Wartime movie being filmed in Co Down

Wartime movie being filmed in Co Down

The fields of wartime Belgium have been recreated in Ballywalter, Co Down for a new movie being filmed over the next month.

Land at the Ballywalter Park Estate has been transformed into the trenches of Ypres, for the movie The Wipers Times.

Starring the likes of Michael Palin and Emilia Fox, the film is based on the true story of how a printing press found in the ruins of the town was used to publish a magazine during the Great War.

Captain Fred Roberts, played by Ben Chaplin, decided to publish a satirical magazine called The Wipers Times - "Wipers" being army slang for Ypres.

The magazine, described as "full of gallows humour", was poignant, subversive and very funny.

Produced literally under enemy fire and defying both authority and gas attacks, the magazine proved a huge success with the troops on the Western Front and was a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.

In his spare time Roberts also managed to win the Military Cross for gallantry.

"I am the sergeant of this band of men," Steve Oram Actor explains on set.

"He is the second in command to Ben Chaplin, we are the people who help make this paper, The Wipers Times. I am just a lackey really."

Fellow actor Julian Rhind-Tutt said after six days of filming they were beginning to get an idea of the horrors of the trenches.

The Wipers Times is the latest production to come to Northern Ireland as tax credit breaks for filming are helping underpin the industry in the region and create local jobs.

"We actually require [film-makers] to use local crew and local talent," Nick Hill from Northern Ireland Screen explains.

"If you look around here you will see that a lot of the crew are local, ancillary staff, vehicles, catering, all local.

"They come here because we have got the skills and talent in Northern Ireland."

Staff at Ballywalter dug the trenches on the 1,100 acre farm to create the battlefield.

But the historical film is not the first be set at the Co Down estate.

"We are fortunate, Northern Ireland Screen have brought a number of films to us now which we are grateful," owner Lord Dunleath said.

"The first was divorcing Jack way back in 1997 when the producer was one Robert Cooper.

"Then Robert and his wife Kate were back just before Christmas when we had another film being shot here called an Innocent Aboard, PG Woodhouse being interned by the Germans during the Second World War."

The Wipers Times will be filming for the next few weeks and is likely to be released next year.


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