WW1 - The Lesser Known Elements 
Stop the Press: One hundred years ago the world entered its first global battle using a ‘modern’ style of artillery warfare!
It is not without some mild sense of wonderment the month of August in 2014 marks the centenary of the First World War (Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th 1914).  It seems, in conjunction with Heroines of War, this year marks several landmark commemorations in our global wartime history. As a timely nod of respect and indeed commemorative celebration of the diversity of allied success stories I seek in this piece to throw a light on just two lesser known stories of individual lives and stories.   
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"Capturing the intrinsic to the successful outcomes of the First World War our courageous women have played providing a back-bone to our country. Doctor Elsie Inglis is one notable woman amongst a sea of so very many. It causes me, the writer, some notable angst in so much as how does one ‘cherry-pick’? There are of course so very many ‘unsung heroes’". 

The lesser known story of The Wipers Times.
 
Captain Fred Roberts, a mining engineer in South Africa, an explorer and prospector joined the 12th battalion of The Sherwood Foresters at the outbreak of war in 1914 having returned by boat to England. Incidentally Roberts met his wife Kathleen onboard. He was, in my view, to become something of a modern day Robin Hood. No pun intended. It was Captain Roberts and fellow soldier, friend and ex-engineer, Lieutenant Jack Pearson who found amongst the ruins of the Belgium town of Ypres a discarded printing press whilst searching for materials to prop up the trenches. As they were about to break it up a Sergeant  who had previously worked as a printer in Fleet Street stopped them short, informing Roberts and Pearson the press was still intact and in working order. This was to spark the idea of providing troops with a newspaper designed specifically to relieve the terror they faced through a source of subversive black humour, knockabout music hall jokes and poetry. 
 
So, where did the name come from and what did they write? 
Well, thanks to the humour and lack of pronunciation capabilities by the troops, the word Ypres came out as Wipes. So, in keeping with the publications ethos, The Wipers Times was born to print. Pearson, whose brother was the then celebrated actor Edward Hesketh Pearson, became The Wipers’ sub-editor.   Produced in the thick of it despite, as Roberts commented “the attention of Messrs Hun & Co”, The Wipers Times proved to be an extended metaphor for the resilience and determination and good ol’ British spirit displayed by allied troops amongst the most atrocious castration of the human race ever known. To combat this perpetual misery faced not just by British troops but by all who served, lived and worked in Europe during the war the paper adopted satirical take offs of newspaper columns, literary parodies, spoof adverts, puns and limericks. Not afraid of pointing a jesty finger at what Roberts called ‘the shadow of the censor’, which is of course the Military High Command, Roberts grew a reputation for prefacing the paper with his defiantly flippant editorials. One such example: “Oh to be in Belgium, now that winter is here!” 
   
Producing twenty three issues of this most remarkable publication quite literally under fire and facing the mask of death Roberts remarked in what I perceive to be humble modesty ‘we wrote whatever came into our heads.’ The evidence suggests otherwise. Roberts remarked when asked in later years about his life during the war “Most of us have been cured of any little illusions we may have had about the pomp and glory of war…” 
 
 This written, I feel it to be appropriate and desirable to end this all but brief analysis of The Wipers Times with a point in fact that the newspaper included a column to salute their comrades entitled “People we take our hats off to” and add a posthumous respect and thank you to all at The Wipers Times for achieving the unachievable. A newspaper bringing what one must assume to be a very rare moment of pleasure to those that cared to read it. 
 
 
Dr Elsie Inglis & our nursing angels 
 
Capturing the intrinsic to the successful outcomes of the First World War our courageous women have played providing a back-bone to our country. Doctor Elsie Inglis is one notable woman amongst a sea of so very many. It causes me, the writer, some notable angst in so much as how does one ‘cherry-pick’? There are of course so very many ‘unsung heroes’. Those that stayed at home tending to the home, the children, the land, fulfilling roles previously held by the men who were at this time at war abroad fighting to the death for King and country whilst reading The Wipers Times.  
 
Elsie, a forthright and proactive woman, by all accounts, having obviously not met this women, offered to lead ‘1,000 trained women doctors and nurses in to any war zone where they might be needed.’  A newly formed First Aid Nursing Yeomanry -FANY – trained in Hyde Park as to how to safely carry the wounded soldiers on a stretcher away from the front line for treatment were sent to the Red Cross and Belgian Army. After some Government intervention – by men – the nurses were deployed behind enemy lines where they carried 80,000 wounded to safety through the air raids or naval attacks. So, they may not have been at the trenches, but by golly, they sure as likely provided a crucial service to the many, not the few, under equally as traumatic conditions as their male counterparts. 
 
”Where do they think the world would have been without women’s work all these ages?” Dr Elsie Inglis
 
A very fitting quotation to highlight a message of unity that our world here in the UK and many parts of our globe now enjoys. Room for improvement, a work in progress as it is, we should perhaps take a moment in this momentous month of commemorative celebration to think for a moment about what this quote means? And to offer a moment’s thought and hopefully some proactive action so as to strengthen and improve the lives of so very many women around our globe (including here in England) who, as yet, do not feel quite the energetic, independent backbone of life they are. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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