Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Frederick Henry Chaplain

Fred Chaplain, also known as Freddie Chaplain, was the long-time author of Rupert Bear for the Daily Express and I was surprised at how little information seems to be available about him.

Born in Camberwell, Surrey, on 17 August 1913, he joined the Amalgamated Press in 1930 and was a writer of stories and scripts for Rainbow, Playbox, Tiger Tim's Weekly and the related annuals, including Mrs Hippo's and The Bruin Boys' annuals. He was, apparently, author of the long-running 'Bonnie Bluebell & Co Detectives' text stories in Rainbow.

Chaplain joined the RAF in September 1940 but was discharged as medically unfit in 1941 because he suffered from arthritis, a condition that was to become an increasing problem as time went on.

He worked on various children's publications and worked for Odhams for some years in the late 1940s. He also contributed to Mickey Mouse Weekly during this time.

He joined the Daily Express in January 1951 and edited and produced the Rupert Annual each year as well as taking over the writing of the Rupert Adventure Series. This latter series ran to 50 titles between 1948 and 1963 with the first few written by Alfred Bestall. I'm not completely certain when Chaplain took over but it may have been around book 12. I base this on the list of Alfred Bestall's work included in The Life and Works of Alfred Bestall by Caroline G. Bott which notes his involvement with books 8-11 and only the second story in book 12 (p.331) and Bestall's comments in an interview with Alan Clarke (Golden Fun 12, Winter 1981), in which he says:

"Frederick Chaplain had come over from the Amalgamated Press primarily for other duties -- one of which was compiling the catalogue for the Boat Show. When [Stanley] Marshall died, Chaplain was asked to take over his duties. The Express refused to accept my resignation and persuaded me to stay on -- saying they'd take some the pressure off me by getting other artists to work on the Adventure Series. They did this by bringing in a chap by the name of Alex Cubie, who was already in the office, and a woman, Enid Ash. Chaplain would write the stories and Cubie and Ash execute the drawings."

Rupert Adventure Series
1 Rupert and Snuffy. Daily Express, Sep 1948.
2 Rupert and Uncle Bruno. Daily Express, 1949.
3 Rupert and Rollo. Daily Express, 1949.
4 Rupert and the Wrong Presents. Daily Express, Sep 1949.
5 Rupert's Big Game Hunt. Daily Express, 1950?
6 Rupert and the Black Moth. Daily Express, 1950.
7 Rupert and the Little Plane. Daily Express, 1951.
8 Rupert and the Wicked Uncle [and Rupert's Good Resolution]. Daily Express, 1951.
9 Rupert and the New Rose [and Rupert and the Ticking Box]. Daily Express, 1951.
10 Rupert and the Stray Puppy [and Rupert and Willy]. Daily Express, 1951.
11 Rupert and the Little Tree. Daily Express, 1951?
12 Rupert and Neddy [and Rupert and the Silent Dog. Express, Apr 1952.
13 Rupert and the Swan Lake [and Rupert and the Orchestra]. Daily Express, 1952.
14 Rupert and the Tree Tops [and Rupert and the Woodland Magic]. Daily Express, 1952.
15 Rupert and the Rocking Horse [and Rupert and the Half Crowns]. Daily Express, 1953.
16 Rupert and the Boy Pirate [and Rupert and the Hospital Flowers]. Daily Express, 1953.
17 Rupert and the Double Dream [and Rupert and the Pink Sheep]. Daily Express, 1953.
18 Rupert and the Seaside Holiday [and Rupert and the Inventor]. Daily Express, Aug 1953.
19 Rupert and the Spaceship [and Rupert and the Mischief Makers]. Daily Express, 1954.
20 Rupert and the Wild Goose Chase [and Rupert and the Glowing Pool]. Daily Express, 1954.
21 Rupert and the Lost Railway [and Rupert and the Puppet]. Daily Express, 1954.
22 Rupert and the Holiday Ship [and Rupert and the Colour Mixers]. Daily Express, 1954.
23 Rupert and the Snow Sports [and Rupert and the Vanishing Pet]. Daily Express, 1955.
24 Rupert and the Birthday Surprise [and Rupert and the Crooked Jug]. Daily Express, 1955.
25 Rupert and the French Poodles [and Rupert and the New Jersey]. Beaverbrook Newspapers, 1955.
26 Rupert and the Seaside Mystery [and Rupert and the Dandelion Clocks]. Beaverbrook Newspapers, 1955.
27 Rupert and the Happy Wish [and Rupert and the Scarecrow]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1956.
28 Rupert and the Bottled Moonbeams [and Rupert and the Frosties]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1956.
29 Rupert and the Giant's Castle [and Rupert and the Whirlwinds]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1956.
30 Rupert and the Mermaid's Cottage [and Rupert the Secret Holiday]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1956?
31 Rupert and the Snow Pranks [and Rupert and the Shy Coconut]. Oldbourne Book Co. Ltd., 1957?
32 Rupert Spring Adventures [Rupert and the Rope Trick and Rupert and the Lonely Cottage]. Daily Express, 1957.
33 Rupert Summer Adventures [Rupert and the Speckled Seaweed and Rupert and the Scent Garden]. Daily Express, 1957.
35 Rupert Winter Adventures [Rupert and the Angry Dolls and Rupert and Will o' the Wisp]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1958?
36 Rupert Spring Adventures [Rupert and the Toys' Hospital and Rupert and the Big Nest]. Daily Express, 1958.
37 Rupert Summer Adventures [Rupert and the White Horse and Rupert and the Water-Mill]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1958.
38 Rupert Autumn Adventures [Rupert and the Spinning Globe and Rupert and the Royal Conker]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1958.
39 Rupert Spring Adventures [Rupert and the Birthday Candles and Rupert and the Glass Pool]. Daily Express, 1959.
40 Rupert Summer Adventures [Rupert and Santa's Birthday and Rupert and the Dandylion]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1959.
41 Rupert Adventure Book no. 41 [Rupert and the Wild West Game and Rupert and the Baby Cloud]. Daily Express, 1959.
42 Rupert Adventure Book no. 42 [Rupert and the Concert Party and Rupert and the Big Cracker]. Daily Express, 1960.
43 Rupert Adventure Book no. 43 [Rupert and the Land of Games and Rupert and the Redwing]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1960
44 Rupert Adventure Book no. 44.
45 Rupert Adventure Book no. 45 [Rupert and the Water Wings and Rupert and the Pillar-Box]. Daily Express, 1961.
46 Rupert Adventure Book no. 46.
47 Rupert Adventure Book no. 47 [Rupert and the House of Rhymes and Rupert and the Rain Magnet]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1962.
48 Rupert Adventure Book no. 48.
49 Rupert Adventure Book no. 49 [Rupert and the Young Knight and Rupert and the Whirlpool]. Daily Express, 1963.
50 Rupert Adventure Book no. 50 [Rupert and the Little Soldiers and Rupert and the Weeping Willow]. Oldbourne Book Co., 1963.

Chaplain took over the writing of the daily Rupert adventures when Bestall retired in 1965, Bestall's last strip appearing in July of that year. He continued to edit and write the stories until he retired in August 1978. He lived in Kent, where he died in 1981.

Much of the above is derived from a piece by Alan Clark, published in his fine old magazine Golden Fun, where he quotes Alfred Bestall (Golden Fun 13, Spr 1983): "Nutwood seemed to fit 'Chappie' as if he had been born there and the succession of adventures he began to write were just right; he handled later artists Alex Cubie and Enid Ash like a gentle master.

"He was a perfect gentleman," continues Bestall, "meticulous in every piece of work that he touched, ultra-sensitive to other people's feelings and as jealous as 'Uncle Bill' had ever been about the influence of Rupert on the minds of children.

"The pains he suffered following his brief period in the RAF never left him. Toward the end increasing pain kept him quiet in the background but his influence never seemed to fade and it was typical of him to put all his efforts into smoothing the entry of his successor. Fred Chaplain will be sorely missed by all those who knew and worked with him."

Chaplain was the credited writer of a number of later Rupert books, published by Purnell in their Rupert Colour Library series.

Rupert Colour Library
Rupert and the Muddled Magic, illus. John Harrold. Maidenhead, Purnell, 1977.
Rupert and Podgy's Picnic Day, illus. John Harrold. Maidenhead, Purnell, 1977.
Rupert and the Hidden Lake, illus. Colin Petty. Maidenhead, Purnell, 1977.
Rupert and the Swift Journey, illus. Paula Cox. Maidenhead, Purnell, 1977.
Rupert and the Strange Kingdom, illus. Paula Cox. Maidenhead, Purnell, 1977.
Rupert and the Lonely Bird, illus. Colin Petty. Maidenhead, Purnell, 1977.

Can anyone add any more to the list of Chaplain's published writings or supply any family background? Drop me a line if you can add anything about him.


  1. A very interesting post, Steve. I was totally unaware of the link between Rainbow, other AP nursery papers and Rupert. Like yourself, I think it would be good to know more about Fred Chaplain.

    Rainbow was the first paper I read regularly as a tot. Somewhere I may still have my Tiger Tim birthday club badge! It would have been in the late '40s when Rainbow was coming out every other Friday.

    I remember the mystery series you mention as "Frank and Bluebell". That is, I'm assuming it was the same series. . . Thus were the youngest readers prepared for later meetings with the likes of Colwyn Dane and the great Sexton Blake, not to mention the entire pantheon of British detectives, Holmes, the Saint, Poirot et al. Thanks to Fred Chaplain perhaps for developing the taste!

    Today all I have left of Rainbow is three annuals which have sat coincidentally in the same box in the basement as a solitary Rupert annual of the period, though many later Ruperts were brought into the house during my three children's childhoods.

  2. Hi Keith,

    Fascinating as always. Rainbow is a bit of a mystery to me beyond what I've read about characters like Tiger Tim. However, I know enough to know that some of those old between-the-wars comics were a very odd mixture of strips and text -- the funnies sets aimed at youngsters surrounded by incredibly melodramatic serials about mistreated orphans and bizarre detective yarns like 'Martin Steel and his Twelve Lady Assistants' and 'Sylvia Power—The Girl in the Iron Muzzle'.

    I'll bet there are dozens of similar stories. Probably not particularly good examples of detective fiction but they would still make a fascinating volume. If only you could lay your hands on runs of these old papers nowadays!

  3. Chaplain died in 1981 & in 2007 his collection of Rupert material was sold for just over £100000 @ Dukes in Dorchester to enable his widow to leave her bungalow and move into a residential home.

  4. Fred was my uncle, and one of my earliest memeories is of my mother writing rhyming Rupert couplets. From memory, Fred was a dear sweet gentle man, who lived in the world of Nutwood. he brought Rupert to life with love, artistry and attention to detail. Lawrie Horner

  5. Thanks for your comment, Lawrie. If any of your family have memories of Fred or details of his life and career, or perhaps a photograph, you're always welcome to drop me a line.



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