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)