RESEARCHERS in Wiltshire have proved fact is stranger than fiction by discovering soldiers bearing the names of Blackadder and Baldrick really fought in the First World War.
Earlier this year Education Secretary Michael Gove critcised the hit comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth or spreading myths about the conflict that killed nearly a million Allied servicemen.
But military genealogists have proved several of the characters had real-life counterparts who were all in the trenches.
To mark the centenary of the start of the conflict Forces War Records delved back into its six million military records and discovered Lt Athelstan George served with 1st Battalion the Dorsetshire Regiment and died aged 27 after he was shot in the head.
Capt John Darling of the 20th Hussars survived the war and retired from the army as a major in 1923, Pt James Baldrick was just 23 when he was killed in action on October 20, 1914 during the Battle of Messines.
And Capt Robert Blackadder - a far cry from the cowardly character portrayed by Rowan Atkinson in the series, was awarded the Military Cross in 1918 for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Beaurains.”
He survived the war and was demobilised on in June 1919. He died in Sussex, in June 1968 aged 84.
Dominic Hayhoe, CEO of Forces War Records explained: “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. T “The only person we haven’t been able to track down, so far, from World War 1 is a General Melchett. According to the military records we have, he makes an appearance in World War Two.”
Apart from the obvious similarities of surname, rank and the fact all of them served in the trenches, both Lts George went to Cambridge, rowed for their college, were unmarried, joined the Army as commissioned officers and, it would appear, were of good family stock. They were also both pilots who could draw extremely well.
The two Captains Blackadder rose up the ranks and served in the British Army before the outbreak of the First World War, completing service overseas. Both were bachelors who fought at the Somme in 1916 . They even shared character traits of coolness and resource which earned Robert Blackadder the Military Cross and Edmund Blackadder many laughs for his schemes to escape the trenches and various life-threatening predicaments. The similarities end in the trenches with Robert Blackadder surviving the war unlike his namesake.
Both Baldricks came from humble backgrounds and from illiterate families. However, unlike his TV counterpart, the real Baldrick could read and write.
However Capt John Darling; he has nothing in common with the pen pushing fictional Capt Kevin Darling. Far from being a bureaucrat, the real Darling fought at the battle of Mons, Marne, Aisne and Ypres and his actions earned him the Distinguished Service Order.
Forces War Records said it had noticed a marked increase in people using the site to trace family members who fought in the war. To help them in their search, the company has been making as many military records available as possible. It was whilst they were transcribing an additional 1.5 million pieces of First World War data that they made the discovery.
Visit forces-war-records.co.uk.for more information.