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Old Bill

Old Bill [1]

Comic strip(s) Fragments from France
Creator(s) Bruce Bairnsfather
First appearance 1914-15

Old Bill is a fictional character created in 1914-15 by cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather. Old Bill was depicted as an elderly, pipe-smoking British "tommy" with a walrus moustache. The character achieved a great deal of popularity during World War I where it was considered a major morale booster for the British troops. Old Bill and his younger troopmate little Alphie were private infantrymen in the British Expeditionary Force (World War I).

In 1917, a successful musical based on the character, The Better 'Ole, opened in London at the Oxford Music Hall, where it ran for over 800 performances, starring Arthur Bourchier as Old Bill.[1] It later also ran successfully on Broadway, where Charles Coburn starred as Old Bill.

Two film adaptations of the play were made during the silent era. The first, a 1919 British version, starred Charles Rock as Bill. The second version was a 1926 Warner Bros. production. This film—the second feature to use the Vitaphone sound process—starred Syd Chaplin as Old Bill.

The Growth of Democracy by Bruce Bairnsfather 1917


Bill & Alphie's, the Royal Military College of Canada on-campus cadet pub in Kingston, Ontario is named after Bruce Bairnsfather's Great War cartoon characters. Yeo Hall at the Royal Military College of Canada features sculptures of Bill and Alphie.


  1. ^ "Bourchier, Arthur", Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2007, online edn, Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 28 Oct 2008

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