.

Could anything be better than that parody of the immortal "Elegy"?

A six-inch tolls the knell of parting day.
The transport cart winds slowly o’er the lea.
A sapper homeward plods his weary way
And leaves the world to Wipers, and to me.
Now fades the glimmering star-shell from the sight
And all the air a solemn stillness holds;
Save where a whizz-bang howls its rapid flight
And ” five rounds rapid” Fill the distant folds.
Beneath the ramparts, old and grim and grey
In earthy sap and casement cool and deep;
Each in his canvas cubicle and bay;
The men condemned to Wipers soundly sleep.

But there is more than parody in the soldier's recital of the grim realities of war, as he found it in the Salient.

My soldier-soul must steel itself to these;
Must face, by dawn's dim light, by night's dull taper,
Disciplined, dour, gas-helmeted, and stern,
Brigades, battalions, batteries, of paper-
The loud " report," the treacherous "return,"
Division orders, billeting epistles,
Barbed " Zeppelin " wires that baffle G.H.Q.,
And the dread " Summary" whose blurred page bristles
With " facts " no German general ever knew.
Let the Hun hate! We need no beer-roused passions
To keep our sword-blade bright, our powder dry!

*With thanks to Nick Newman for the clipping.

(1930) Civil and Military Gazette, 1 January 1930


London, Dec. 5.

SIX or seven weeks ago, in writing of the impending death of the Cologne Post, I was led to refer to "soldiers' papers" generally and to the Wipers Times in particular; and thereby I seem to have excited an amount of curiosity which suggests that the little journal of the trenches is less known than I had supposed. • That being the case, perhaps no apology is needed for dealing with it again, this time in greater detail, for the Wipers Times was a thing to be taken at much more than its face value. It came into being almost by accident, no doubt; but the accident may almost be considered a providential one, for the time—the early part of 1916—was one of intense gloom and depression, when discomfort was at its worst and anything that tended to bring a little action into the trenches was a godsend.

Adventurous Existence.

Its adventurous existence lasted just a couple of years. And, though Its circulation was, necessarily, small, every copy that it produced passed through hundreds of hands. It was by no means official. No battalion, even, could be held responsible for it, though its imprint" Printed and published by Sherwood, Forester and Co., Ltd."— conveyed a hint as to where the moving spirit, or spirits, might be found. But the way in which it made perpetual fun of the horrors of the Western Front and "kept smiling" when the task was anything but an easy one mad e its value incalculable.

Its editor, from, first to last, was one F. J. Roberts; its sub-editor J. H. Pearson; and when, on one or two occasions it had illustrations, they were from blocks "carved on a piece of wood with a penknife" by a sapper, T. J. Couzens. Contributions came to it from all quarters many of them from Gilbert Frankau when his anti-aircraft battery did not keep him too much occupied. It was, at times, rather overloaded with verse. But this, its parodies of the war-correspondents and military critics of the day, its stories, its answers to imaginary correspondents, its fashion column, its "letters to the editor," and its spoof advertisements were all of them full of irresponsible fun…

…Now and again some occasion demanded a serious paragraph; but even this was made a means of chaffing the censorship—- It was easy enough, of course, to do it in such a way that nobody on the spot would have any difficulty in filling the blanks…

…The first “office” of the paper was in a casemate under the ramparts of Ypres, in which a mechanically minded sergeant had put into working order the press found in a small printing establishment wrecked by shell-fire. The office contained not only the press, but a gramophone and a piano. Four numbers were produced at Ypres, but then the “staff” was ordered to the Somme, and, of course, the paper had to go to—as its editor, said with justifiable pride, more than a year later: “The paper has never yet been printed out of the front area, and once our works were within 700 yards of the front lie, and above ground.” A Shell found its way into the office after the second number had appeared, and this was considered fortunate, as it provoked the staff to raid a printer’s place near Hell-Fire Corner and find some much-improved plant.

There was an impish sense of fun which led to the change of title to the New Church Times when a move had to be made to Neuve Eglise. Each move, of course, presented awkward problems of transport, as the press and the type had to go wherever the "office" went; but it was always found possible to "win" a lorry for the purpose by some means or other. In Loos, the editor said, "the rats did not mind us sharing their habitation," and there "the paper had a long and successful run in spite of the fact that the whole of the outfit nearly got blown off the map on two occasions." At Arras they had "quite an enjoyable time," as it was "not a bad war." But at last a heavy bombardment smashed up office, press, and type, and made further publication quite impossible, and so the Wipers Times, which by this time had become the B.E.F. Times—the censor had grown particular, and would have no place-names mentioned—came to an end after publishing twenty-one numbers under the most extraordinary difficulties that any newspaper staff ever experienced.

Original Copies.

Copies of the original publication were few to begin with, and difficult to preserve, so that they have now become very rare. It is seldom that one changes hands; and if ever a purchase is made it is at a price which would buy a considerable library of serious war books. But, fortunately, the complete series has been reproduced in facsimile. Herbert Jenkins, the London publisher, issued one volume after the fifteenth number had appeared, and charged six shillings for it. The second volume came, at seven-and six, when the little paper had been blown to bits by the enemy. And the two together make a "souvenir" without which no collection of war relics is complete.

(1930) Nottingham Evening Post, 15 July 1930, p.8.



War Journals return.

If war had achieved nothing else, would deserve to be remembered as the reason for two distinct acts comic genius of the kind that only the British "Tommy” could produce, with a smile which was perilously near tears, and yet endowed with singular and disinterested courage. These two acts of genius were the cartoons of Bruce Bairnsfather which caught in an uncanny way “the spirit of the troops”, and, what must have been far more difficult to sustain, the Wipers Times." The Wipers Times," with which incorporated —quite in the style of some forms of modern journalism — "The New Church Times." The B.E.F. Times" (for " reasons not unconnected with the censor." as the editor explains), and Better Times." has now been published by Messrs. Eveleigh Nash and Grayson and edited by the original editor, Lieutenant- Colonel F. J. Roberts. It gives much better idea of what the British soldier's life actually was than some recent books.

The “Wipers Times" was born as the result of a piece of ''scrounging” by Private Johnson, who had been compositor private life. It had many vicissitudes.


Under whatever title, it was at all times the complete journal. There the solemn editorial, entering with each issue a dignified protest again the machinations of our local rival, Messrs. Hun and co.," whose jealousy so frequently prevents the paper from appearing on the proper date. There are sporting notes, City news, a “Gossip" column, letters from correspondents who claim to have heard the cuckoo on the Menin-road, and even news of property market Wo regret to report further rise in property to-day "). Nor is the imprint forgotten, and each issue proclaims its back page that it is printed and published by”Sherwood, Forester, and Co., Ltd., Ypres and Hooge."

Besides all these features there are "strong" articles from publicists, messages from very special correspondents every front, a mammoth competition with millions of francs prizes (eventually won the editor and sub-editor), and floods of verse; indeed the editor has to make special appeal to his contributors to write more prose—whereupon Mr Gilbert Frankau, a pillar of the journal throughout its life, responds with I more verse, but prose form.


The advertisements inspired the same fertile wit and humour are often even better than the editorial contributions. Wherever the paper goes, the music-hall and cinema advertisements follow it. The "Wipers Times" announces the attraction of the Cloth Hall ("the best ventilated hall in the town"). The "Better Times" bills Professor Foch and his Performing Dove, and a special turn Signor Potentiario.

Indeed, there is scarcely any commodity that is not advertised this magazine. Under Building Land for Sale" appears the following exhortation:

Build that house on Hill 60. Bright, breezy, and invigoration. Commands an' excellent view of the historic town of Ypres.

The “Agony" columns are full of heartrending appeals. In the first issue "Lonely Soldier" asks: Will any patriotic person please lend a yacht and £10,000 to a lover of peace '! Size of yacht immaterial.

Disappointed, apparently, the same advertiser offers in a following number: For Exchange.—A Salient in good condition. Will exchange for a Pair of Pigeons or Canary. Lonely Soldier. Hooge.

(1939) James Bayes writing in the Portsmouth Evening News, 13 February 1939, p.8.



TWENTY-THREE years ago yesterday there appeared the first number of a publication unique in the history of British journalism. It boasted ten crudely-printed pages, one of which bore an advertisement exhorting readers to Build That House On Hill 60 —Bright, Breezy—invigorating.” The journal was priced at 20 francs, and its name was The Wipers Times.

In the early days of 1916 a few British officers and a sergeant, investigating the ruins of a building just off the square in Ypres, unearthed battered printing-press from the debris. They found ink and paper, too. The smell of the former seems to have had a nostalgic effect on the sergeant, who was a printer in civil life, for he announced that with the aid of a light fatigue party he could put the press in working order. The type had been distributed far and wide, as only a 5.9 can distribute type, but by dint of long and painful scouting a fount (of sublimely archaic pattern) was gathered together, and on February 12, 1916, No. 1, Vol. 1 of the Wipers Times was being handed round in the front line. In the opening editorial the journal apologized for delay in going to press owing to “many unwelcome visitors outside our printing works,” and expressed condolence with those of its readers who had been mugs enough to pay 20 francs for their copy. The front page bore the advertisement:

WIPERS, FISH-HOOK, AND MENIN RAILWAY Daily Excursion Tickets issued to MENIN (Until further notice trains will not go beyond Gordon Farm Station. Line beyond closed for repairs)

Under Fire

The early numbers of the Wipers Times were produced in a casemate in the old ramparts. The first two issues were published under heavy shell-fire, but this had little effect on the hilarious tone of a journal which was destined to live for two years. One of the great difficulties in early days of the paper was that one page only could be printed at a time, and the publishers had no y’s or e’s “to spare when one page was in the chaser.” Accordingly, when a page was put up, the sergeant and his devils would go to the door of the casemate and weigh up the atmosphere. If all was moderately quiet they would make a dash for the press, which was up by the Cloth Hall, and there they would stay turning out copies till shells fell too near to be pleasant. In due course the paper was able actually to print illustrations. These took the form of line drawings, which were patiently hacked out on pieces of wood by a sapper whose only tool was a penknife.

Every copy of the journal bore a price, printed below the title-head. Actually, this was fictitious price, as it was intended from the start to distribute the paper free. But, as the opening editorial revealed, there were ardent readers who took the prices seriously, and “weighed in.” The publishers found this a useful fact to bear in mind when the demand for the paper became too intense. The greater the circulation, the higher became the price.” This plan worked quite well for a time, but gradually the demand increased, and ultimately, after having raised the price to 200 francs, and with the circulation still climbing, the publisher brought the price down with a bump to 50 centimes and gave up the endeavour to cope with the demand.

The “Wipers Times” was yet in its infancy when the Germans scored a direct hit on the works —happily not on a press day. As it happened, this proved a blessing in disguise, as the publishers were quickly put on to most convenient hand-jigger and some more type somewhere up by Hell-fire Corner. More and more fertile brains were assisting the paper to extract the maximum of humour from the War. The Answers to Correspondents and the Agony columns were the most popular (“Dearest —I waited two hours on the Menin Road last night, but you didn’t come. Can it be a puncture that delayed you? Write c/o this paper.”).


Turning over the bound facsimile copies which I picked up years ago at an auction, I see that according to the advertisements,” the Menin Gate Cinema was showing the great spectacular picture Inferno and that' 50 000 artistes have been engaged to produce this colossal work, at enormous expense. Music and effects of this great picture by the International Orchestra.” Other advertisers offer to insure dug-outs “in dangerous positions,” to cure optimists who believe the War may end in twelve months, and to sell stock in the Wipers and District Gas Company.” Many attractively, worded advertisements for charabanc excursions are to be found, the delights of Plug Street Wood, Messines, and Commines being especially recommended.

Letters to the Editor are numerous and varied. One correspondent complains that a part of the roadway in Ypres is still up, “and to my knowledge has been in this state of repair for at least six months.” Another protests against the wanton damage which is being done to the fields of farmers around Ypres. And there are, of course, not a few letters from indignant householders calling upon the city fathers to put a stop at once to the “night noises,” apparently caused by a band of hooligans,” which repeatedly disturb their slumbers.

The paper bore a different title, according to the district in which it was printed. Thus, in the course of its existence it was known successively as the Wipers Times, New Church Times, Kemmel Times, Somme Times, and finally—for reasons of censorship the B.E.F. Times. Some of the proofs of the Somme Times were actually corrected in a front-line trench while the editorial staff were awaiting zero hour to go over the top.

The End

The transporting from place to place of the press, which weighed three tons, was in itself no mean feat, particularly as it had be done unbeknown to the “red-caps.”

The end came in March, 1918. In the course of a terrific bombardment another 5.9 landed on the (Untenanted) “Office” of the paper, and once again the type was distributed as only a 5.9 can distribute type. But the press was distributed, to, complete with the fourth instalment of “Our Grand New Serial, ’Zero,”

So died the “B.E.F. Times,” and with it perhaps the most gallant journalistic effort of all time.

Some of the “Copy” for the number in course of publication fell into the hands of the enemy. It is said that German officers spent quite a time puzzling over the mysterious documents before realising that what they were up against was not a new sort of code system, but something far more formidable – an example of the British Sense of humour.

  1. Nottingham Evening Post, 10 March 1916.↩︎

  2. Evidence for: Sabretache being the connection between Wipers and Dorothy Hall; the photo of Henry Cecil Hall in part one of this series also features Miss Doreen Robinson, who not only lived in the same street, but who would later go onto marry Captain C. B. Venn an Officer in the Sherwood Foresters. There is also the Shepstone’s Brewery connection with both Henry Hall and Thomas Ward knowing the family, and while I am not quite ready to go Dan Brown yet — I keep coming across mentions of the Freemasons in Nottingham with regards to the people I am researching.↩︎

  3. D. Todman, The Great War: Myth and Memory (London: Bloomsbury, 2007).↩︎

  4. Email conversation with Nick Newman, 15 July 2023.↩︎

  5., retrieved 14 July 2023.↩︎

  6. Nottingham Evening Post, 22 March 1916, p.5.↩︎

  7. Email conversation with Nick Newman, 15 July 2023.↩︎

  8. I am unsure of the copyright to this photo, it was taken from a press release via the Press Association, with a note to credit as credited here, with use listed as: for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption — which I believe this falls under. Please contact me if this is not the case. Given the names that appear in the photo, and in the staff and suspects list, I can’t help but wonder if this is a ‘staff photo’?↩︎

  9. As a starting point: The later editor on the Balkan News was Harry Collinson Owen who wrote a memoir Salonica and After: The Sideshow that ended the War (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1919). The Lessons learnt in Salonica, as well as Owen himself, were used a few years later in Turkey on the Orient Gazette see Nilgun Gurkan Pazarci, ‘The Orient: News Gazette 1919-1922’, Kuresel Iletism Dergisi, 2006.↩︎

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