Humour in the Mud

March 20th, 2015

Today is International Day of Happiness!

Happiness and creativity are not usually associated with the trenches of the First World War. However, members of the 12th Sherwood Foresters began their own satirical paper; The Wipers Times. This created some well sought after relief from the harrowing attacks and the long periods of boredom between each offence.

Early in 1916, the Sherwood Foresters found a printing press in Ypres. The name Wiper’s Times comes from the British pronunciation of Ypres. Captain F. J Roberts and Lieutenant J. H Pearson were the driving force behind the publication and planned to release a new issue every week unless ‘any adverse criticism or attentions by our local rival, Messrs. Hun and Co.’

The paper was filled with satirical poetry, articles, cartoons and mock advertisements. One of these, “Are You a Victim of Optimism?” shows the way humour and lifted the mood in the trenches:
Are you a victim of optimism?
You don’t know?
Then ask yourselves the following questions
1. Do you suffer from cheerfulness
2. Do you wake in the morning feeling that all is going well for the allies?
3. Do you sometimes think that the war will end in the next twelve months?
4. Do you believe good news in preference to bad?
5. Do you believe our leaders are competent to conduct the war to a successful issue?
If your answer is “Yes” to anyone of these questions then you are in the clutches of this dreaded disease.
Two days spent in our establishment will effectually eradicate all of it from your system.

This shows the men’s ability to find humour in the darkest situations and hints at the way that prolonged trauma affected morale. In July 1916 when this extract was published, the war had dragged on way beyond the predicted end date of Christmas 1914.

The mock advert to the left is for a fictitious film called Gas shows of the darker humour that appears in the paper. This refers to the three gas attacks on the Division during 16th June 1916 in which they lost 95 men.