Blackadder Goes Forth

General Melchett (Stephen Fry), Lieutenant George Barleigh (Hugh Laurie) and Captain Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) discuss an Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race that never was; there were no races 1915 – 1919.

2 January 2019

By Chris Dodd

 The BBC’s seasonal schedule threw up Blackadder Goes Forth for Christmas couch-potatoes, the final series of a sit-com first shown in 1989 that successfully mixes extreme hilarity with coruscating criticism of British Army leadership in World War I.

The following cameo takes place between characters played by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and to appreciate it, readers of HTBS need to be aware that actor Laurie, like his father before him, is a Cambridge Blue.

Laurie at ‘6’ during Boat Race practice, 1980.

A trench in Flanders during World War I

Cast in order of appearance:

General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett – Stephen Fry
Lieutenant The Honourable George Colthurst St Barleigh – Hugh Laurie
Captain Edmund Blackadder – Rowan Atkinson

George, how are you, my boy?


Barleigh (to Blackadder):
Permission to speak, Sir?

Blackadder (Barleigh’s CO):
Nods head in aquiecense.

Barleigh: (to Melchett)
Absolutely top hole, Sir. Ying, yang, yipperty-do!

Splendid. Your uncle Bertie sends his regards. I told them you would have a week off – don’t want you missing the Boat Race, do we?

Certainly not. (To Blackadder) Permission to sing boisterously, Sir?

If you must.

Barleigh and Melchett sing with gestures:

Row, row, row your punt
   Gently down the stream,
Belts off, trousers down,
   Isn’t life a scream!

Long pause.

Fabulous. University education, you can’t beat it.

Laurie The Blue – Lieutenant George meets Bertie Wooster?



  1. And may I add that the gent in the dark suit in that photo looks very much like my fellow member of the TSBC 1st VIII of 1965, Graeme Hall. (Tiffin School Boat Club). Not sure what he was doing here, maybe coaching; Graeme was with another Old Tiffinian, Robin Winckless, in the winning Cambridge 1969 Boat Race crew.

  2. Mark Panter should be in there somewhere… and “Yes” that is the late Graeme Hall

  3. Another fellow member of the Tiffin School 1965 crew, Wayne Smith, sent me an anecdote relating to the Cambridge crew, Graeme Hall, himself with Tideway Scullers and Lou Barry. It’s a little bit of rowing history you may find interesting (there were photos but I can’t attach them here):
    Thanks Ian.
    It certainly looks like Graeme! I know he did coach, at some time, as I met up with him around 1979 in Putney just before getting into the umpires launch for the Boat Race. He tried to get me into the launch but unfortunately no spare seat.
    A bit of an anecdote.
    When Graeme captained Cambridge in 1969 they were coached by Lou Barry. Tideway Scullers were used as a pacing crew for the week or two before the Boat Race. This always ended in a race from Hammersmith bridge to Putney. This had been a tradition for a number of years and Tideway always won. However, this time Cambridge had someone off sick and Lou put me in their boat (not wanting to disturb Isis). Cambridge won and of course they were ecstatic! Graeme wanted to present me with a half-Blue but that didn’t happen.
    I noticed that in the side column, of this web page, Tideway Scullers were mentioned, which got me digging out my Mum’s scrapbook and scanning a few pages. Not well focused but you can see Graeme as stroke and I’m at 7 in the TSS boat during pacing. Apart from Players Cigarettes we also promoted something a bit healthier. Milk!
    See the photo of Lou Barry. He doesn’t seem to get a mention in rowing world history and yet he did so much. 8’s and 4’s winning national selection over a 10-year period and a couple of Olympic silver medals to his credit. Also, he coached Cambridge to win on many occasions. He was shunned by the rowing establishment. Maybe because he had been a professional or possibly because he had established a pseudo national squad with TSS which caused resentment. Maybe because he called one of the Barnes Cottage crew a ‘boat stopper’ when asked to coach them. That person became an ARA selector!
    Happy New year to you all.
    Wayne Smith 04/01/19

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