Captain (Charles) Bruce Bairnsfather
(9 July 1887 – 29 September 1959)
Captain (Charles) Bruce Bairnsfather was a prominent British humorist and cartoonist. His best-known cartoon character is Old Bill. Bill and his pals Bert and Alf featured in Bairnsfather's weekly "Fragments from France" cartoons published weekly in "The Bystander" magazine during the First World War.
Born to a military
family in Murree, British India (now Pakistan), he spent his early life in
India, but was brought to England in 1895 to be educated at the United Services
College, Westward Ho!, then at Stratford-upon-Avon. Initially intending a
military career, he failed entrance exams to Sandhurst and Woolwich Military
Academies but joined the Cheshire Regiment.
In 1914 he joined
the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and served with a machine gun unit in France
until 1915, when he was hospitalised with shellshock and hearing damage
sustained during the Second Battle of Ypres. Posted to the 34th Division
headquarters on Salisbury Plain, he developed his humorous series for the
Bystander about life in the trenches, featuring "Old Bill", a curmudgeonly
soldier with trademark walrus moustache and balaclava. The best remembered of
these shows Bill with another trooper in a muddy shell hole with shells whizzing
all around. The other trooper is grumbling and Bill advises: Well, If you knows
of a better 'ole, go to it.
Bairnsfather married Cecilia Agnes Scott.
A commemorative blue plaque appears outside one of his old studios, 1 Sterling Street, Knightsbridge London. The blue plaque was initiated by Tonie and Valmai Holt who later wrote Bairnsfather's biography (In Search of the Better Ole - the Life, the Works and the Collectables of Bruce Bairnsfather) and also sponsored a memorial plaque to Bairnsfather on the cottage at St Yvon in Belgium at the edge of Plugstreet Wood where Bairnsfather drew his first 'trench' cartoons.
The Memorial plaque on the cottage at St Yvon
Information panel located next to the Memorial at St. Yvon