Home Television Comedy It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum

It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum

1 9 7 4 – 1 9 8 1 (UK)
56 x 30 minute episodes

Following his success with Dad’s Army, co-creator Jimmy Perry drew on his experiences as a member of a Royal Artillery Concert Party in Deolali, India, to create another World War II bound comedy series.

The motley crew sent to entertain the British troops in India were the responsibility of Sergeant Major Williams (the brilliant Windsor Davies), a gruff Welsh RSM who referred to his charges as ”A bunch of pooftahs” and whose favourite command was “Shut Up!”.

The concert party included Bombardier “Solly” Solomons (written out after the early episodes), Bombardier Beaumont (who was very effeminate, dressed up in drag for the concerts, and was constantly referred to as ”Gloria”), an intellectual pianist referred to by Williams as ”Mr La-de-Da” Gunner Graham, chief vocalist “Lofty” Sugden (so called because he was extremely short) and Gunner Parkins (who the Sgt Major treated kindly and referred to as ”Lovely Boy” because he believed him to be his illegitimate son), Scotsman Gunner Mackintosh, and Gunners Clark and Evans.

The entire troupe was run by a couple of commissioned buffoons called Colonel Reynolds and Captain Ashwood.

The high-camp hi-jinks allowed for a broad music-hall-style humour to emerge, and the production had a manic energy about it, creating a wholly different atmosphere to the rather measured pace of Dad’s Army.

All the same, there were some similarities, principally the writers’ dogged attempts to give most of the characters their own catchphrases. Unlike their earlier series, however, few of them stuck this time around.

The local Wallahs genuinely considered themselves to be true Brits, providing much of the racial humour. Michael Bates (in black make-up and a turban) played the part of chief Wallah and narrator Rangi Ram.

Detractors claimed that, at the very least, a real Indian actor could have been cast in the part rather than a white-skinned man. Bates had a tongue-in-cheek response: he pointed out that he was born in Janshi, India, spoke Hindustani before he learned English, and, as the two genuinely brown faces in the cast actually belonged to a Pakistani and a Bangladeshi, he was, in fact, the only real Indian in the production.

ainthalfhotmum_002

Sadly, Bates died in 1978, and the part of Char-Wallah Muhammed was increased to maintain the balance. By this time, the vengeful, petty-minded BSM Williams was the dominant force in the show, constantly boiling over with anger at the inefficiency of his gunners.

Fake palm trees and a polystyrene crocodile were additions to a ”jungle” in Norfolk where the series was made. And it wasn’t half cold there for the cast.

They shivered with glycerine ”sweat” applied to their foreheads and chests, and to make the mist for the ”swamp”, dry ice was dunked in mud and stirred. The desert was a Sussex coast sandpit.

itainthalfhotmum_4The physical contrast in size and volume between Williams (Windsor Davies) and ”Lofty” (Don Estelle) drew the biggest rewards and the two created an unlikely double-act that resulted, incredibly, in a #1 hit single in 1975 with their rendition of Whispering Grass.

The last episode of the series showed the team ”demobbed” and on their way home.

Windsor Davies passed away in January 2019, aged 88.

RSM Williams
Windsor Davies
Rangi Ram
Michael Bates
Bombardier ”Gloria” Beaumont
Melvyn Hayes
Bombardier ”Solly” Solomons
George Layton
Gunner ”Lofty” Sugden
Don Estelle
Gunner Graham
John Clegg
Gunner Parkins
Christopher Mitchell
Gunner Mackintosh

Stuart McGugan
Gunner Nobby Clark 

Kenneth MacDonald
Gunner Nigel Parkin 

Christopher Mitchell
Gunner ”Nosher” Evans 

Mike Kinsey
Colonel Reynolds 

Donald Hewlett
Captain Ashwood 

Michael Knowles
Punka Wallah Rumzan 

Babar Bhatti
Char-Wallah Muhammed

Dino Shafeek 
Ah Syn, the cook 

Andy Ho