Pat Mills, who co-created the seminal World War One-centred comic strip “Charley’s War” with artist Joe Colquhoun, has thanked fans still finding the strip first published in Battle, starting in 1979, in its collections – but has savaged those in the British establishment still trying to justify the senseless slaughter of millions.
“Charley’s War” is arguably the most important British comic war story ever. The script was written by Pat Mills with artwork by Joe Colquhoun and started in early 1979 (the 200th issue of Battle Picture Weekly), revolving around the exploits of Charley Bourne; a 16-year-old idealistic kid who lies about his age so he can leave his job at the bus garage and join Kitchener’s army as it swelled with volunteers, ready for the “Big Push” of summer 1916 (the debacle better known as the Battle of the Somme).
Charley very quickly realises the real facts of the most horrific War of the Twentieth Century and turns very much the anti-hero when all of his mates are cut down on the first of July, the first day of the Somme.
Here’s Pat’s comments in full, posted on Facebook on the anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme, when 16-year-old Charley’s fictional story began:
Thanks to everyone for your thoughts on Charley’s War. It still means so much to me, so much so that I don’t trust myself to think about it too much. Because it is such an emotional subject.
Today is a tragic anniversary when the ‘Best of British’ were murdered by the British ruling class. Because it was Britain that started World War One – for which there is overwhelming and documented evidence (E.D. Morel and others). Not Germany and all that lying Balance of Power tripe they told us at school. That’s about as truthful as Tony Blair’s reasons for invading Iraq.
It’s heartbreaking to see the murder of a generation still remembered as ‘heroic sacrifice’ by the descendants of that same ruling class.
Any voice of dissent is still – with shameful calculation – removed. For example, the words of Harry Patch, the Last Tommy of World War One, who, unfortunately for the establishment, was a pacifist.
It’s worsened in recent years with the Battle of the Somme now being described as a victory, and General Haig as a hero. Shame on the historians and the establishment for lying about our noble forefathers. They deserve better.
• All the Charley’s War site originally created by the late Neil Emery is archived on downthetubes, including lots of links to books and reference. Start here (this will take you straight to the relevant section)
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.