List of Dad's Army characters

List of Dad's Army characters

This is a list of characters in the British television comedy series Dad's Army. In addition to the seven main characters, all members of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon, the series featured a large cast of recurring characters, many of whom began to appear regularly in episodes, particularly following the death of James Beck (who played Private Walker). In addition, a number of characters appeared in significant roles for a single episode or series.

Contents

Main platoon members

Captain George Mainwaring

Mainwaring (pronounced /ˈmænərɪŋ/ man-ər-ing) was played by Arthur Lowe. He was the pompous - if essentially brave and unerringly patriotic - local bank manager. In the series pilot Mainwaring appointed himself leader of his town's contingent of Local Defence Volunteers. Of the platoon, he and Joe Walker were the only adult members with no prior combat experience, and therefore had no medals, sometimes caused tension with the other members of the Home Guard. He did, however, serve in France, "during the whole of 1919—somebody had to clear up the mess." 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.

Sergeant Arthur Wilson

Wilson, played by John Le Mesurier, was a diffident, upper-class bank clerk, Wilson was nonetheless Mainwaring's inferior 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. During the First World War he fought in the Royal Artillery at Mons, Gallipoli and the Somme. In the last episode he revealed that during the war, he had been a Captain.

Lance-Corporal Jack Jones

Jones was the oldest member of the platoon (born 1870), but was played by Clive Dunn, a younger actor. Jones was an old campaigner who had participated, as a boy soldier, in the campaign of Kitchener of Khartoum in the Sudan between 1896 and 1898, and also fought in the First World War. By 1940 he worked as the town butcher, which occasionally enabled him to supplement his superiors' meat ration. Jones was leader of the platoon's first section. He has a story for every occasion, and will never hesitate in telling it, regardless of how long-winded or irrelevant it is. Despite being the oldest member of the platoon, Jones demonstrates an almost boyish enthusiasm for combat and is the first to volunteer for anything, no matter how ill-advised that may be. In Battle of the Giants we learn Jones caught malaria whilst serving in Africa, he got over the main illness but sometimes (though not often) he gets malarial chills, he tells Mainwaring not to worry because he says "I've been getting these chills for 40 years".

Private Joe Walker

Walker was played by James Beck in the television series and seven episodes of the radio series, Graham Stark for five radio episodes with Larry Martyn for the remainder of the radio series. A black market "spiv", Walker was the only fit, able-bodied man of military age in Walmington-on-Sea's home guard. His absence from the regular armed forces was due to a corned beef allergy, although it was implied that Walker had probably found a way to play the system. 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 rivals in the Home Guard, Army and ARP. He was disciplined several times by Captain Mainwaring for making jokes at inappropriate times. Though Beck was the second youngest regular cast member, he was the first to die. As a result, Walker last appeared in series 6.

Private Frank Pike

The youngest platoon member - played by Ian Lavender - Pike, a cosseted mother's boy and often the target of Mainwaring's derision ("You stupid boy"), was a junior bank clerk. He called Wilson "Uncle Arthur", and although never explicitly stated, it was often implied that Wilson and Pike's mother were having a relationship. It was also occasionally suggested that Wilson was Pike's father (although the writers only acknowledged this in interviews after the programme ended). He frequently threatens to set his mother on Mainwaring whenever he is shouted at or forced to do anything he doesn't want to do. He has the lowest position at Swallow bank, subordinate to both Wilson and Mainwaring.

Private James Frazer

Frazer was played by John Laurie. The character was a dour Scottish coffin maker and a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy who fought at the Battle of Jutland (although as a cook). Frazer was tight with money, had wild staring eyes, and was known for issuing regular pronouncements of doom. In the early episodes Frazer was the keeper of a philately shop, but by series four the writers had decided that he should become the local undertaker, in keeping with his gloomy nature. Openly eager for more power within the platoon, he sometimes led rebellions against Mainwaring and was the only member of the platoon to be portrayed as a villain in episodes such as A Soldier's Farewell and The Two and a Half Feathers, though for the most part he was loyal and well-intentioned.

Private Charles Godfrey

Played by Arnold Ridley, Godfrey, whilst not as old as Jones, was certainly the most frail member of the platoon, and as such was the platoon's medical orderly. He had served in the First World War as a conscientious-objecting stretcher bearer, winning the Military Medal before becoming a tailor at the Army & Navy Stores. Godfrey was an amiable, vague, lifelong bachelor who lived with his sisters in an idyllic cottage, and was a martyr to his weak bladder, leading to many requests to be "excused". He was very loyal to Captain Mainwaring, except on one occasion when he took part in a plot to make Mainwaring's feet hurt.[1]

Non-platoon characters

ARP Warden William Hodges

Hodges (Bill Pertwee) is Captain Mainwaring's main rival and the main antagonist in Walmington-on-Sea. A greengrocer by trade, following outbreak of war he has been given power as Chief Air Raid Warden, and that power has gone to his head. He can be as pompous and officious as Mainwaring, but is more uncouth and coarse. Even the usually calm Godfrey tells Hodges he is a "rude, common and nasty fellow".[2] He delights in antagonising the platoon, in particular Mainwaring, whom he calls "Napoleon".[3] This rivalry increased after he was forced to share the church hall with Mainwaring after his headquarters was bombed.[4] Unlike Mainwaring, Hodges did fight in the First World War.[5] Hodges tries to take charge of important situations as an 'ARP matter' - however, as he also displays a cowardly streak, in any danger he is quick to transfer command back to Mainwaring and withdraw.[6] In several episodes, Hodges refers to having "funny turns", which hints that his mental faculties are less than perfect.[7] In many episodes, Hodges, and his co-conspirator, the verger, try to sabotage the platoon's efforts, usually at the command of Captain Square.[8]

His feelings towards both Mainwaring and his wartime responsibilities were summed up in the episode "Time on my Hands":

"I hope you stay up there to let me enjoy this war in peace. Because I do enjoy this war. I've never enjoyed anything as much in all my life... And you! You always spoil it." - Hodges (shouting to Mainwaring, who is stuck up the town hall clock tower).

Mrs. Mavis Pike

Mrs. Mavis Pike (Janet Davies) was Pike's mother, who appeared in most episodes. She is fiercely protective of Pike and Wilson, to the point that she is accused of "mollycoddling" by Captain Mainwaring. It is also implied that Mavis is Sergeant Arthur Wilson's lover. He claims that "She's a widow and she has my ration book and I go round to her house sometimes for meals... and that sort of thing." The writers, Jimmy Perry and David Croft, said years after the end of the show that they intended Wilson to have been Frank's father. Mavis is a widow and Frank 17, which implies any affair between them was long-standing.

The Reverend Timothy Farthing MA

Farthing (Frank Williams) is the slightly ineffectual, but well-meaning vicar of St Aldhelm's Church, Walmington-on-Sea. Neither on the side of the Home Guard, nor the ARP Wardens, he attempts to care for "The spiritual needs of (his) parishioners", despite the many setbacks presented during the war, such as having to share his church hall and office with both the pompous Captain Mainwaring and the uncouth Warden Hodges. He is portrayed as a spiritual and learned man, and is shown to be a Master of Arts of the University of Oxford by his academic hood, worn in the episode "All is safely gathered in". In many episodes he ends up embroiled in the escapades of the platoon, often by accident, and he joins the Home Guard briefly in "The Recruit". In the episode Time on My Hands it is revealed that his hobby is archery, when he uses his skills and equipment to rescue the platoon.

Maurice Yeatman

Mr. Yeatman (Edward Sinclair) was the local verger and head of the Sea Scouts group. He was often hostile to the platoon. Labelled a "troublemaker" by Jones, he is ridiculously loyal to the vicar, and his good friend Mr. Hodges.

Other platoon members

In addition to the seven featured players, 1st Platoon 'B' Company also included a "Second Section" and a "Third Section" who filled the platoon up to size while on parade or display. The men of the platoon wear the cap badges of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment. The back rows rarely spoke, although according to Jimmy Perry instead of "extras", they were normally retired actors, playwrights or singers.[9] A handful of platoon members had a secondary but significant role in particular episodes:-

  • Private Sponge (Colin Bean) - a sheep farmer, and de facto leader of the platoon's Section Two (the extras), although he never actually achieved the corporal's stripe(s) normally associated with a Section leader. Appearing throughout the series, he made more frequent appearances as the show went on, particularly after the death of James Beck.
  • Private Thomas Bracewell (John Ringham) was an upper-class buffoon who was set to be a major character in the series. Due to the overwhelming number of major characters that were introduced, it was decided that he was to be dropped. He only appears in the first episode of the programme, and was mentioned in the second episode. Ringham also appeared in two episodes as Captain Bailey.
  • Private Cheeseman (Talfryn Thomas) - originally a Welsh journalist who appeared in one episode in series six; after the death of James Beck he joined the platoon for series seven. David Croft writes that the character was "irritating without being funny", although it is also reported that John Laurie (Frazer), the show's resident Scot, was strongly against the character. The writers decided that Cheeseman should not return for series eight and nine.[10] A character called Charlie Cheeseman (played by Jimmy Perry) appeared in the sixth episode, but he was unrelated.
  • Private George 'Nobby' Clarke (John Cater) - joined the platoon briefly when he tried to dig up dirt about Jones' history in the Sudan. He was revealed to have had an affair with his commanding officer's wife, and when this was revealed in Jones' retelling of events, he fled Walmington never to return.
  • Private Desmond (Desmond Cullum-Jones) - features in the episode "Sons of the Sea", where he joins the First Section on a river patrol. He does not reappear in subsequent episodes.

Recurring characters

  • Mrs. Yeatman (Olive Mercer) (series 5,8) - Yeatman's forbidding wife, Beryl,[11] played by Olive Mercer, appeared from time to time, mostly in situations when she was able to express impatience: for example, as a member of an over-large committee planning a social function or in a queue in the butcher's shop of Lance Corporal Jack Jones. She led the Walmington on Sea ladies Netball team. It emerged, after Mrs Yeatman had caught her husband taking an afternoon's ride on a motor-cycle with the flirtatious Mrs Fox, that, somewhat improbably, she herself was involved in an extramarital relationship with the elderly Sidney Blewett (Harold Bennett).[12]
  • Norman Blewitt (Harold Bennett) (series 3-9) - Mr Blewitt was an elderly gentleman who recurred in a variety of roles, but always under the same name. During the series, he was seen as a photographer and the vicar's gardener, but often as a passer-by who became involved in the platoon's escapades. Norman was sometimes referred to as 'Sidney', see above and No Spring for Frazer.[13]
  • Mrs Fox (Pamela Cundell) (series 2-9) - Corporal Jones's lady friend and finally wife. Described as a "flashy woman" by Captain Mainwaring, her first name in the episode "Mum's Army" is revealed as Marcia, although this changes to "Mildred" by the final episode. Mrs Fox is an ebullient woman, whom we assume loses her husband early on during the war.[14] By "The Big Parade" she is referred to as a widow.[15] What followed was a long running saga in which Corporal Jones wooed Mrs Fox.[16] Victoria Wood points out[17] that part of Dad's Army's success came from its ability to juxtapose comedic situations such as the rivalry between various ladies of the town to play Lady Godiva [18] and the exploration of far deeper, more complex emotions between older people.[19] As the series drew to an end co creators David Croft and Jimmy Perry debated whether to marry off Jones and his "Merry Widow".[20] This finally came to pass during the last ever episode of the series.[21]
  • Mr Gordon (Eric Longworth) (series 5-9) - the efficient but pompous town clerk, described by Wilson as a "silly bald-headed old duffer".[22] Involved in administrative issues in the town, he has a penchant for saying things are "very nice".
  • The Mayor of Walmington (Fred McNaughton) - Walmington's highest public official. His appearances usually involve playing the straight man to his excitable Town Clerk. Once when watching a 'keep-fit' display, he responds to Mr Gordon's remark of "that's very nice" with a straight-laced "Yes, if you like that sort of thing". He also takes part, in full ceremonial dress, in a thrilling train-chase in the episode The Royal Train. There are allusions to a habit of making long-winded speeches.
  • Shirley (Wendy Richard) (series 4-6) - Walker's recurring girlfriend appeared in 4 episodes, Shirley (although she is referred to as Edith Parish in "Mum's Army" and is credited the name of Edith Parish in her first appearance in the series 4 episode "The two and half feathers"), is a cinema usherette and was played up to be a bit of a 'tart'. In particular, she annoys Mainwaring by suggesting that he fancies her.[23]
  • Janet King (Caroline Dowsdewell) (series 1) - a young blonde female employee at Mainwaring's bank. According to the series' creator David Croft, she was introduced at a fairly late stage in the scripting because the BBC's head of comedy Michael Mills believed that the programme needed a "soupçon of sex".[24]
  • Elizabeth Mainwaring (Unseen character) - Captain Mainwaring's wife, never seen or heard directly; she "hasn't left the house since Munich". Her presence is mainly felt by her telephone calls to her husband. The nearest we get to seeing her is in one episode where we hear her footsteps, and another where we see her very large posterior hanging down above Mainwaring when they are in bunks in an air raid shelter.
  • Dolly Godfrey (Amy Dalby, later Joan Cooper) Private Godfrey's younger sister. Renowned for the quality of her upside-down cakes and cucumber sandwiches. Like Mrs Mainwaring she rarely appears, but is constantly referred to by her brother. Joan Cooper, Arthur Lowe's real-life wife, also played Dolly in the stage adaptation of Dad's Army.
  • Cissy Godfrey, Private Godfrey's other sister, appeared in one episode of series 2 and 3 episodes of series 3 (1969), played by Nan Braunton. Braunton reprised the role in two episodes of the radio series, in which Cissy was Private Godfrey's only sister. The role of Cissy was later taken over by Kathleen Saintsbury in an episode of the eighth television series, and by Joan Cooper (who had previously played Dolly Godfrey in the television series) in an episode of the third radio series.
  • Colonel Pritchard (Robert Raglan) (series 3-9) - The superior officer from whom Captain Mainwaring most frequently received his orders. A stern, serious man, he unexpectedly appeared to admire Mainwaring, frequently commenting on his successes and warning people not to underestimate him.[25] Raglan also played Captain Square's sergeant in one episode.
  • Captain Square (Geoffrey Lumsden) (all series) - commander of the Eastgate platoon of the Home Guard and rival of Captain Mainwaring. A stereotypical military buffoon, with a handlebar moustache, in early episodes he was "Corporal-Colonel Square", being a Corporal in the Home Guard and a former Colonel in the Army. He had a serious military record, fighting in the desert and winning several medals, including the DSO. Square was even more pompous than Mainwaring, and condescending towards his inexperienced rival, e.g. he would deliberately mispronounce Mainwaring's name phonetically. Square could be over-confident at times, and Mainwaring and the Walmington platoon did sometimes get the better of Square and the Eastgate platoon.
  • Gerald (Don Estelle) - Diminutive Lancastrian ARP Warden, seen in various episodes. He usually appears as a friendly, but slightly frustrating sidekick to Hodges. He played cricket for the Wardens XI during The Test.
  • Reg Adamson (Stuart Sherwin) - Easygoing warden who is sometimes overpowered by Hodges' zeal and unscrupulous methods - particularly his vendetta with Mainwaring's platoon. He gave evidence against Mainwaring during "A Brush with the Law".

Guest characters

  • Barry Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) - The long-lost brother of Captain George Mainwaring, he appeared once in the entire series, in My Brother and I. He and his brother apparently always clash due to their differing personalities, with Barry repeatedly referring to his brother as "po-face". He worked as a travelling salesman for a joke shop, and was an alcoholic.
  • Colonel Schultz (Alan Tilvern) - Commander of an American advance party detachment posted in Walmington-on-Sea. After a fight between US troops and the Home Guard, Mainwaring is ordered to make a public apology.
  • Captain Stewart (Michael Knowles) - A smarmy officer from the War Office who informs Mainwaring that his platoon have been picked for 'special duties' (which in fact means digging latrines and peeling potatoes). One of several similar characters portrayed in the series by Michael Knowles.
  • Captain Ramsey (Fulton Mackay) - A tough but fair Scottish officer who runs a training course to test Home Guard units and assess whether they are 12-star material. His attempts to make the weekend a serious test of the men are frustrated (largely by the idiocy of Corporal Jones and a stray consignment of onions) and he quickly becomes exasperated. Ramsey's favourite catchphrase appears to be "you haven't done very well", which is quickly amended when Mainwaring and his men pull off "the best bit of initiative I've seen in this whole war" for which he awards them the coveted 12-stars. Fulton MacKay's character seemed to have come straight out of his Mr Mackay personae in Porridge. (Fulton Mackay also appeared as a doctor in the episode The Miser's Hoard.)
  • U-Boat Captain (Philip Madoc) - Commander of the crew of a captured U-Boat, brings Mainwaring face to face with the Nazi enemy in The Deadly Attachment. A supercilious brute who is making a list of Britons who offend him to be brought to account "when we have won the war" which unsurprisingly get Mainwaring's gander up. He is also cunning, as when he tricks his captors by feigning illness. He presents Mainwaring with one of the platoon's most dangerous and deadly situations in the entire war, when he takes the entire platoon prisoner and plans to take them back to France with him, only to be foiled in the nick of time.
  • General Monteverdi (Edward Evans) - The senior Italian officer in a POW camp who tries to defend the scruffiness and general laziness of the Italian detainees. Serving in North Africa he was captured, apparently, because he refused to fight against the English. Mainwaring clearly does not think much of him. It is revealed that Monteverdi is complicit in Walker’s scheme to smuggle prisoners out at nights to work for him.
  • Mrs Prentice (Brenda Cowling) - An old friend of Godfrey, now in possession of her late husband's farm which needs harvesting. Mainwaring volunteers the platoon's services. In gratitude she organises supper and potato wine for the platoon which leads to some high spirits. A widow, having spurned him to marry a farmer, Godfrey hints at a more intimate moment when he tells her he hasn't touched potato wine "since that night".
  • Captain Rodrigues (Alan Tilvern) - A Spanish Civil War veteran who is only interested in 'killing Nazis'. He dislikes the platoon of 'amateurs' and thinks Mainwaring should go back to running a bank. He is portrayed as a vicious, unpleasant character. He appears closer to a bandit than a Captain in the British army.
  • Mr West (Robert Dorning) - Bank Inspector from Head Office. Shocked at the irregular running of the Walmington-on-Sea branch. A pompous and highly-strung character.
  • Violet Gibbons (Sally Douglas) - An ATS girl to whom Pike is briefly engaged, much to Mainwaring's disapproval. She had previously worked at Woolworths, a Fish and Chip Shop and for a while dated Private Walker. She appears at the platoon dance, where Pike announces their engagement. Looking bored and chewing gum she does not entirely appear to return Pike's unquestioning adoration and, much to everyone's relief, the engagement is quickly broken off.
  • E.C. Egan (Fred Trueman)- A professional fast-bowler recruited by Hodges as an ARP Warden in an underhand attempt to win the friendly cricket match between the Wardens and the Home Guard. Egan reckons he can skittle Mainwaring's men out in about four overs. However he badly injures his shoulder after his first delivery and has to leave the field. In his absence, the Home Guard go on to win the match due to Hodges declaring early. In reality, Trueman played many matches for England.
  • Lady Maltby (Mavis Pugh) - A local aristocrat who lends the platoon her Rolls Royce for the duration of the war. She is socially acquainted with Sergeant Wilson, much to the irritation of Captain Mainwaring. Her late husband was a greengrocer.
  • Mrs Gray (Carmen Silvera) - A charming lady, recently arrived from London, who joins the platoon after it begins recruiting women in the episode "Mum's Army". She shares a Brief Encounter-style relationship with Captain Mainwaring before leaving unexpectedly.
  • Patrick Regan J.G. Devlin - A suspected member of the Irish Republican Army, the platoon are ordered to arrest him, but only a few are available. Trouble comes when his 'associates' come looking for him, leading to a brawl. Fortunately Wilson proves to be handy with his fists.
  • Police Constable Arthur English - a Walmington police constable deputed to arrest Regan. He came alone, as the rest of his station were busy playing a darts match with the Free French. He warns that Regan may be an "ugly customer", but Mainwaring ignores his advice.
  • General Menzies (Campbell Singer) - Local commander. Visiting the platoon while Fraser is in temporary command in the episode If the Cap Fits... he mistakes him for Mainwaring. He invites his fellow Scot to a dress dinner to pipe in the haggis. Fraser hopes this will embarrass the English Mainwaring, but to everyone's shock Mainwaring had learned the bagpipes on his honeymoon, foiling Fraser's scheme.
  • Mr Palethorpe (Jack Haig)- Landlord of the Six Bells just outside Walmington. When the platoon, dressed as Nazis for the production of a film, enter the bar and demand to be served he is convinced the balloon has gone up and triggers an invasion alert. Haig also appeared briefly as a gardener in the episode The Day the Balloon Went Up.
  • Sir Charles McAllister (Campbell Singer)- A distinguished Scottish politician. He appears in Is There Honey Still for Tea? where he is blackmailed by Fraser (who threatens to expose his unsavoury past) into re-siting the proposed aerodrome that threatens Godfrey's cottage.
  • Mr Bugden (Peter Butterworth)- A harassed Walmington printer, whose firm's error leads to Corporal Jones being interned as a dangerous Prisoner of War.
  • Mr Rees (Edward Evans)- The Welsh town clerk of Walmington as seen in Big Guns. His administration appears to have preceded that of Mr Gordon, as he only appeared once early in the series. Mainwaring's strained dealings with him appears to be typical of his relationship with small-town officialdom.
  • Mr Sedgewick (Erik Chitty) - Mild-mannered Walmington shoe-shop proprietor.
  • Sylvia Hodges (Jean Gilpin) - Hodges niece, a member of the ATS, appears in Walmington during the episode The Making of Private Pike. She attracts the interest of both Wilson and Pike. She and Pike go on a date together to Eastgate cinema, during which they ‘borrow’ Mainwaring’s new staff car. Relations between them begin to disintegrate when the car breaks down on the way back - forcing them to spend the night together. This leads to some widespread assumptions, causing Wilson to now regard Pike as a ‘kindred spirit’.

References

  1. ^ "Boots, Boots, Boots"
  2. ^ Time on my Hands
  3. ^ A Brush With the Law
  4. ^ Unwelcome Guests
  5. ^ The Big Parade
  6. ^ Something Nasty in the Vault
  7. ^ Put that Light Out
  8. ^ Don't Forget the Diver, Gorilla Warfare
  9. ^ McCann, 64
  10. ^ David Croft, Dad's Army: The Complete Scripts, Orion 2003, p.13
  11. ^ In War Dance Mrs Yeatman is referred to as Anthea, and, in Knights of Madness, her name is Tracy.
  12. ^ Episode Everybody's Trucking, 1974
  13. ^ Episode No Spring for Frazer, 1969
  14. ^ In her first scene she quite clearly states that her husband "...will have his little bit of brisket, you know." S3,E3(ibid)
  15. ^ Series 4, Episode 1 as stated in Complete A-Z of Dad's Army (Webber, Ed)London, Orion 2000 ISBN 0752818384
  16. ^ Dad's Army. The Story Of A Classic Television Show McCann, G, London, Fourth Estate 2001. ISBN 1841153087
  17. ^ 28 May 2000 BBC1 Don't Panic! The Dad's Army Story, a 50-minute documentary researched and hosted by Victoria Wood ( repeated by BBC2 on 28 December 2001)
  18. ^ The Godiva Affair Series 7, Episode 4: 6th December 1974
  19. ^ For example, Captain Mannering's feelings for Mrs Gray ( Carmen Silvera) in Mum's Army ( S4, E9 )
  20. ^ See their Dad's Army (Sphere 1976) ISBN 0722104065
  21. ^ On line biography
  22. ^ "The Godiva Affair"
  23. ^ "Mum's Army"
  24. ^ Graham McCann (2001) Dad's Army
  25. ^ "Gorilla Warfare"

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