QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2024
  • 312 episodes (21 series)

Panel game that contains lots of difficult questions and a large amount of quite interesting facts. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

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Series M, Episode 2 - Military Matters

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Jeremy Clarkson, Stephen Fry, Sheila Hancock, Jimmy Carr. Copyright: TalkbackThames

Preview clips


- Despite what Jeremy said back in Series B, the 1941 Anglo-Finnish War was not the only time two democracies have declared war on each other; a viewer named Otto Lowe wrote in to correct Jeremy. Examples of other wars between democracies include the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War of 1780-84 and the Football War of 1969 between El Salvador and Honduras (although it only lasted 10 hours). It is also not true that no shots were fired during the 1941 Anglo-Finnish War. 13 people were killed during the war when the British attacked Petsamo port on 30th July 1941. (Forfeit: The only war between two democracies)

- In all seriousness, given that more than 100 million people were killed in wars during the 20th century, that the total number of people ever killed in wars could be as many as one billion, that Albert Einstein described war as: "a cloak that covers acts of murder", and by Antoine de Saint-Exupery as: "a disease, like typhus", it should be noted that to this day, no-one knows why Adolf Hitler had such a silly moustache. Hitler originally had a wide, bushy, curled moustache when he was a corporal during World War I, and one disputed theory was that he trimmed his moustache so his gas mask would fit. This story was told by someone who served with Hitler named Alexander Mortiz Frey, but this theory is not universally believed and Frey later went on to become a satirist and fantasy novelist. Other historians believe that Hitler didn't have the toothbrush until 1919. Hitler's sister-in-law, Bridget Hitler, who was from Liverpool and married to Hitler's half-brother Alois Jr, said that Adolf came to visit Liverpool and that she told Adolf to trim the ends of his moustache to make it less bushy. She later wrote: "As in most things, he went too far."

- Tangent: This military-themed episode is rather difficult for Sheila as she is a Quaker-pacifist. She was not born a Quaker, but was, "a Quaker by convincement," as the movement calls converts. The Fry family were very early Quakers also. Quakers take pacifism very seriously. Jeremy argues that pacifism is all well and good until Hitler comes along, but Sheila says it would have been better to do something before Hitler came along in the first place.

- Tangent: Jimmy says that Hitler is judged very harshly by history, but in the end, he did kill Hitler.

- Tangent: Bridget and Alois Hitler's son, William Patrick Hitler, went to America and won a Purple Heart in the Navy, although he later changed his name to Stuart-Houston. William claimed he wanted to forget anything to do with his uncle, but named his first son Alexander Adolf Stuart-Houston.

- Tangent: There are still nine people in the American phone book called Adolf Hitler, who were presumably named before Hitler's rise to power.

- The name and rank of the man who was overthrown during the mutiny on the Bounty and cast adrift in an open boat was Lieutenant Commander William Bligh. He was not a captain at the time of the mutiny. Bligh was only given a sextant and a pocket watch, but he managed to survive, landing in Timor. This was also not the only time Bligh upset people. He was made governor of New South Wales some years later, and there was another mutiny. (Forfeit: Fletcher Christian, Captain Bligh, Marlon Brando)

- XL Tangent: The reason the mutiny on the Bounty took place was because Christian and the rest of the crew were busy enjoying the "hospitality" of the women of Tahiti, and Bligh ordered the crew to leave them and get back to work. The mission of the Bounty was collecting breadfruit, which the British Navy at the time believed could be the best food for their sailors.

- XL: The Mutiny of the Monkeys took place in 1890 on a British vessel called the Margaret. It was delivering animals from Durban to a zoo in Boston, including 400 cockatoos, 12 snakes, two crocodiles, some monkeys, some parrots, a gorilla and an orangutan. However, things started to go wrong almost immediately. First, the rats ate the grain meant for the cockatoos and thus all the cockatoos died. Then a storm hit the ship, allowing the crocodiles and snakes to escape. Because of this the crew hid in their cabin, while the crocodiles and the snakes fought each other to death until only one crocodile remained: it was then killed by falling cargo. After that the monkeys escaped and climbed the ship's rigging, before being swept out to sea and drowning in another storm. By the time the Margaret landed in Boston, the only animals alive were a gorilla, three monkeys and four parrots.

- XL Tangent: Alan jokes that the Mutiny of the Monkeys took place when Peter Tork of The Monkees had had enough. Jimmy then claims the mother of another member of The Monkees, Mike Naismith, invented Post-It notes by accident. The original invention was meant to be a strong paper glue, but they accidentally created a weak one that they found to be useful. However, Jimmy is then corrected, as the product Mike Naismith's mother invented was actually Tippex.

- XL: A better way of getting yourself out of the army than shooting yourself in the foot was to go to a prostitute while on leave and catch a sexually transmitted disease from them. Shooting oneself in the foot - a "Blighty wound", as it was known - was considered desertion and was punishable by shooting. At the front you were five times more likely to catch an STD than you were to have trench foot. Most soldiers tried to catch an STD, but the illness at the time could be treated. You could however still get a few months off. Paris had 75,000 prostitutes, less than 10% of which were licensed. One contemporary report said that 171,000 British troops visited brothels in a single street in Le Havre in one year. During the German occupation it was an offence for a prostitute to give a German soldier venereal disease, and the offending women could be imprisoned to keep other men safe, but as soon as the Germans started retreating they freed all the prostitutes in the hope that the Allies would catch their STDs. Robert Graves, author of Goodbye to All That, wrote: "These boys had money to spend and knew that they stood a good chance of being killed within a few weeks anyhow. They did not want to die virgins." (Forfeit: Stick a couple of pencils up your nose)

- XL Tangent: During the days of National Service, Sheila knew many actors who pretended to be gay to avoid having to go into the army. Stephen claims he has known more actors who pretended to be straight.

- Out of a roller coaster, a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel and a bumper car, the only one used for a military purpose was a merry-go-round. The soldier would sit on the horse, a servant would hold out a large ring, and the soldier would try and get their lance through the ring to practice their accuracy. This was known as a "carosello".

- Tangent: During the Boer War, it was noticed that the British were not good at aiming and firing rifles, so the Government passed special laws allowing rifle ranges on fairgrounds with live ammunition. These laws still stand today, permitting up to .23 ammunition. Jimmy says it would be good to turn up at a fairground with an AK-47, but Jeremy says it would be problematic because they as so uncontrollable. Someone once gave Jeremy an AK-47 and the other person stood up against a barn door. Jeremy then put the AK-47 into automatic mode and missed the whole door because the gun was so unwieldy. Jimmy says that this explains why The A Team always have people lacking control when firing AK-47s. Jeremy explains that if he aimed and fired an AK-47 at Jimmy, he would actually kill most of the audience.

- Tangent: Alan once fired a machine gun in Vietnam. The Vietnamese have old American weapons from the war (1955-75), and you can buy ammunition to fire. Alan adds that you can use bazookas to shoot cows, but then realises that this is an old stand-up routine of his own.

- The reason maps are so difficult to fold is because there are so many different ways to fold them. Most maps have nine folds one way and two the other way, which means there are 2,048 different ways of folding them, and it is easy to get the wrong order. However, an aeronautical designer named Koryo Miura has designed a way of folding a map where you just hold the opposite corners and it pulls and pushes easily in just one direction. He designed it for solar panels. Jeremy is astonished to find that even he can fold it back with ease.

- Tangent: Alan's father was a navigator in rallying and he could fold up an Ordnance Survey map in the passenger seat of a Mini Cooper in the dark at night.

Magic Trick: Stephen gets out a box of tissues, gives one to each panellist and one to himself. He then tells them to scrunch the tissue into a ball, then bounce it up and down a few times and it should fold out into a shape. Stephen is able to make his tissue into an origami swan, but no-one else succeeds.

- XL: The most morale-boosting thing you can find in a meat pie is people. Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, held a feast for his knights in 1454 that was actually a recruiting stunt to promote a crusade that he wanted to take part in after the Turks had taken control of Constantinople. "The Feast of the Pheasant" included a meat pie which contained 28 musicians who played throughout the meal; a Manneken Pis that urinated rose water; a castle that squirted orange squash into its moat; and a lion chained to a pillar that protected a statue of a nude woman which served mulled wine from her breast. After this pie, a giant enterted with an elephant on a leash. The elephant had a castle on its back, inside of which was a dishevelled nun with her hands held out in prayer, who then implored Philip to go on crusade. The meal motivated the crowd so much they all agreed to take part, but Charles VII of France thought the crusade was a terrible idea and put an end to the plans.

- The worst thing you can find in a Morrison sandwich is a human being. Herbert Morrison, who was a Minister of Supply during 1940, devised an indoor shelter for the poor called the Morrison Shelter. It consisted of a metal-framed bunk-bed, with wire-mesh covering and a metal roof. However, sometimes the upper bunk would collapse and crushed the person below, in what was nicknamed a "Morrison Sandwich". Morrison Shelters were considered safer and more popular with the public than outdoor Anderson Shelters, dug into the ground.

- Tangent: A friend of Sheila's had a Morrison Shelter and it worked, as she survived when her house took a direct hit. Sheila also quite liked her Anderson Shelter. She used to take a pair of binoculars and watch the dog fighters during the Battle of Britain. The only worry that Sheila had was that she would be trapped inside the shelter, so she used to sleep with one hand over her head, because there was an escape hatch at the back. This is still the way Sheila sleeps.

- XL Tangent: Jeremy says there is an Anderson Shelter on his farm which he claims is full of 1970s pornography. Jimmy talks about how people used to leave old pornography in the woods in the days before the internet, something Sheila finds shocking. Jeremy claims that as a child he could not get to the sweet shop without encountering pornography, and that other bizarre things people used to leave include single shoes and cassette tapes.

- XL: All-female military battles differ from all-male ones because it is bees that do the fighting. These are battles between hives of Australian stingless bees. The queens however do not fight. The main attack method is to bite the legs and wings. The victors install their queen as ruler of the conquered hive, and the losers are evicted and left to die.

- XL Tangent: In "Scouting for Boys", Lord Baden-Powell said of bees: "They are quite a model community, for they respect their Queen, and kill their unemployed."

- The panel is shown a photo of a man with a rifle so large that it has to rest on the shoulder of another man to keep it steady, and are asked what thing beginning with "M" you would shoot at with it. The answer is mallards. It is a punt gun, which would rest on a punt boat. Jeremy once used a punt gun to shoot a clay pigeon, and the recoil was so great that he proved, "that a man can actually fly". One shot form a punt gun could bring down 50 mallards in one go. It was used in the USA in the 19th century, but eventually they were banned in 1860 to avoid depletion of the wildlife.

- Tangent: Jeremy was once picked up by a man in Phoenix who was a big figure in the National Rifle Association. The two had very little in common, and after 10 minutes of driving in silence the man asked Jeremy: "What is your personal preference of firearm?"

- The name of the fleet of ships that was defeated in the Anglo-Spanish War of 1589 was the English Armada. This occurred the year after the more famous Spanish Armada, which was not that great a military victory. It was more poor weather that defeated the Spanish rather than Sir Francis Drake. In 1589, Drake decided that the English should send a fleet to completely defeat Spain, but instead England lost 40 ships and the entire adventure was a disaster. (Forfeit: Spanish Armada)

- Tangent: Alan says that the pronunciation of Cadiz is closer to the English pronunciation of Cardiff.

- XL Tangent: 60,000 trees were used to make HMS Victory. When the oaks were grown the saplings would have ropes tied around them so the branches would grow into bends. Shipwrights needed the wood to be a particular shape in order to make the hull and keel most effectively.

General Ignorance

- 100 points are on offer to the person who correctly guesses where the first or last shots were fired during World War I. No-one guesses correctly because the answers are Togoland and Tanganyika respectively. Togoland, now Togo, was a German colony, and on 7th August 1914, three days after war was declared on 4th August, Britain attacked Togoland. Regimental Sergeant Major Alhaji Grunshi was the first to shoot back when the German-led police force shot the approaching British forces. The last battle of WWI was on a golf course in Northern Rhodesia, now called Zambia. They eventually stopped fighting, but the Germans fought for ages afterwards in Tanganyika, now Tanzania, not surrendering until 25th November, 1918. (Forfeit: France)

- Tangent: Jeremy says because he is so terrible a shot that he would be the perfect armed guard for a Quaker meeting.

- The last of the Mohicans are still alive and well, and now run casinos. There are two tribes that have been known as Mohicans. These include the Mohegans from Connecticut who run the Casino of the Sky (which Alan has visited); and the Mahicans from Wisconsin who run a casino at the North Star Mohican Resort, known as the "Midwest's Friendliest Casino".

- Tangent: Jeremy is unsure as to use of the term "Indians" in reference to native peoples of the Americas. However, Stephen found out while he was filming a documentary that the various tribes call each other Indians, and that the main political body for them is called the American Indian Movement. Jeremy claims he nearly got fired from the BBC for using the term "American Indian".

- XL Tangent: The hairstyle that the British call a Mohican and the Americans call a Mohawk does not come from either of these tribes. It comes from the Pawnees.


- Sheila Hancock: -2 points
- Jimmy Carr: -8 points
- Jeremy Clarkson: -13 points
- Alan Davies: -14 points

Broadcast details

Friday 23rd October 2015
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 24th October 2015 9:00pm
45 minute version
Saturday 24th October 2015 11:15pm
45 minute version
BBC2 Scot
Wednesday 25th May 2016 10:00pm BBC2
Tuesday 30th August 2016 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 31st August 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Tuesday 11th October 2016 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 12th October 2016 2:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 22nd January 2017 1:00am
60 minute version
Saturday 18th March 2017 10:00pm
45 minute version
Monday 3rd July 2017 12:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 8th October 2017 1:00am
60 minute version
Tuesday 3rd April 2018 7:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 18th August 2018 11:30pm
60 minute version
Sunday 7th April 2019 10:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 23rd July 2019 8:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 5th November 2019 7:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 24th January 2020 6:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 6th April 2020 11:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 22nd September 2020 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 5th May 2021 1:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 5th May 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 6th May 2021 1:40am
65 minute version
Tuesday 24th August 2021 9:00pm Dave
Wednesday 25th August 2021 6:00pm Dave
Saturday 25th September 2021 10:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 26th September 2021 1:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 16th January 2022 8:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 27th May 2022 11:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 8th September 2022 11:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 18th April 2023 8:20pm Dave
Monday 11th September 2023 10:40pm Dave

Cast & crew

Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Jimmy Carr Guest
Jeremy Clarkson Guest
Sheila Hancock Guest
Scott Penrose Master Magician
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Mat Coward Researcher
James Harkin Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Alex Bell Researcher
Anne Miller Question Writer
Stevyn Colgan Question Writer
Anna Ptaszynski Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Sohail Shah Executive Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Howard Goodall Composer



Jeremy Clarkson is astonished at some special folding paper, and Stephen Fry performs a trick with a tissue.

Featuring: Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, Jimmy Carr, Jeremy Clarkson & Shelia Hancock.


Review - QI: series M, episode 2: Military Matters

As one of this week's guests was Jimmy Carr I was expecting the latest edition of QI to be rather smutty: gladly, it turns out I was wrong. In fact, this episode was a lot better than I was expecting.

Ian Wolf, On The Box, 25th October 2015

Jeremy Clarkson on QI: Five things we've learned

Unlike the cautious host we saw on Have I Got News For You, Clarkson was back in his element on QI - once again seemingly entirely comfortable with his status as PC pariah says Ed Power.

Ed Power, The Telegraph, 23rd October 2015

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