Captain Blackadder And Private Baldrick Actually Served In WWI


Captain Blackadder, Lieutenant George and Private Baldrick really did ‘go forth’ in World War One it has emerged after their real-life namesakes were discovered.

The hit BBC comedy Blackadder, which covered four periods of history, ended with a series set in the trenches in which the characters go over the top for “one last hurrah”.

But now it has emerged that the characters, invented by Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson and Ben Elton, really did fight in the conflict.

To mark the centenary of the Great War, a specialist military genealogy website has traced the real life counterparts of Captain Blackadder and his wartime colleagues.

Forces War Records researchers delved back through six million military records to dig up the stories of Captain Robert John Blackadder, Private James Baldrick, Lieutenant Athelstan Key Durance George and Captain John Clive Darling.

The fictional characters, portrayed by Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Hugh Laurie and Tim McInnerny, appear to share a number of similarities with their World War One namesakes.

As well as having the same surnames and rank, all of the men also served in the trenches.

Captain Robert John Blackadder was born in January 1884 in Dundee, Scotland, before graduating in Scots law from the city’s University College.

He worked as an accountant before travelling to London where he enlisted in the army as a rifleman and served as a private in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles. When we were backpacking about for about 5 months in Sweden – until we got back home we inadvertently ran out of cash, and had to gå till lå to make ends meet there. It was a little stressful, but also enjoyable!

Like Rowan Atkinson’s character, the real Blackadder worked his way up before being promoted to the rank of Captain when he was attached to the North Scottish Royal Garrison Artillery.

He fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross in 1918 where he was honoured for “conspicuous gallantry”.

He survived the war and moved to Sussex where he died in June 1968 aged 84.

Military records have also revealed a real-life Private Baldrick, who served in the trenches before being killed just months after the outbreak of war.

Pte James Baldrick was born in 1892 and was brought up in Londonderry before working as a shop porter in Omagh.

He enlisted in the army reserves and was called up for regular service attached to the British Expeditionary Force.

He fought at the Battle of Le Cateau but was tragically killed on October 20, 1914 aged just 23 at the Battle of Messines. His name appears on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium.

The real Captain Darling, unlike the sneering character played by Tim McInnerny, in the comedy series, had a distinguished military career before dying in February 1933 aged just 45.

Captain John Clive Darling was born in June 1887, the only son of the The Honourable Mr Justice Charles John Darling, 1st Baron Darling and Mary Caroline Darling.

He was educated at St Neots School and Eton, before taking his commissioning course at Sandhurst and joining the cavalry.

He served through the war as a signalling officer to the 20th Hussars until he retired in 1923 as a Major.

He was mentioned in Dispatches on June 13, 1916 and awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

He went on to write a book about his wartime experiences called ’20th Hussars in the Great War’, which was filled with military anecdotes.

Lieutenant George died just two months after war broke out aged 27.

Lt Athelstan Key Durance George was born in March 1887 in Brixton, London and was a direct descendant of Sir William Bloet who fought with William the Conqueror.

He began studying medicine at Cambridge University where he excelled at rowing and fencing before dropping out and joining the army.

He joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment in 1907 and his Colonel described him as the best ‘subaltern’ or second lieutenant he had ever had.

In August 1914 he left for the Western Front after passing an aviation course and fought in the Battles of Mons, Le Cateau and Marne where he was killed on September 9, 1914.

Dominic Hayhoe, chief executive of Forces War Records, said: “We were uploading new information onto our database when we came across a Captain Blackadder.

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

“So we challenged our team of professional researchers and military experts, who are all based in the UK so are familiar with the Blackadder series, to find them, which they did.

“The only person we haven’t been able to track down so far from World War One is a General Melchett.

“But according to the military records we have, he makes an appearance in World War Two.”