16 Thet­ford

Evergreen - - Contents - BRYAN WOODS

episode, Bill Per­twee soon be­came Cap­tain Mainwaring’s ad­ver­sary and an integral part of the pro­gramme.

With six scripts com­pleted and the cast as­sem­bled, they trav­elled to Thet­ford in Nor­folk where lo­ca­tion film­ing took place. This in­cluded the Army’s nearby Stan­ford Mil­i­tary Train­ing Ar­eas. The ac­tors got on well from the start, with even the young Ian Laven­der be­ing made to feel wel­come by the older mem­bers of the cast.

Many peo­ple thought that the theme song to Dad’s Army was from the war. How­ever, “Who do you think you are kid­ding Mr. Hitler?” was ac­tu­ally com­posed by Jimmy Perry and Derek Tav­erner. The two men first met in a Com­bined Ser­vices En­ter­tain­ment Unit dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. Jimmy Perry wrote the lyrics to the song that per­fectly sums up the spirit of Dad’s Army. They were sung by the mu­sichall vet­eran, Bud Flana­gan, who died a few months af­ter record­ing the song. It won the Ivor Novello award for best sig­na­ture tune in 1970.

In the early episodes of Dad’s Army, the open­ing scene fea­tures the an­tics of the Lo­cal De­fence Vol­un­teers. The voice- over for these was pro­vided by E. V. H. Em­mett, who had worked on the old Gau­mont- Bri­tish news­reels of the 1930s and ’ 40s. This also helped to give the pro­grammes an au­then­tic wartime feel.

The char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tion were quickly es­tab­lished by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. In “The Man And The Hour”, Bank Man­ager, Ge­orge Mainwaring, forms the Walm­ing­ton- on- Sea Lo­cal De­fence

Vol­un­teers. As­sum­ing com­mand, he grandly states that “times of peril al­ways bring great men to the fore.” Mainwaring’s sec­ond- in- com­mand, Chief Clerk, Arthur Wil­son, ex­as­per­ates him when Wil­son asks the men, “Would you mind

stepping this way please?” At his in­duc­tion, lo­cal butcher and old sol­dier Jack Jones bribes Mainwaring with some steak to ob­tain the rank of lance cor­po­ral. Jones was based on a real lance cor­po­ral who Jimmy Perry had known in the Home Guard. The pro­duc­tion team took great care to give the pro­grammes an au­then­tic wartime look. The pla­toon drill with carv­ing knives stuck to broom han­dles, and even when their uni­forms and weapons ar­rive from head­quar­ters, they con­sist of arm­bands and sa­chets of pep­per. This is to throw in the faces of the en­emy, be­cause, as Mainwaring

tells his men: “Even the Hun is a very poor fighter with his head buried in a hand­ker­chief.”

Episode two fea­tured an at­tempt by the pla­toon to ob­tain some an­ti­quated firearms from the lo­cal mu­seum. An­other episode in­cluded a failed bid to take over the pla­toon by Cap­tain Mainwaring’s ri­val, Colonel Square. In the fi­nal episode of the first se­ries, en­ti­tled “Shoot­ing Pains”, guest star Bar­bara Wind­sor played sharp­shoot­ing artiste Laura la Plaz. She helps the pla­toon win a ri­fle shoot­ing con­test against the East­gate Pla­toon. Jimmy Perry also ap­peared be­fore the cam­eras — al­beit briefly — as a mu­sic- hall co­me­dian named Char­lie Cheese­man.

Some se­nior mem­bers of the BBC man­age­ment had se­vere doubts about Dad’s Army. Among them was Huw Whel­don, the BBC

Con­troller of Pro­grammes, who was con­vinced that it would fail. How­ever, to their great credit they still gave the pro­gramme their back­ing. The view­ing fig­ures steadily in­creased and feed­back from the pub­lic was gen­er­ally favourable. A sec­ond se­ries was com­mis­sioned and a tele­vi­sion leg­end was born.

MAINWARING: All right, Wil­son, I know you fancy your­self as a ladies’ man. WIL­SON: What? MAINWARING: Those women will have the same dis­ci­pline as the men, so let’s start as we mean to go on. WIL­SON: At least we can be po­lite to them. MAINWARING: I agree. But we don’t need all this Jack Buchanan stuff! ( from “Mum’s Army”, 1970)


Jones’s van saw its fair share of ac­tion dur­ing the pro­gramme’s nine- year run.

MAINWARING: One thing I still don’t un­der­stand, Godfrey. GODFREY: What’s that, sir? MAINWARING: Why have you never worn your medal? GODFREY: Well, it seemed rather os­ten­ta­tious. MAINWARING: Os­ten­ta­tious? If I’d won the Mil­i­tary Medal, I’d have been so proud I’d have worn it on my chest for the world to see. GODFREY: That would have been all right, sir, be­cause you look like a hero. WIL­SON: It just shows, sir, you can’t al­ways go by ap­pear­ances. ( from “Branded”, 1969)

did I ever FRAZER: Cap­tain Mainwaring, the old, empty tell you the story about barn? MAINWARING: No. to hear the story FRAZER: Would you like barn? about the old, empty ev­ery­body, MAINWARING: Yes. Lis­ten us the story about Frazer’s go­ing to tell the old, empty barn. of the old, FRAZER: Right. The story was noth­ing in it. empty barn. Well, there ( from “Go­rilla War­fare”, 1974)

A statue of Cap­tain Mainwaring in the cen­tre of Thet­ford.

MAINWARING: That gun is to­tally use­less with­out its but­ter­fly spring. If a Nazi Storm Trooper came rush­ing in through that door you could do noth­ing with that, but hit him with it. JONES: Per­mis­sion to speak, sir? If Frazer were to hit him with it, it wouldn’t half make his eyes wa­ter. ( from “No Spring For Frazer”, 1969)

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