THEY spent four years living in hell, fighting on the frontline in muddy trenches with bombs exploding continuously over their heads, far away from their loved ones.

You might think that the brave soldiers who fought in the First World War had little to laugh about.

But a group from the 24th Division of the Sherwood Foresters showed that British humour can still shine through during overwhelming adversity when, against all odds, in the mud and mayhem of the Somme, they printed a satirical newspaper to lift the spirits of their comrades.

Based on a true story, the Wipers Times - named as such because of the incorrect pronunciation of Ypres by many of the soldiers fighting there - rolled off the press for two years and represented the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit.

Led by Captain Fred Roberts, the soldiers launched the paper after discovering a printing press in the bombed out ruins of Ypres, and set about putting it together with articles mocking their peers higher up the ranks, jokes making fun of the war, exaggerated stories about life on the frontline and inflammatory poems and songs about the Germans.

The hilarious extracts from the Wipers Times are presented in comedy sketches throughout the production, and had the audience chuckling at the black humour and tittering at the silliness of some of the content.

Several of the cast of eight take on numerous characters, with the only woman - Eleanor Brown - expertly playing four completely different roles.

The stage transported the audience to various locations, from the inhospitable conditions of the trenches - complete with bomb sounds and rubble falling from the ceiling - to the jolly and cheerful atmosphere of a pub.

The humour and wit came thick and fast, delivered by some superb actors, and was interspersed with dancing and songs, creating a lively, upbeat and thoroughly entertaining show.

Written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, the stage premiere of their award-winning BBC film, directed by Caroline Leslie, is at The Watermill Theatre until October 29.

For tickets call the Box Office on 01635 46044 or visit