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The real ‘Private Baldrick’ was born in Derry

Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder (left) with Tony Robinson as Private Baldrick, promoting the series of Blackadde set during the First World War. (Photo: Martin Keene)

Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder (left) with Tony Robinson as Private Baldrick, promoting the series of Blackadde set during the First World War. (Photo: Martin Keene)

It may be remembered as one of the best BBC comedies of recent times, but it may come as a surprise to learn that Captain Blackadder, Captain Darling and Private Baldrick actually did fight in the First World War.

And research has revealed that Private James Baldrick was from Derry - although unlike his famously dense fictional counterpart, he could actually read and write.

Inspired by the comedy show Backadder Goes Forth, military genealogy experts have delved into the records and the results have been published on the website Forces War Records.

The stories of Captain Robert John Blackadder, Private James Baldrick, Captain John Clive Darling and Lieutenant Athelstan Key Durance George are all detailed.

Dominic Hayhoe, CEO of Forces War Records explains: “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 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.”

According to the records they unearthed James Baldrick was born in 1892 to Mrs Martha Baldrick.

Little is known about his early life, although he is registered as living in Derry in 1901, aged nine.

“The only one of his family who could read, Baldrick worked as a porter in Omagh, before enlisting in the Reserves.

At the outbreak of war he was called up for regular service. Attached to the British Expeditionary Force, Baldrick was sent almost immediately to action at the Battle of Le Cateau.

Tragically, he was killed in action on 20th October 1914 aged 23.

The date suggests that he was killed at the Battle of Messines and his name appears on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium.

With others who were killed from the city, he is also commemorated at the Diamond in Derry.

On the first anniversary of Private Baldrick’s death, his uncle and aunt, Hugh and Maggie Baldrick, had a commemorative poem printed in a local paper.

The real life Private James Baldrick was born in 1892 to Mrs Martha Baldrick. Of the little recorded about him, it is known that he lived at Number 15.1 in Glendermot Road, he was schooled and was the only one of his family who could read. When he moved to Omagh to work as a porter, he left his mother and siblings; William, Isabella and James behind Below is the poem published on the first anniversary of his death...

‘Little we thought when we said good-bye

It was his last farewell;

Sad indeed was the parting

From him we loved so well.

Nobly for King and country

He answered the bugle’s call,

And there at the post of duty,

On the plains of France he fell.

Buried by loving comrades,

Oh, that a friend were nigh

To soothe his aching forehead,

Or hear his dying sigh’.

 

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