Blackadder Found to Have Counterpart in Real World

Rowan Atkinson played the titular character in the sitcom Blackadder from 1983 to 1989, with the most recent special being released in 1999. The show ran for four series with three specials, each taking place in a different time period. The fourth and final series took place on the Western Front of WWI. As it now turns out, Captain Edmund Blackadder and his supporting cast were quite similar to real soldiers from the First World War.

Despite the popularity of the show, the fourth series received some backlash for its portrayal of soldiers during the First World War. It was not until recent findings by genealogists working for a website called Forces War Records that a real counterpart of Edmund Blackadder was known to exist. Not only is Atkinson’s character now known to have had a counterpart in real life, but three of the other main characters from the fourth series had historical equivalents as well. These findings were made by Tom Bennington, a young graduate of military history working for the website.

Hugh Laurie played a character on the show named Lieutenant George, who received his education at Cambridge and was rather uptight. In real life, there was another Lieutenant George who attended Cambridge and was descended from William the Conqueror. Edmund Blackadder also had a similar history in both real life and the show. Joining the Army near the end of the nineteenth century, they achieved the same officer rank. There was also a real Private Baldrick of modest origins and a Captain Darling who appears to have worked quite closely with his commanding officer, the Mail Online reports.

General Melchett, the closest the series has to the aforementioned commanding officer, does not have any sort of namesake in the First World War, though there was a General Melchett in WWII. While Blackadder was incredibly popular, the fourth series was less admired by many who felt it made light of the British military in WWI. The series even occasionally seemed to take a pacifistic viewpoint.

While the real Blackadder, George, Baldrick and Darling may not have been exact doppelgangers of the television characters, there were some remarkable similarities between the two sets in terms of both name and history. It seems unlikely that this one done on purpose, but the similarities are still quite interesting. Despite the controversy it may have sparked, some will have to wonder based upon the names of these soldiers what other sorts of commonalities Blackadder and the real WWI might have had in common.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE