A war history plan so cunning...

Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder in the television series Blackadder Goes Forth.
Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder in the television series Blackadder Goes Forth.

Satirical television programmes such as Blackadder have left Britons without a proper understanding of World War I, a defence minister has said.

Dr Andrew Murrison, who was a surgeon commander with the Royal Navy, told the House of Commons that television programmes had effectively hijacked people's collective appreciation of war.

Murrison said the country was losing its "tangible links" to the conflict after the deaths of the last surviving veterans. His comments came after BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman said last month that it was "astonishing" that schoolchildren were being shown episodes of Blackadder Goes Forth to teach them about the war.

In a Commons debate to commemorate World War I, Murrison said Britain needed a "richer" and "deeper" understanding of the war.

"We must commemorate this centenary because with the passing in 2009 of Harry Patch, Bill Stone and Henry Allingham, our last tangible links with the First World War are retreating into the shadows," he said.

"We risk disconnection from a defining event of our time and an opportunity, perhaps, to balance the Oh! What A Lovely War/Blackadder take on history, that has sadly been in the ascendant for the past 50 years."

He said it was not for Governments to dictate "approved versions of history".

Paxman told the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October that it was "remarkable" that satirical television programmes were being used to educate children about the war. "It was a terrible thing and there was a terrible loss of life," he said. "I think we owe these people a duty of respect."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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