Alf,Bert and Old Bill 001

Bairnsfather– Rafferty is the original Old Bill.

On my recent visit to the British Library I discovered The Weekly Dispatch Article dated 5th August 1917.  ” HAVE I INSULTED THE BRITISH ARMY?”  Parts of the interview with Capt. BRUCE BAIRNSFATHER below,   the report includes a blown up photograph   (above)  of the one he took in the trenches showing the three men named too, Old Bill, Bert and Alf.  (Thomas Henry Rafferty is the man on the right, named by Bairnsfather as Old Bill.)

Bairnsfather said:—

”Old Bill” was as gentle a fighting man as ever shouldered a rifle. He couldn’t possibly be dressed smartly under the conditions under which he existed. He had been a very smart soldier before he was taken from an Aldershot barrack room to make one of a draft of ”French’s contemptible little army.”

When we remember what he went through….the bitter hardships he bore, the makeshifts he put up with, the prodigies of valour he performed at Mons and Ypres and elsewhere —is it any wonder that he cultivated a walrus moustache and wore a disreputable -looking Balaclava ”woolly” over a tattered khaki tunic?

 I have invented nothing. This photograph I took in Plugstreet wood in 1914, and here you see for the first time the originals of Old Bill, Bert, and Alf as I knew them and portrayed them.

(Part of a lengthy interview with Bairnsfather)



My notes— I found this information regards Plugs -Street:_
The name of this small village, and of the nearby wood, is actually Ploegsteert, but to those who served here during the Great War it became known as “Plugstreet”. The village is at the very south of the area associated with Ypres; in fact it is not regarded as part of the ‘Ypres Salient’ by many. It is only about two miles north of Armenitieres, close to the French border and eight miles south of Ypres.