British Comedy Guide

Dad's Army. Image shows from L to R: Private Godfrey (Arnold Ridley), Lance Corporal Jones (Clive Dunn), Private Walker (James Beck), Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe), Private Frazer (John Laurie), Sergeant Wilson (John Le Mesurier), Private Pike (Ian Lavender).

Dad's Army

BBC One sitcom about a home guard unit. 80 episodes (9 series), 1968 - 1977. Stars Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, John Laurie and others.

Series 4, Episode 12 is repeated on BBC2 today at 8:30pm

Captain Mainwaring

AKA: Captain George Mainwaring; Napoleon.  Captain in the Home Guard; Bank Manager.   Played by: Arthur Lowe
Dad's Army. Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe). Copyright: BBC.

George Mainwaring is the pompous yet brave manager of Swallow Bank in Walmington-on-Sea, and Captain of the town's Home Guard unit, a position he got by giving it to himself.

Mainwaring comes from a working class background which he tries to hide. He claims his father was a master tailor, although he was really a common draper. Mainwaring has worked hard to get where he is today, but he knows that Wilson, with his public school background, will more often than not get the better of him.

All his life Mainwaring wanted to be an officer and a gentleman, to lead men into battle and later wear medals on his chest. As soon as he was old enough he tried to join the army but was refused because of his poor eyesight. After being turned down by the army, Mainwaring went into banking: a profession in which he excelled, and it seemed he'd found a niche in life.

When war broke out in the summer of 1914 Mainwaring saw his chance to finally be a soldier and wear the medals he craved. However he was once more rejected when he went to volunteer. He kept trying to join up and finally he was accepted and was commissioned as an officer in November 1918, arriving in France just after the war had ended, too late to get any medals.

However, he served in the army of occupation throughout the whole of 1919 - as he says, "someone had to clear the mess up!" Upon returning to civvy street he went back into banking and was eventually posted to Walmington.

Mainwaring is not universally popular in town. Whilst largely respected, his pomposity is his undoing, and he is particularly disliked by grocer Hodges, who often proves a greater enemy to the Home Guard than the Germans do! George also regularly comes into conflict with the Vicar and Verger who run the church hall the platoon parade in, but more often than not Mainwaring gets his way.

The great exception to this rule is with regard to his wife, Elizabeth. While she is never seen, it is clear that they are not the happiest of married couples!

Sergeant Wilson

AKA: Sergeant Arthur Wilson; The Honourable Arthur Wilson; Uncle Arthur.  Sergeant in the Home Guard; Chief Bank Clerk.   Played by: John Le Mesurier
Dad's Army. Sergeant Wilson (John Le Mesurier). Copyright: BBC.

Arthur Wilson is Mainwaring's second-in-command, both in the platoon and at the bank, in his role as Chief Clerk.

Wilson comes from a well-off background. His father held a position in the City and was able to send him to public school; Arthur eventually inherits the title of "The Honourable" upon an uncle's death.

Despite this, he's relaxed to the point of becoming comatose and would far rather lead a much simpler life than the one many push him into. Despite his laid-back approach to life, Wilson manages effortlessly to come up trumps in any situation - much to Mainwaring's chagrin.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Wilson's life are his private affairs. When the Great War broke out in 1914, Wilson joined the army and built a distinguished record, serving as a Sergeant at Mons, Passchendale and Gallipoli, eventually become a Captain. After hostilities ceased he went into banking, initially at the Weston Super-Mare branch of Swallow Bank. It was whilst working there that he met widow Mavis Pike.

The precise nature of Wilson's relationship with Mavis is a little of a mystery and it has long been suspected that Wilson is the father of her son, Frank, who refers to him as "Uncle Arthur". These rumours are further fuelled by the fact that when Wilson was transferred to Walmington-on-Sea to work as Chief Clerk, Mavis and Frank moved too.

Lance Corporal Jones

AKA: Lance Corporal Jack Jones.  Lance Corporal in the Home Guard; Butcher; Former Lance Corporal in the British Army.   Played by: Clive Dunn
Dad's Army. Lance Corporal Jones (Clive Dunn). Copyright: BBC.

Jack Jones is a local butcher and a former Lance Corporal in the British Army, a title he keeps when he joins the Home Guard as head of No. 1 Section, by bribing Mainwaring and Wilson with some elicit free meat.

At 70, Jones is technically 5 years too old to be in the Home Guard, and is definitely not one of the fittest members of the platoon - but there's no doubt he's the keenest, volunteering for any task, no matter how small, large or dangerous.

He is also by far the most experienced in terms of actual combat. Jones signed on with the Army as a drummer boy in 1884 and served in many campaigns, including trying to relive General Gordon in Khartoum. He fought two campaigns in the Sudan, against the Mad Mhadi and the "Fuzzy Wuzzies"; the second being under General Kitchener, climaxing at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898.

Jones also served in India and saw action in both the Boer War and the Great War, but was invalided out in 1915 due to failing eyesight.

Jack Jones has many ideas on how to fight a war. As he was never good at shooting, he prefers combat with his bayonet - often leading to claims that the opposition "don't like it up 'em!"

Jones is of particular use to Mainwaring as he owns a large butcher's van, which he allows to be modified for use as the platoon's transport (an idea concocted by Walker so that he could get some free petrol).

Jones also uses his job as a butcher to his advantage, bribing others with under-the-counter extra meat when the need arises. He also finds many of his female customers trying to get a little something on the side. One such customer is Mrs. Fox, with whom Jones later falls in love; although he's never wholly sure whether she loves him for himself or loves him for his meat.

Private Frazer

AKA: Private James Frazer.  Private in the Home Guard; Funeral Director; former Chief Petty Officer in the British Navy; former .   Played by: John Laurie
Dad's Army. Private Frazer (John Laurie). Copyright: BBC.

Scotsman James Frazer is one of the platoon's many privates.

Of all the members of the platoon it is Frazer who is more often than not the most troublesome, questioning the views of others including Mainwaring and often claiming that situations are so hopeless that, "We're doomed!"

Formerly the proprietor of a quiet shop catering for stamp collectors, Frazer began making coffins back in Scotland and is now Walmington's undertaker - although he insists on the term 'Funeral Director'.

Raised on the Isle of Barra, Frazer has lead a nautical life and in the past has also worked as a fisherman and a pearl diver in the South Seas. Serving as a Navy cook during the Great War, he saw action at the Battle of Jutland and reached the rank of Chief Petty Officer - although he later got busted for attacking another officer with a boat hook while drunk.

Prone to pessimism, gross exaggerations and dark stories, Frazer is also somewhat of a miser. Extremely cautious with his possessions, hospitality and financial assets. He doesn't trust banks, and certainly not Mainwaring's.

Private Godfrey

AKA: Private Charles Godfrey.  Medical Orderly in the Home Guard; Retired Gentleman's Outfitter.   Played by: Arnold Ridley
Dad's Army. Private Godfrey (Arnold Ridley). Copyright: BBC.

Charles Godfrey is the oldest member of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard.

A kind man, Godfrey worked for 35 years in Civil Service Stores where he worked mainly in gentleman's outfitting, although he did also serve in the sports department. He could have also got a better job in accounts, but turned it down because it was on the fifth floor and he dislikes heights.

During the Great War, Godfrey was a conscientious objector - a fact that horrifies Mainwaring and leads much of the platoon to distance themselves from him when it is revealed. However, it is later discovered that he volunteered for the medical corps and earned the Military Medal for venturing into No-Man's Land and saving several lives during the Battle of the Somme. When Mainwaring learns about this he appoints Godfrey as the platoon's medical orderly.

In his old age however, it is more often than not Godfrey himself who needs attention. Suffering from gout, rheumatism and a very weak bladder, he makes regular visits to the local clinic, and even more regular visits to the lavatory.

When not involved with the Home Guard Godfrey enjoys playing bowls and working in his garden. He lives with his two sisters, Dolly and Cissy, at Cherry Tree Cottage, a quaint old cottage which looks like the picture on a chocolate box. Godfrey and his sisters live a peaceful idyllic life where they are almost self sufficient. They bake their own bread, make tea with water from their own well and grow their own vegetables and fruit, with which they make their own preserves. Godfrey also keeps bees.

Private Pike

AKA: Private Frank Pike.  Private in the Home Guard; Junior Clerk.   Played by: Ian Lavender
Dad's Army. Private Pike (Ian Lavender). Copyright: BBC.

Aged just 17 in 1940 and by far the youngest member of the platoon, Frank Pike also works a clerk at Swallow Bank, under Mainwaring and his "Uncle Arthur".

Although young, fitness is no more on Frank's side than it is on Lance Corporal Jones's. Amongst his many ailments are vertigo, hayfever, seasickness, weak ankles and croup. Many of his maladies are made all the worse by his overly fussy, cosseting mother.

Despite all of these ailments, when called up a medical passes Pike as fit to serve (he requests the RAF). However, his call-up is cancelled upon discovery that he is of an extremely rare blood group.

Pike is foolish and naïve, which have lead to many of his comments and ideas being remarked upon by Mainwaring with three simple words: "You stupid boy!" A little bit of a dreamer and a keen cinema-goer, most of his terms of reference - and suggestions, when Mainwaring asks the platoon for their thoughts - come from American films.

The identity of Pike's father is never revealed, although it is known that when young he would call Arthur 'Daddy'...

Private Walker (Series 1-6)

AKA: Private Joe Walker.  Private in the Home Guard; Trader.   Played by: James Beck
Dad's Army. Private Walker (James Beck). Copyright: BBC.

Joe Walker is one of the younger members of the platoon.

He describes himself as a wholesale supplier, but he is actually a black market spiv who sees the war as a chance to make quite a bit of cash for himself, selling supplies that are hard to get in the shops like whisky, tea, chocolate, knicker elastic...

At the beginning of the war Walker managed to avoid being called up; claiming to be in a reserved occupation, and he instead he joined the Home Guard. However, he couldn't avoid the call up forever and despite efforts by Mainwaring and Jones to get him out of it, he passes his medical A1 and goes off to the Army - only to be discharged the next day as he is allergic to corned beef.

Although he is technically a criminal, he is kind-hearted and helps the platoon in any way he can. By far the most street-wise, sharp and quick-witted of the bunch, his craftiness gets Mainwaring - and indeed, the whole platoon - out of more than a few sticky situations.

Walker only appears in the first six series of Dad's Army, due to the tragic death of actor James Beck. Taken ill part-way through Series 6, the last that is known of Walker is in a note left in his place in the platoon, saying that he has, "gone up to the smoke for a few days to do a deal", which he might be able to swing for a grand.

Chief A.R.P. Warden Hodges

AKA: William Hodges; Bill Hodges; Warden Hodges.  A.R.P. Warden; Chief A.R.P. Warden; Greengrocer.   Played by: Bill Pertwee
Dad's Army. Chief A.R.P. Warden Hodges (Bill Pertwee). Copyright: BBC.

A.R.P. Warden, later Chief A.R.P. Warden Bill Hodges, is Walmington's greengrocer and officious busybody.

As the small town's head air raid warden, Hodges is charged with making sure that no-one is contravening the black out, hence his regular refrain of, "Put that light out!"

Coupled with his vindictive, spiteful nature, it is little wonder that Hodges is far from being Walmington's most popular resident. Even kindly Godfrey one said that Hodges was the, "most vulgar and common man I've ever encountered."

Of all the people in town, it is Hodges who is Captain Mainwaring's biggest adversary. The two often end up in arguments, mainly because they share the same church hall and office.

Whilst Mainwaring looks down upon him as common and uncouth, Hodges in turn sees Mainwaring as a pompous old fool. Ever determined to get one over his nemesis, Hodges revels in calling Captain Mainwaring "Napoleon" at every opportunity.

Hodges has also been known, on many an occasion, to conspire with the Verger to spy on and sabotage Mainwaring and the platoon, often on behalf of Captain Square and the Eastgate Home Guard.

He does have some things to be proud of though. Unlike Mainwaring, Hodges did actually see action during the Great War, where he learned to speak German while he was a guard at a Prisoner of War camp.

The Verger

AKA: Maurice Yeatman; Henry Yeatman; The Caretaker.  Verger; Skipper of the Sea Scouts; Caretaker.   Played by: Edward Sinclair
Dad's Army. The Verger (Edward Sinclair). Copyright: BBC.

Mr. Yeatman is the verger at St. Aldhelm's and the Vicar's loyal servant.

As it is his duty to maintain the church hall, to say he is less than keen about Mainwaring's military parading taking place there is an understatement.

A close friend of and regular conspirator with Hodges, he would dearly love to see Mainwaring, and the platoon, brought down a peg or two - but, also much like Hodges, it is inevitably he who ends up being admonished by the Vicar.

Outside of the church he is also the skipper of the local branch of the Sea Scouts.

The Vicar (Series 3-9)

AKA: The Reverend Timothy Farthing.  Church of England Vicar.   Played by: Frank Williams
Dad's Army. The Vicar (Frank Williams). Copyright: BBC.

The Reverend Timothy Farthing is the vicar of Walmington-on-Sea's parish church, St. Aldhelm's. His church hall is used by both Captain Mainwaring and Warden Hodges, which leads to conflict with both of them, but he somehow manages to put up with it.

He is known for his slightly effeminate manner, weakness for alcohol, a passion for campanology (somewhat restricted when war breaks out as the bells are only rung as a sign of that the invasion of Britain has begun) and for his role in the annual Boy Scouts' pantomime.

Mrs. Pike (Series 1-4 & 6-9)

AKA: Mavis Pike.  Housewife.   Played by: Janet Davies
Dad's Army. Mrs. Pike (Janet Davies). Copyright: BBC.

Mavis Pike is a widowed housewife and Frank's over-protective mother.

She often interferes with the running of the platoon, believing it to be for her son's own good - much to Mainwaring's annoyance.

Mrs Pike has had a close relationship with Wilson for many years - since before Pike was born, in fact. They both arrived in Walmington from Weston-super-Mare at the same time and she has Wilson's ration book. As a result it is believed the two are cohabiting, although she and Arthur always try to avoid talking about the subject.

Mr. Cheeseman (Series 6-7)

AKA: Mr. Cheeseman; Private Cheeseman.  Private in the Home Guard; Photo-journalist; Gossip Columnist.   Played by: Talfryn Thomas
Dad's Army. Mr. Cheeseman (Talfryn Thomas). Copyright: BBC.

Welshman Mr. Cheeseman is a photo-journalist and gossip columnist for The Eastbourne Gazette.

Having reported on the Home Guard's welcome of the American forces in Series 6, he returns and joins the Walmington-on-Sea platoon as a temporary member during Series 7 in order to pen a series of articles about what it is like to serve in the Home Guard.

Private Sponge (Series 2-9)

Private in the Home Guard; Sheep farmer.   Played by: Colin Bean
Dad's Army. Private Sponge (Colin Bean). Copyright: BBC.

Private Sponge is the head of No. 2 Section of the platoon, opposite Jones as head of No. 1 Section.

Sponge acts as the representative of the rest of the platoon's members. Little is known about his background, although it is established that he is a sheep farmer.

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