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Michael Palin to star in BBC World War I drama

Story by Jack Foley

MICHAEL Palin is to complete his first on-screen TV acting role in more than two decades in a new BBC World War I drama.

The Wipers Times is based on the true story of a satirical newspaper that was produced by soldiers in the trenches. It will be set on the battlefields.

Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have written the script and Palin will be joined in the cast by Ben Chaplin, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Steve Oram and Emilia Fox.

An official announcement by the BBC described The Wipers Times as “a story of the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity”.

Chaplin will play Captain Fred Roberts, who discovers a printing press in the bombed-out ruins of Belgian town Ypres in 1916 and uses it to publish The Wipers Times (named after the army slang for Ypres).

The paper became known for its subversive humour and was a big hit with troops, eventually changing its name as the soldiers from the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters – who produced it – changed location. Its other titles included The Somme Times and, after the Armistice, The Better Times.

The drama will be shown on BBC Two later this year.

Palin’s last TV drama role was in Alan Bleasdale’s GBH in 1991, in which he played a school headmaster intimidated by a newly-elected city council leader (Robert Lindsay).

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