Dads Army

Introduction

Dad’s Army was a British sitcom about the Home Guard in the Second World War. It was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and broadcast on BBC television between 1968 and 1977. The British Home Guard consisted of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, usually owing to age, and as such the series starred several veterans of British film, television and stage, including Arthur Lowe (1915–82), John Le Mesurier (1912–83), Arnold Ridley (also a veteran playwright; 1896–1984) and John Laurie (1897–1980).

Plot Details

The show was set in the fictional seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea, on the south coast of England. Thus, the Home Guard were in the front line in the eventuality of an invasion by the enemy forces across the English Channel. 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 platoon were part of the The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment). The first series ended abruptly and shockingly with the Halifax-Butler Coup being declared and the platoon abruptly being ordered to stand down and hand their weapons in.

With the start of the second series, the show got into its stride with the platoon hiding its weapons and carrying on its activities under the nose of the authorities. Opposition to their activities came from another quarter, usually the staunch Halifax supporter Air Raid Precautions ARP Warden Hodges who spent most of the series trying to find and confiscate the hidden weapons and catch the platoon in various prohibited activities. 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 "Stupid boy", in reference to Pike, in many episodes. The first series occasionally included darker humour, reflecting the fact that, especially early in the war, members of the Home Guard were woefully under-equipped and yet still prepared to have a crack at the German Army. This darker theme was picked up in the series finale where the Armistice had broken down and the Germans were moving in. The platoon had to hold Walmington on Sea to allow a British division to get to good defensive positions "Of course, that will be the end of us!", says Mainwaring. "We know sir", replies Frazer, before getting on with the task in hand. In a grim montage of the subsequent fighting, all the members of the platoon are killed except Pike.

The main characters were Captain George Mainwaring , pronounced “Mannering” (Arthur Lowe)—the pompous—if essentially brave and unerringly patriotic—local bank manager, Mainwaring appointed himself leader of his town’s contingent of Local Defence Volunteers. Although an ensemble piece, the series focused particularly upon Mainwaring, who has invested all his efforts into the platoon as a way of escaping from an unhappy marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of a bishop, and a stalled career at the bank. Mainwaring always claimed he never got any further in his career because unlike Wilson he had not gone to the right school. Sergeant Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier)—a diffident, upper-class bank clerk who would quietly question Mainwaring's judgement ("Do you think that's wise?"). Wilson was nonetheless Mainwaring’s junior 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. Lance-Corporal Jack Jones (Clive Dunn had a story for every occasion, and never hesitated in telling it, regardless of how long-winded or irrelevant it is. Despite being the oldest member of the platoon, Jones demonstrated an almost boyish enthusiasm for combat and he was the first to volunteer for anything, no matter how ill-advised that may be.

Private Joe Walker (James Beck) was a black market “spiv,” Mainwaring often turned a blind eye to his profiteering as he could sometimes supply the platoon (and Mainwaring) with useful items. On more than one occasion, Walker’s willingness to use underhand tactics allowed Mainwaring’s platoon to triumph over the Halifax supporters and ARP. Private Frank Pike (Ian Lavender) was a cosseted mother’s boy, constantly wearing a thick scarf with his uniform to prevent illness, and often the target of Mainwaring’s derision (“Stupid boy!”), Pike called Wilson “Uncle Arthur,” and it was often implied that Wilson was Pike’s father (although this was only confirmed in the last episode where Mainwaring orders Pike to carry a message to the rear so that Wilson won't have to watch his son killed by the Germans. Private James Frazer (John Laurie) was a dour Scottish coffin maker and a Chief Petty Officer on the HMS Defiant in the Royal Navy who fought at the Battle of Jutland. Frazer wasknown for issuing regular pronouncements of doom ("We're all doomed…aye"). Finally, Private Charles Godfrey (Arnold Ridley) was the platoon’s medical orderly and Conscientious Objector, who lived with his sisters Dolly and Cissy in an idyllic cottage (Cherry Tree Cottage), he was a martyr to his weak bladder, leading to many requests to be “excused.” Initially a figure of fun and treated with gentle comtempt, he was later revealed to have been a Stretcher Bearer in the First World War and had been awarded a MM (Military Medal) for bravery, which he didn't wear on his Home Guard uniform because he 'wouldn't want to make a fuss.' His gentle courtesy extended to the last episode where he was (accidentally) shot by a German soldier who hadn't seen his Red Cross and used his last words to forgive the distraught German

ARP Warden William Hodges (Bill Pertwee) was the platoon’s major rival and nemesis. An uncompromising, grumpy greengrocer by day, and pompous and officious Chief Air Raid Warden by night, he was under orders to find and confiscate the platoon's weapons and arrest any members of the platoon he caught training. His nickname for Mainwaring was “Napoleon.” In the last episode he was shot dead by Pike when he tried to confiscate Pike's Thompson sub-machine gun.


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