An item in a newspaper clip has led me to explore something than most people have probably forgotten. That is the humor create by and for the troops in the trenches. Many people know about Willy and Joe, Bill Mauldin’s long suffering GI’s in WW2, but how many know about the mustachioed Old Bill who haunted the trenches in WW1?
Here’s the clip I found on Pinterest.
I wondered what the fuss was about so I looked up Bruce Bairnsfather. What I found were some amazing humorous stories and pictures about life in the trenches of the Western Front, with a character named “Old Bill” in his dugout as a frequent presence. Here’s Bairnsfather’s Wiki and a webpage
Perhaps the most well known “Old Bill” cartoon.
Surprisingly trench humor and trench newspapers written and printed in the trenches were not uncommon. In fact is seems that most units had papers or newsletters. many poking fun at the grim life in the trenches.
Of course some, while drawing their experiences, put the pictures and stories in trunks and closed them up to be forgotten, too valuable to trash, too terrible to revisit.
That was the true tragedy of the great war.