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The Wipers Times: Printing Wit & Waffle at War
The Wipers Times: Printing Wit & Waffle at War

Sat, 01 Jun


Great War Huts

The Wipers Times: Printing Wit & Waffle at War

Join us for a unique event in collaboration with Norwich Printing Museum, about the First World War trench newspaper The Wipers Times, featuring fascinating talks by historians Robert St. John Smith, Dr. Paul W. Nash and Taff Gillingham.

Time & Location

01 Jun 2024, 09:30 – 17:00

Great War Huts, Brook Farm Camp, Bell's Ln, Bury St Edmunds, Bury Saint Edmunds IP29 5NW, UK

About the event

Join us for a unique event in collaboration with Norwich Printing Museum, featuring fascinating talks by historians Robert St, John Smith, Dr. Paul W. Nash and Taff Gillingham.

Discover the fascinating history of the famous trench newspaper, ‘The Wipers Times’. This event promises to be a compelling exploration of wartime journalism and resilience. With Taff Gillingham's insights into the military history and Paul Nash's perspective on the printing process, and the problems of printing such a publication in a warzone. There will also be a talk about The Wipers Times on stage and screen, looking into the television drama and national stage tours.

Robert’s talk will look at the history of Regimental Journals then take a look at ‘Trench Newspaper Fever’ in 1915, where – left relatively unchecked – new journals appeared at an exponential rate, until measures were taken by the authorities to curb their spread. The talk will end with a look at some of the popular features that appeared around this time, and the influence they would have had on the Wipers Times. The presentation will delve into some of the individuals who contributed to the publication, such as Sergeant George Turner, the paper’s main printer as well as sharing some of the contributors’ anecdotes – including their thoughts on Captain Fred Roberts.

Experience the artistry of printing firsthand as artist and designer Su Morris demonstrates the craftsmanship using a tabletop Adana printing press. Attendees will have the chance to create their very own printed keepsake. Donations to support Norwich Printing Museum are warmly welcomed and greatly appreciated!

Don't miss this unique opportunity to engage with historians and gain new perspectives on one of the most remarkable publications of the Great War.

Ticket price includes a light lunch - please make us aware of any dietary requirements.


In early 1916, during the First World War, the 12th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters were billeted in the Flemish town of Ypres while resting from the Front Line trenches. Exploring the ruined buildings around them, they discovered a working printing press and a Sergeant, who had been a printer before enlisting, soon had it back in action. Captain Frederick Roberts, MC, saw the potential to raise the mens’ morale and soon found himself the editor of a Trench Newspaper called The Wipers Times, named after the town’s British Army slang nickname.

The first issue had a circulation of 100 but a further 22 issues were printed and the circulation expanded considerably. The content included jokes, poems, cartoons, spoof advertisements and poked gentle fun at the situation they all found themselves in. As the battalion moved from one part of the battlefield to another the name changed; The B.E.F. Times, The New Church Times, The Kemmel Times and, at the end of the war, The Better Times’.

There were many other trench newspapers but none as popular. The Wipers Times became something of a legend and bound copies of the entire collection were printed many times after the war. In 2013 a television drama and popular stage play were written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, bringing the story of the most famous trench newspaper to a fresh audience. You can see The Wipers Times television drama here


09:30 - Registration

10:00 - Welcome

10:15 - An Introduction to The Wipers Times  -  Taff Gillingham

10:45 - Questions on the First Talk

11:00 - Break

11:20 - Printing a Trench Newspaper  -  Dr Paul W. Nash

12:05 - Questions on the Second Talk

12:20 - Lunch and Printing Demonstration by Su Morris

13:40 - Writing and Working on the Papers  -  Robert St. John Smith

14:25 - Questions on the Third Talk

14:40 - The Wipers Times on Stage and Screen  -  Taff Gillingham

15:00 - Questions on the Fourth Talk

15:15 - Closing Remarks followed by an opportunity to chat

16:00 - Event Ends

About the speakers:

Robert St. John Smith has a strong interest in the First World War from the viewpoint of the common soldier, and the use of ephemera as a historical source. After gaining an MA at the University of Wolverhampton (2023) in Britain and the First World War, where his final year thesis was on the subject of soldier-drawn cartoons, he is currently a PhD candidate at University College Cork, where he is researching the image of ‘Tommy Atkins’ between 1896 and 1926.

Paul W. Nash is a librarian, bibliographer and printing historian, who worked at the Bodleian in Oxford between 1981 and 1994, was Curator of Rare Books at the RIBA between 1994 and 2002, and Superintendent of the Bibliography Room at the Bodleian from 2006 to 2015. He has written on architectural books, private presses and early European printing, and operates his own private press, the Strawberry Press, for pleasure and as an exercise in understanding the processes of relief and intaglio printing. A long-term member of the Printing Historical Society and the National Printing Heritage Committee, he is currently Editor of the Journal of the Printing Historical Society and Vice-Chair of the Norwich Printing Museum Trust.

Taff Gillingham is a military historian and historical military advisor for film, television and theatre productions. He co-owns Khaki Devil, a company specialising in the hire of uniforms, equipment, weapons and historical advice and is co-director of the Great War Huts project. He has a background in film and television design and is a former trustee of The Suffolk Regiment Museum.


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