A SHINING LIGHT IN THE DAD’S ARMY FAM­ILY

His­to­rian DON­ALD STAN­LEY takes a look at the life of Bill Per­twee, the Dad’s Army ac­tor who was born in Amer­sham

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

BILL Per­twee, the iras­ci­ble War­den Hodges tor­men­tor of Arthur Lowe’s pompous Cap­tain Main­war­ing in tele­vi­sion’s Dad’s Army, was born in Amer­sham in 1926 of a Brazil­ian mother and English fa­ther of French Huguenot an­ces­try.

He was a trav­el­ling sales­man who died when Bill was twelve. His brother was killed whilst serv­ing as air­crew in the Sec­ond World War whilst Bill, be­ing un­fit for mil­i­tary ser­vice, worked for a com­pany mak­ing air­craft ar­ma­ments.

Nei­ther of his par­ents had the­atri­cal con­nec­tions although other mem­bers of the fam­ily in­cluded Michael Per­twee who wrote episodes of the TV se­ries The Saint and Dan­ger Man, and Jon Per­twee known for his roles as Dr Who and Worzel Gum­midge. Bill’s son, James, also be­came an ac­tor.

Bill worked in the Lon­don Stock Ex­change and for Burberry be­fore mak­ing his pro­fes­sional de­but on the stage in a sum­mer show on the Nor­folk Coast at the Gor­leston Pavil­ion in 1955 where he met and mar­ried Mar­ion McLeod whose own par­ents had met and mar­ried whilst ap­pear­ing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Mar­ion danced and sang in sum­mer sea­son sea­side re­views and pan­tomimes through­out the 1950s and 60s.

Together with her brothers she formed The Maple leaf Four who had their own West­ern and Coun­try TV show.

Bill ap­peared in the ra­dio com­edy se­ries Be­yond Our Ken, on tele­vi­sion in Hi-de-Hi and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and on the big screen in two of the Carry On se­ries.

He be­came best known through the sit­com Dad’s Army which ran for nine se­ries and 80 episodes from 1968 to 1977 at­tract­ing au­di­ences of 18 mil­lion view­ers.

Bill wrote a book on the se­ries and be­came Pres­i­dent of the Dad’s Army Ap­pre­ci­a­tion So­ci­ety.

Each sum­mer the cast and crew of the se­ries would stay in Thet­ford to film ex­ter­nal footage in the town and sur­round­ing Nor­folk coun­try­side.

Fit­tingly it be­came the home of the Dad’s Army Mu­seum of which Bill was Pa­tron and where there is a por­trait of him painted by a lo­cal artist.

He was god­fa­ther to the son of Ian Laven­der, who played ‘stupid boy’ Pri­vate Pike in Dad’s Army.

Bill was awarded the MBE for his ser­vices to char­ity. He served on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the En­ter­tain­ment Artistes’ Benev­o­lent Fund which, be­ing best known for the Royal Va­ri­ety Per­for­mance, is now named the Royal Va­ri­ety Char­ity.

PIC­TURE: GARETH CATTERMOLE/GETTY IM­AGES

Iras­ci­ble: Bill Per­twee who was born in Amer­sham in 1926

Glory days: The Dad’s Army cast in 1976. Be­low, help Betty Har­kett to save her 100 year cot­tage from de­mo­li­tion in Hors­ley Sur­rey

Star­ring role: Bill with his Dad’s Army char­ac­ter. Above, film­ing for the video to ac­com­pany an Eng­land World Cup song “Who Do You Think You Are Kid­ding, Jur­gen Klins­mann,” in 2006

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