British Comic Characters Profiled | Charley’s War

Charlie Bourne of Charley's War by Patrick Goddard
Charley Bourne by Patrick Goddard

Over the last few years Moose Harris and I have maintained the semi-official Charley’s War web site, originally established by Neil Emery, which helped generate enough renewed interest in the World War One comic strip by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun to persuade Titan Books to reprint it.

In 2015, hosting problems with the site meant I had to make the decision to import its postings and features to downthetubes to ensure its survival.

I hope you’ll find the pages now gathered here about Charley’s War and other war comics of interest.

In 2022, Pat Mills began to chart his own history of the powerful anti-war strip, which he co-created with artist Joe Colquhoun. His “Secret History” account of the series creation features as part of his ongoing subscription-based Iconoblast newsletter, the first two chapters available as free-to-read introductions, here and here.

John Freeman

Charley's War Volume 1 - Rebellion Edition 2018



Buy Charley’s War in English (Rebellion and Titan editions guide)

Buy Charley’s War Volume 1: Boy Soldier: The Definitive Collection from

Buy Charley’s War Volume 2: Boy Soldier: The Definitive Collection from

Buy Charley’s War Volume 3: Boy Soldier: The Definitive Collection from

Buy Charley’s War in French



Charley’s War: Background

Charley’s War: The Characters

Charley’s War: Stripography

Charley’s War: The Script – Themes

Visual Realism in Charley’s War

Looking Back at “The Monocled Mutineer”, and Charley’s War, too




Pat Mills with liquorice pipe

Pat Mills created and wrote all the weekly World War One “Charley’s War” adventures. He did not write stories that appeared in the Battle Holiday Specials or Annuals.

• Interview with Pat Mills by Neil Emery
Conducted by Neil Emery in 2002

• Interview with Pat Mills for Memorabilia Magazine
Conducted by John Freeman in 2004

• Readers Questions for Pat Mills

In 2022, Pat Mills began to chart his own history of the powerful anti-war strip, which he co-created with artist Joe Colquhoun. His “Secret History” account of the series creation features as part of his ongoing subscription-based Iconoblast newsletter, the first two chapters available as free-to-read introductions, here and here.

His posts about Charley’s War – available only to paid subscribers – are as follows… (This list last update 8th August 2023). The copy about each chapter is written by Pat

Secret History: Charleys War Intro 1
But why this need to change our past? Because as George Orwell said, ‘Who controls the past controls the future.’ The British publishers helped by acting as gatekeepers, blocking authors who dared to tell the truth about the war and General Haig.

Secret History: Charley’s War Intro 2
A Sandhurst historian had insisted, with killjoy relish, that British machine gunners firing off belts of bullets to boil their tea was completely apocryphal. I paid a researcher to prove it was true (these days I try not to fall into such tedious troll traps).

Secret History: Charley’s War Origins 1
With Johnny Red, Joe went through an amazing renaissance that left us all absolutely gob-smacked. We’d never seen anything like it. The action and the detail were mesmerising.

Secret History: Charley’s War 2 – The Somme
Making Charley unquestioning and patriotic ensured there was no polemic that might put off the more jingoistic reader, but there still needed to be a critical voice and that came in the form of his best mate Ginger, brilliantly rendered by Joe. Who was Ginger based on? I imagine partly on me.

Secret History: Charley’s War – Cavalry Charge/13th Runner
I covered the last cavalry charge with the nightmarish figure of a gas-masked British horse & rider. And Warrior, a warhorse based on the book by General Jack Seely.

Secret History: Charley’s War – The Death of Ginger
The sudden death of a major character like Ginger would usually be signposted by extended scenes dwelling on him before his demise.

Secret History: Charley’s War – Judgement Troopers
Originally, I had Charley shooting Titch, rather than letting him drown in the mud. Such events happened in the war, but I was censored here by the editor. In retrospect, what I should have done was have Charley try, and find he was unable to shoot Titch.

Secret History: Charley’s War 1917 – The Zeppelins
In Charley, at least, you will have the satisfaction of seeing the merchant of death cringing in his hellish factory, saying ‘I’ve got to get away. This place is a death trap!’

Secret History: Charley’s War – Blue’s Story
I was inspired to write about the foreign legion by reading Beau Geste, Beau Sabreur and Beau Ideal by P.C. Wren, as a boy. By comparison, Luck of the Legion in the Eagle comic left me cold. There are some excellent scenes of Legion justice. If they seem a bit gung-ho at times, it was worth it to show the insanity of Verdun.

Secret History: Charley’s War Return to the Front
I can’t see Captain Snell or those officers who produced the Wipers Times enjoying ragtime, can you? It’s far too cool. Yet Charley Bourne and his mates proudly called themselves the Ragtime Infantry.

Secret History: Charley’s War The Clay-kickers
The challenges these poor devils had to face are understood and we’re empathising with them as they ‘clay-kick’ their way through the earth.

Secret History: Charley’s War – The Third Battle of Ypres & The Great Mutiny
I read that the cement for the German pillboxes originally came from Britain via neutral Holland, but couldn’t confirm it, so I left it out. Later I found the evidence.

Secret History: Charley’s War – The Stretcher Bearer
All the issues that come up in Charley’s War, and notably in the stretcher bearer story, such as shell shock, now known as PTSD or complex PTSD, are still around today.

Secret History: Charley meets an infamous character
in which Charley meets a young version of the most infamous character of World War II. He who cannot be named!

Secret History: Charley’s War – 1918
Introducing Charley’s brother, Wilf, who as a gunner-observer, gave me the chance to show the courage of ordinary airmen. And Charley gets a blighty one.

Secret History: Charley’s War – The Giant Gothas & The Battle of the Falklands
It’s important for me to depict realistic heroes, so Charley gets married to Nurse Wincer. And why my ship story wasn’t a hit with the readers.

Secret History: Charley’s War – The German Offensive & The Arrival of the Americans
Charley befriends black American soldiers: the Harlem Hellfighters and the editor imposed the most abhorrent censorship which he has since denied, but which I stand my ground on.

Secret History: Charley’s War – Prisoner of War & The Final Round
Charley is reunited with his cousin Jack and the two of them plan to escape, with an ingenuity worthy of the The Great Escape.

Secret History: Charley’s War – The Russian Front
If it hadn’t been for Charley’s War, I doubt many people today would even be aware of this unwarranted invasion of a sovereign nation.

Secret History of Comics: Charley’s War – Train Wars
“Lonely mounds of weed-covered clay crowned with wooden Greek crosses…the lonely graves of workmen who were butchered by the British because they might be sympathisers with Bolshevism”

Secret History: Charley’s War – The Home Front
It was a Britain of shell-shocked veterans, drug addiction, unemployment, the ground-breaking anti-war film J’Accuse, Jazz, and…. revolution.

Secret History: Charley’s War – 1933 & WW2
I still find it upsetting to read the harsh ‘means test’ Charley and his family are subjected to. He decides to go to the library: ‘That’ll kill a few hours. Least it’s warm.’

Secret History: Charley’s War – The Second World War Part 2
Joe Colquhoun is our greatest British comic artist and – out of respect and as a tribute to him – there should be a special collection of his art, including the Second World War stories.

Secret History: Charley’s War – The publishing history
I had to make a decision: allow the series to go ahead so that its subversive message could reach new generations of readers? Or kick up such a fuss that it might jeopardise the whole series?

Secret History: Charley’s War – The French Connection
Delirium publisher launched such a massive marketing campaign, Charley’s War even received an excellent review on the French Ministry of Defence website.

Secret History: Charley’s War successors Part 1
Rebellion 1920; Dougie’s War; Liontamer; Fred’s War

Secret History: Charley’s War Successors Part 2
Brothers In Arms and Dead Man’s Dump – collaborations with David Hitchcock.

Secret History: Charley’s War Successors Part 3
Ragtime Soldier in Great War Dundee magazine, my WIP WW1 thriller novel and the 50th Anniversary of Battle Comic.

Secret History: Charley’s War – The Centenary Years Part 1
“Politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.”


Joe Colquhoun. Image via Paul Trimble
Joe Colquhoun. Image via Paul Trimble

Joe Colquhoun drew all the regular episodes of ‘Charley’s War’

• Joe Colquhoun Profile

• Joe Colquhoun Stripography
Compiled with the help of Steve Holland and others

• Joe Colquhoun Interview
Conducted in 1982 for Fantasy Express by Stephen Oldman and reproduced here with the kind permission of Stephen Oldman and editor Lew Stringer

In Memoriam: Scott Goodall MBE
Scott wrote the World War Two episodes of “Charley’s War”, but the the series was cancelled

• Dave Hunt Interview
Dave Hunt was the editor who first commissioned ‘Charley’s War’ for Battle

Simon Ward Interview
Simon edited the tenth volume of Charley’s War for Titan Books

Charley’s War: Tributes

The ongoing popularity of “Charley’s War”, created by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun, has seen many tributes down the years. Here are just a few…


World War One

The Battle of The Somme

World War One: Comic Creator Connections: John Freeman

John, who edited some of the Titan Books Charley’s War collections, recalls his ancestor, Noel Houghton Treleaven

Web Links and Further Reading


About the Charley’s War Pages on DownTheTubes


Neil Emery, creator of the original Charley's War web site

In Memoriam: Neil Emery

Charley’s War created by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun


2 replies

  1. Never read any Charley’s War previously but am intrigued. Would you recommend diving straight into The Definitive Collection, familiarising myself with the history or is there something else that I should read first?

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