First World War drama The Wipers Times an instant hit with viewers

Programme Name: Wipers Times - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Embargoed for publication until: n/a - Picture Shows: Battle: (L-R) Roberts (Ben Chaplin), Pearson (Julian Rhind-Tutt), Harris (Steve Oram)  - (C) Trademark Productions - Photographer: HELEN SLOAN

First World War drama The Wipers Times proved an instant hit when it aired on Wednesday, pulling in two million viewers.

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Starring Michael Palin and Ben Chaplin, the BBC Two satirical comedy commanded a 9.9 per cent share of the total viewing figure – almost double the year-to-date slot average of 5.2 per cent (1.1m viewers).

Set in the bombed-out ruins of Ypres in 1916, The Wipers Times follows the true story of Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson who, after discovering a printing press, produced a humorous and subversive trench newspaper.

The 90-minute drama, which aired at 9pm on Wednesday, was penned by Nick Newman and Ian Hislop.

Thousands took to social networking site Twitter to praise the BBC Two programme.

“#WipersTimes was brilliant! Hard-hitting but seriously funny, absolutely superb TV,” wrote one user on Wednesday.

“All I can say is ‘wow’,” wrote another.

Co-writer Nick Newman told historyextra: “We were overwhelmed by the public response to The Wipers Times, which has exceeded all expectations.

“The impressive viewing figures and the fact that we trended on Twitter prove the enduring fascination for this important piece of history. To misquote Wipers – people we take our hats off to: the viewers!”

Earlier, we interviewed Newman to find out what made The Wipers Times newspaper so special, and to ask how he and Ian Hislop brought its story of courage and laughter to television screens.

Meanwhile historian Mark Connelly put The Wipers Times in context with a 60-second guide to Ypres, where the drama is set.

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And you can read extracts of the satirical newspaper here.