It’s 1916 and Captain Fred Roberts (Ben Chaplin), a diamond prospector-turned-soldier, leads a small detachment of British soldiers through the ruins of Ypres, whereupon he and his men make an amazing discovery in a bombed-out building – an abandoned printing press. Roberts has an idea – why not produce a newspaper?
It may not be the most obvious course of action in the middle of a war zone, but Roberts is a natural leader who, despite two years of service, has maintained his sense of humour and sees this as an opportunity to take his men’s minds off “the attentions of Messrs Hun and Co”. They call it ‘The Wipers Times’ –after the army slang for Ypres – and fill it with spoofs, jokes and subversive comedy in an effort to raise the soldiers’ spirits.
The newspaper proves a hit with the troops on the Western Front, however, its production and circulation is fraught with peril in the face of wartime horrors. Its penchant for lampooning the “top brass” also incurs the wrath of the humourless Lieutenant-General Howfield (Ben Daniels) who wants it banned. With the benevolent General Mitford (Michael Palin) on his side, can Roberts’ comic distraction to the mayhem of war survive?