Dad's Army

From Academic Kids

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The cast of Dad's Army (left to right): Pike, Frazer, Warden Hodges (front), Godfrey, Mainwaring (front), Walker, Jones and Wilson
Dad's Army is a British sitcom about the Home Guard in World War II, written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and broadcast on BBC television between 1968 and 1977. Popular at the time and still repeated, it was voted into fourth place in a 2004 BBC poll for Britain's Best Sitcom. Previously, in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, it was placed 13th.

Dad's Army was based partly on Jimmy Perry's experiences in the Local Defence Volunteers - later known as the Home Guard - and partly on the work of comedians such as Will Hay (1888-1945), who was successful in a series of gently satiric British comedies of the 1930s, and the sublimely lugubrious Robb Wilton (1881-1957). The series starred several veterans of British film, television and stage, including Arthur Lowe (1915-82), John Le Mesurier (John Elton Halliley; 1912-83), Arnold Ridley (also a veteran playwright; 1896-1984), John Laurie (1897-1980) and Clive Dunn (1920- ). Relative newcomers in the regular cast were Ian Lavender (1946- ) and James Beck (1929-73), the latter dying suddenly part way through the programme's long run despite being one of the youngest cast members.

Dad's Army was often repeated several years after it was originally shown, and during the 1990s it became widely regarded (along with Morecambe and Wise) as representing a "Golden Age" of British television.


Main characters

  • Captain George Mainwaring, pronounced "Mannering" (Lowe) - the local bank manager, who appointed himself leader of his town's contingent of Local Defence Volunteers. Of the platoon, the only adult member with no prior military experience - and therefore no medals - a fact which often caused tension with the other members of the platoon.
  • Sergeant Arthur Wilson (Le Mesurier) - a diffident, upper-class bank clerk, Wilson was nonetheless Mainwaring's inferior in the bank and on parade; his suave, understated social superiority, public school education and handsome looks led to a certain amount of jealousy on Mainwaring's part. Formerly a Captain during World War One.
  • Lance-Corporal Jack Jones (Dunn) - born in 1870, Jones was an old campaigner who had participated, as a boy soldier, in the campaign of Kitchener of Khartoum in the Sudan between 1896 and 1898. By 1940 he worked as the town butcher, which occasionally enabled him to supplement his superiors' meat ration. Jones was leader of the platoon's first section.
  • Private Joe Walker (Beck) - a black market "spiv", Walker was the only fit, able-bodied man of military age in Walmington-on-Sea's home guard. His absence from the regular armed forces was due to a corned beef allergy, although it was implied that Walker had probably found a way to play the system. Mainwaring often turned a blind eye to his profiteering as he could sometimes supply the platoon with useful items. On more than one occasion, Walker's willingness to use underhand tactics allowed Mainwaring's platoon to triumph over rivals in the Home Guard, Army and ARP.
  • Private Frank Pike (Lavender) - a cossetted mother's boy and often the target of Mainwaring's derision, Pike was a junior bank clerk and the secret son of Sergeant Wilson. Wilson and Pike's mother were not married; unaware of the truth, Pike called his father "Uncle Arthur". Pike's parentage was often implied during the series, although never confirmed on-screen (the writers, however, have acknowledged it in interviews).
  • Private James Frazer (Laurie) - a dour Scottish undertaker, and former sailor in the merchant marine, Frazer had wild staring eyes, and was known for issuing regular pronouncements of doom.
  • Private Charles Godfrey (Ridley) - the platoon's medical orderly, who had served in World War One as a stretcher bearer, winning the Military Medal before becoming a tailor. Godfrey was amiable, vague, and a martyr to his weak bladder.

Many of the characters' back-stories were filled in as the series progressed. After the death of James Beck, the platoon was joined by Welsh journalist Mr Cheeseman, played by Talfryn Thomas (a character called Charlie Cheeseman had appeared in the sixth episode, although the two were unrelated). Mr Cheeseman first appeared in the middle of series six as an incidental character, and appeared throughout series seven as a member of the platoon. He did not return for the eighth and subsequent series.

In addition to the seven featured players, the platoon also included a 'back row' of anonymous extras, who filled the platoon up to size whilst on parade or display. Most of these extras did not speak; an exception was Private Sponge (Colin Bean). First appearing in the second series, he made more frequent appearances as the show went on, particularly after the death of Beck.

Other regular characters

  • ARP Warden Bill Hodges (Bill Pertwee) - a greengrocer in daily life and Mainwaring's nemesis, calling him "Napoleon".
  • Reverend Timothy Farthing (Frank Williams) - effete vicar, sharing the church hall with Mainwaring's platoon.
  • Maurice Yeatman (Edward Sinclair) - the local verger and head of the Sea Scouts group, always siding with the vicar.
  • Anthea Yeatman (Olive Mercer) - the verger's wife - referred to in one episode by her husband as Tracey
  • Mavis Pike (Janet Davies) - Frank's mother and Sergeant Wilson's secret lover.
  • Private Sponge (Colin Bean) - a farmer, leader of the platoon's section two.
  • Captain Square (Geoffrey Lumsden) - a moustached magistrate and rival of Captain Mainwaring.
  • Mrs Fox (Pamela Cundell) - Corporal Jones's lady friend and finally wife.
  • Private Cheeseman (Talfryn Thomas) - Welsh local paper correspondent and photographer who became a member of the platoon.
  • Elizabeth Mainwaring - Captain Mainwaring's wife, never seen or heard directly; she "hasn't left the house since Munich".


Although later episodes were self-contained, the first series had a loose narrative thread, with Captain Mainwaring's platoon being formed and equipped - initially with wooden guns and LDV armbands, and later on full army uniforms. The first episode, The Man and the Hour, began with a scene set in the "present day" of 1968, in which Mainwaring addressed his old platoon as part of the contemporary "I'm Backing Britain" campaign. [1] ( After relating how he had backed Britain in 1940, the episode proper began; Dad's Army is thus told in flashback, although the final episode does not return to the then-present.

The show was set in the fictional seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea. The county was never specified, but it was near another town called Eastgate, and was also mentioned as being near Hastings on the south coast of England. The Invicta crest can be seen on Mainwaring's cap, implying that the programme was set in Kent.

Since the comedy was in many ways dependent for its effectiveness on the platoon's failure to participate actively in World War II, opposition to their activities had to come from another quarter, and this generally showed itself in the form of Air Raid Patrol Warden Hodges.

The humour ranged from the subtle (especially in the relationship between Mainwaring and his sergeant, Wilson, who also happened to be his deputy at the bank) to the slapstick (the antics of the elderly Jones being a prime example). Jones had several catchphrases, including Don't panic!, They don't like it up 'em, Permission to speak, sir, and talk about the Fuzzy-Wuzzies. Mainwaring said You stupid boy, in reference to Pike, at least once an episode. The first series occasionally included darker humour, reflecting the fact that, especially early in the war, members of the Home Guard were woefully underequipped and yet still prepared to have a crack at the German army.

The show's theme tune, "Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler?", was Jimmy Perry's idea, and was intended as a gentle pastiche of wartime songs. Perry wrote the lyrics himself, and composed the music with Derek Taverner. Perry persuaded one of his childhood idols, popular wartime entertainer Bud Flanagan, to sing the theme for a fee of 100 guineas. Flanagan died less than a year after the recording. The version played over the opening credits differs from that recorded by Flanagan. There is an abrupt but inconspicuous edit removing, for timing reasons, two lines of lyrics with a different tune: "So watch out Mr Hitler, you have met your match in us, If you think you can catch us, I'm afraid you've missed the bus". The closing credits featured the same song played as a march by the band of the Coldstream Guards conducted by Trevor L. Sharpe.

The film

As was the case with many British sitcoms of that era, Dad's Army was in 1970 made into a feature film. Backers Columbia Pictures imposed what seemed arbitrary changes (such as recasting Mavis Pike - Liz Frazer took the role - and filming outdoor scenes in Chalfont St Giles rather than Thetford), which made the cast unhappy. The director Norman Cohen, who was also responsible for the original idea to make the film, was nearly fired by the studio.

Jimmy Perry and David Croft wrote the original screenplay. This was expanded by Cohen to try to make it more "cinematic"; Columbia executives made more changes to plot and pacing. As finally realised, two-thirds of the film consists of the creation of the platoon - this was the contribution of Perry and Croft - and the final third shows the platoon in action, rescuing hostages from the church hall where they'd been held captive by three German pilots.

Neither the cast nor Perry and Croft were particularly happy with the result. Perry spent some time arguing for changes to try to reproduce the style of the television series, but with mixed results.

Filming took place between August 10 and September 25, 1970, at Shepperton Studios and various locations. After filming the movie, the cast immediately returned to working on the fourth television series.

The film's UK premiere was on March 12, 1971 at the Columbia Theatre in London. Critical reviews were mixed, but it performed well at the UK box office.

The stage show

In 1975 Dad's Army transferred to the stage as a revue, with songs, familiar scenes from the show, and individual "turns" for cast members. Most of the principal cast transferred with it, with the exception of John Laurie (he was replaced by Hamish Roughead).

Dad's Army: A Nostalgic Music and Laughter Show of Britain's Finest Hour opened at Billingham in Cleveland on September 4, 1975 for a two-week tryout. After cuts and revisions, the show transferred to London's West End and opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre on October 2, 1975. On the opening night there was a surprise appearance by Chesney Allen, singing the old Flanagan and Allen song Hometown with Arthur Lowe.

The show ran in the West End until February 1976, disrupted twice by bomb scares, and then toured the country until September 4, 1976. Clive Dunn was replaced for half the tour by Jack Haig (David Croft's original first choice for the role of Corporal Jones on television).

The radio series

Many TV episodes were remade for BBC Radio 4 with the original cast, although other actors played Walker after James Beck's death. These radio versions were adapted by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles and also starred John Snagge as a newsreader who would set the scene for each episode.

Snoad and Knowles planned a post-war follow up to the radio series, entitled It Sticks Out Half a Mile, which was originally intended to star Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier reprising their Dad's Army roles, but Lowe died shortly after recording the pilot episode, and Bill Pertwee and Ian Lavender were brought in to replace him for a 13-episode series.

Some different actors were used for some of the minor parts, Mrs. Pike and Mrs. Fox (Mollie Sugden), for example.

Cultural impact

The characters of Dad's Army and their catchphrases are well known in the UK due to the popularity of the series when originally shown and the frequency of repeats. On at least two occasions, other productions have included characters resembling members of the Dad's Army platoon for comic effect:

  • The 1987 movie Hope and Glory includes a scene in which members of the Home Guard, looking like characters from Dad's Army, bring an escaped barrage balloon under control.
  • Characters called Mainwaring (Alec Linstead), Wilson (Terence Hardiman) and a clerk similar to Pike appear in a scene set in a 1940s bank in an episode of the 1990s time travel sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart. The central character, Gary Sparrow (played by Nicholas Lyndhurst), who is from the 1990s, is astounded to learn that the three are all members of the local Home Guard platoon, and sings some lines of "Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler?" at them.

For three weeks in January 1971 Clive Dunn, dressed not unlike Corporal Jones out of uniform, was top of the UK music charts with the single "Grandad".

Jones's catchphrase "Don't panic!" may have inspired Douglas Adams to use the same phrase on the cover of the fictional Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the radio series, book, TV series, computer game and film of the same name.

TV episodes

Some of these episodes, particularly from the second series, have been wiped from the BBC's archives, and are noted as such. If you can provide copies of these episodes, please contact the BBC.

Series 1 (black and white)
Title Recorded First broadcast Notes
The Man and the Hour 1968-04-15 1968-07-31
Museum Piece 1968-04-22 1968-08-07
Command Decision 1968-04-29 1968-08-14
The Enemy Within the Gates 1968-05-06 1968-08-28
The Showing Up of Corporal Jones 1968-05-13 1968-09-04
Shooting Pains 1968-05-20 1968-09-11
Series 2 (black and white)
Operation Kilt 1968-10-13 1969-03-01 Thought lost, found in 2001
The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage 1968-10-20 1969-03-08 Thought lost, found in 2001
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker 1968-10-27 1969-03-15 Lost
Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret 1968-11-15 1969-03-22
A Stripe for Frazer 1968-11-15 1969-03-29 Lost
Under Fire 1968-11-27 1969-04-05 Lost
Series 3
The Armoured Might of Lance Corporal Jones 1969-05-25 1969-09-11 First colour episode
Battle School 1969-06-01 1969-09-18
The Lion Has Phones 1969-06-08 1969-09-25
The Bullet is Not for Firing 1969-06-22 1969-10-02
Something Nasty in the Vault 1969-06-15 1969-10-09
Room at the Bottom 1969-06-29 1969-10-16 Colour version lost
Big Guns 1969-07-06 1969-10-23
The Day the Balloon Went Up 1969-10-23 1969-10-30
War Dance 1969-10-30 1969-11-06
Menace from the Deep 1969-11-07 1969-11-13 The Pier episode
Branded 1969-11-14 1969-11-20
Man Hunt 1969-11-21 1969-11-27
No Spring for Frazer 1969-11-28 1969-12-04 The Coffin episode
Sons of the Sea 1969-12-05 1969-12-11
Series 4
The Big Parade 1970-07-17 1970-09-25
Don't Forget the Diver 1970-07-24 1970-10-02
Boots Boots Boots 1970-07-31 1970-10-09
Sergeant - Save My Boy! 1970-06-27 1970-10-16
Don't Fence Me In 1970-07-10 1970-10-23
Absent Friends 1970-08-07 1970-10-30
Put That Light Out! 1970-10-30 1970-11-06
The Two and a Half Feathers 1970-11-06 1970-11-13
Mum's Army 1970-11-13 1970-11-20 The Brief Encounter episode
The Test 1970-11-20 1970-11-27
A. Wilson (Manager)? 1970-11-27 1970-12-04
Uninvited Guests 1970-12-04 1970-12-11
Fallen Idol 1970-12-11 1970-12-18
Christmas special
Battle of the Giants 1971-10-19 1971-12-27
Series 5
Asleep in the Deep 1972-05-26 1972-10-06
Keep Young and Beautiful 1972-06-09 1972-10-13
A Soldier's Farewell 1972-06-02 1972-10-20
Getting the Bird 1972-05-19 1972-10-27
The Desperate Drive of Lance Corporal Jones 1972-06-16 1972-11-03
If the Cap Fits... 1972-06-30 1972-11-10
The King was in his Counting House 1972-06-23 1972-11-17
All is Safely Gathered in 1972-11-03 1972-11-24
When Did You Last See Your Money? 1972-11-10 1972-12-01
Brain Versus Brawn 1972-11-17 1972-12-08
A Brush with the Law 1972-11-26 1972-12-15
Round and Round went the Great Big Wheel 1972-12-01 1972-12-22
Time on my Hands 1972-12-08 1972-12-29
Series 6
The Deadly Attachment 1973-06-22 1973-10-31 The U-Boat crew episode
My British Buddy 1973-06-08 1973-11-07 The American episode
The Royal Train 1973-06-29 1973-11-14
We Know Our Onions 1973-06-15 1973-11-21
The Honourable Man 1973-07-08 1973-11-28
Things that Go Bump in the Night 1973-07-15 1973-12-05
The Recruit 1973-07-22 1973-12-12 First episode without James Beck
Series 7
Everybody's Trucking 1974-10-27 1974-11-15
Man of Action 1974-05-07 1974-11-22
Gorilla Warfare 1974-10-27 1974-11-29
The Godiva Affair 1974-11-03 1974-12-06
The Captain's Car 1974-11-17 1974-12-13
Turkey Dinner 1974-11-10 1974-12-23
Series 8
Ring Dem Bells 1975-07-03 1975-09-05 The Fifth Columnist episode
When You've Got to Go 1975-06-06 1975-09-12
Is There Honey Still for Tea? 1975-06-26 1975-09-19
Come in, Your Time is Up 1975-07-10 1975-09-26
High Finance 1975-05-30 1975-10-03
The Face on the Poster 1975-07-17 1975-10-10
Christmas special
My Brother and I 1975-05-23 1975-12-26
Christmas special
For the Love of Three Oranges 1976-10-10 1976-12-26
Series 9
Wake Up Walmington 1977-07-08 1977-10-02
The Making of Private Pike 1977-07-01 1977-10-09
Knights of Madness 1977-07-22 1977-10-16
The Miser's Hoard 1977-06-24 1977-10-23
Number Engaged 1977-07-15 1977-11-06
Never Too Old 1977-07-29 1977-11-13 The Jones' Marriage episode

Further reading

  • Croft, David; Perry, Jimmy; Webber, Richard (2003). Dad's Army: The Complete Scripts. Orion. ISBN 0752860240
  • Croft, David (2004). You Have Been Watching...: The Autobiography of David Croft. BBC Consumer Publishing (Books). ISBN 0563487399
  • Perry, Jimmy (2003). A Stupid Boy. Arrow. ISBN 009944142X
  • McCann, Graham (2001). Dad's Army: The story of a classic television show. Fourth Estate. ISBN 1841153087

External links


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