First World War centenary: Blackadder and Baldrick really did go forth...

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Tim McInnerny (Captain Darling), Hugh Laurie (Lieutenant George), Rowan Atkinson (Captain Blackadder) and Tony Robinson (Private Baldrick) in Blackadder Goes Forth Tim McInnerny (Captain Darling), Hugh Laurie (Lieutenant George), Rowan Atkinson (Captain Blackadder) and Tony Robinson (Private Baldrick) in Blackadder Goes Forth

Millions of fans are familiar with the wartime exploits of captains Blackadder and Darling, Lieutenant George and Private Baldrick but a Melksham archivist has discovered that comedic fiction closer to reality than anyone suspected.

The stars of the BBC’s Blackadder Goes Forth, which follows the fourth incarnation of Edmund Blackadder, played by Rowan Atkinson, as he schemes to escape the trenches of the First World War, share a remarkable similarity with their real-life namesakes.

Dominic Hayhoe, CEO of Forces War Records, which is based on the Challeymead Business Park, tasked his team of researchers with uncovering the true stories of the show’s much-loved characters after they uncovered a real-life Captain Blackadder.

He said: “As fans of the television show, we wondered if we could find the military records of the other fictional characters’ namesakes.

“The only person we haven’t been able to track down, so far from the First World War is a General Melchett. According to the military records we have, he makes an appearance in the Second World War.”

Both Blackadders served in the army before the outbreak of war, and fought at the Somme in 1916, with Robert John Blackadder earning a Military Cross for his heroics.

Private James Baldrick grew up in Omagh, Northern Ireland, and joined the British Expeditionary Force, serving in the Battle of Le Cateau. He was killed in action in 1914 aged 23.

Captain John Clive Darling survived the war, retiring in 1923 as a major, while Lieutenant Athelstan George rowed for Cambridge before dying aged 27 at the Battle of Mons.

The centenary of the start of the First World War has seen a marked increase in interest in family history, with the firm recently transcribing an additional 1.5 million pieces of information.

Mr Hayhoe said: “Having made this exciting discovery, we’re keen to uncover more about them and would be very keen to hear from any living relatives who have additional information, documents and photographs to complete their stories.”

For more information on the real Blackadder characters see www.forces-war-records.co.uk

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