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.)
”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)