Home Television Comedy Dad’s Army

Dad’s Army

1 9 6 8 – 1 9 7 7 (UK)
83 x 30 minute episodes

The Walmington-On-Sea platoon of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) – more commonly known as the Home Guard – is commanded by pompous bank manager Captain Mainwaring.

Mainwaring (pictured) is incompetent at both these jobs but still feels he will single-handedly lead Britain to victory in WWII.

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He is assisted, both at the bank and in the Home Guard, by Sergeant Wilson (“would you mind awfully sort of falling in to three lovely lines, chaps?”).

Notable characters among the lower ranks are Lance Corporal Jones (the local butcher and Boer War veteran), Private Frazer (a mad and dour Scottish undertaker), Private Godfrey, (a fancy-free but incontinent old man who lived with his sisters Dolly and Sissy and was never known to venture far from a public convenience), Private Pike (a mummies boy excused from the real army due to his unusual blood type) and Private Walker (black market wide-boy about town).

Completing the line-up were Bill Pertwee as Hodges, the prickly Air Raid Warden (and greengrocer in Civvy Street), and Frank Williams as the rather effeminate Vicar.

Dad’s Army was the brainchild of David Croft and actor/writer Jimmy Perry, who had served in the Home Guard at Watford.

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At first, the BBC turned down the series – the programme controller at the time, Paul Fox, felt that you couldn’t take the mickey out of England’s finest hour.

Several of the cast had experience in the army, but only veteran Scottish actor John Laurie who played undertaker Jock Frazer (“we’re doomed!”) had served in the Home Guard.

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Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring) had been a Sergeant-Major in the Second World War while John Le Mesurier (pictured at left) had served in the Royal Armoured Corps.

Unsure how to portray Sgt Wilson (aka Uncle Arthur), he thought: “Why not just be myself, use an extension of my own personality and behave rather as I had done in the army?”.

“So I always left a button or two undone and had the sleeve of my battle-dress blouse slightly turned up. I spoke softly, issued commands as if they were invitations and generally assumed a benign air of helplessness”.

Wilson’s relationship with Private Pike’s mother was also subject of much conjecture.

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Clive Dunn (Jonesy – “Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring!” “Permission to worry you, Mr Mainwaring?”) had an unexpected hit record in the late sixties with a song called Granddad. The B-side was a nifty little ditty called I play the Spoons – “I tap them here, I tap them there . . .”

Dad’s Army feature film was released in 1971 and several years after the last episode of Dad’s Army was transmitted, John Le Mesurier, Ian Lavender, and Bill Pertwee reprised their Dad’s Army roles for a BBC radio sitcom called It Sticks Out Half A Mile. Sadly, no archive recordings of this particular programme are thought to exist.

Two long-lost episodes of the series were unearthed in 2000 following an appeal by BBC archivists for missing TV programmes.

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The BBC had been anxious to trace five missing episodes out of the 80 that were made.

The two episodes, ‘Manoeuvres’ and ‘Operation Kilt’, from 1969, turned up in a pile of rusting film cans handed into the BBC by a man who wished to remain anonymous.

The episodes were among 19 film cans pulled out of a skip at Elstree film studios in Hertfordshire in the 1970s

TRIVIA
Walmington-on-Sea, the imaginary south-coast town “not far from Eastbourne” was loosely based on Bexhill, although the series was filmed at Thetford in Norfolk.

The “Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler?” theme song, which sounds so authentically wartime – largely thanks to the unmistakable voice of Bud Flanagan – was actually written and recorded in 1967/1968 especially for the series by Jimmy Perry.

Rear Guard, a US version of Dad’s Army screened in America by ABC on 10 August 1976 but failed to make it past the pilot stage. As the United States was never seriously in danger of military invasion, a premise depicting the old codgers’ last stand was probably never going to be appreciated as it was in the UK.

dadsarmy76Capt George Mainwaring 
Arthur Lowe
Sgt Arthur Wilson 

John Le Mesurier
Lance Cpl Jack Jones 

Clive Dunn
Pvt Jock Frazer 

John Laurie
Pvt Charles Godfrey 

Arnold Ridley
Pvt Frank Pike 

Ian Lavender
Pvt Joe Walker 

James Beck
ARP Warden Hodges 

Bill Pertwee
Rev Timothy Farthing 

Frank Williams
Verger Yeatman 

Edward Sinclair
Mrs Mavis Pike 

Janet Davies

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