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Dad's Army

Dad's Army was a much-loved BBC sitcom - written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft - which ran from 1968 to 1977. It featured the exploits of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard led by the pompous Captain Mainwaring (pronounced 'Mannering') and supported by the debonair and indecisive Sergeant Wilson.

Set during WW2 the series boasted a great ensemble cast and produced some of the most memorable comedy catchphrases of all time including Corporal Jones' 'Don't Panic!' and 'They don't like it up 'em! Each week the platoon would attempt to protect England from German invasion - which embroiled them in some hilarious adventures.

 


Captain Mainwaring Statue, Thetford

Statue of Captain Mainwaring in Thetford © Cameron Self


The original idea for the series came from Perry's own experiences in the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) or Home Guard as it was later called. Perry was only 15 when he joined the Hertfordshire Battalion and Private Pike and Mavis Pike are clearly based on himself and his mother. While serving in the platoon he also came across a veteran of Kitchener's campaigns who used to talk about the 'Fuzzy Wuzzies' - which provided the inspiration for Corporal Jones.

The series derived much humour from the fact that all the leading characters had 'day jobs' in Walmington-on-Sea. Mainwaring, Wilson and Pike all worked in Swallow's Bank, while Jones was the butcher, Hodges the greengrocer, Fraser the undertaker and Walker the local spiv and black marketer.

Although the idea was Perry's - both he and David Croft used to write the scripts. They would meet to discuss various possibilities for the plot and then go away and write each episode separately. Perry and Croft both had a theatrical background and had a shared love of farce - so their ideas usually gelled together perfectly.

The series was originally going to be called 'The Fighting Tigers' - but was later changed to Dad's Army. Many modern sitcom writers including Ben Elton, John Sullivan, Richard Curtis and David Renwick have paid homage to the quality of the Dad's Army scripts.

The show ran for twelve series and regularly reached audiences in excess of 13 million. To view a complete list of all the Dad's Army episodes click here.
 

Cast and Charactersmain cast of Dad's Army

Captain George Mainwaring   Arthur Lowe

Sergeant Arthur Wilson         John Le Mesurier  

Lance Corporal Jack Jones    Clive Dunn

Private Joe Walker                James Beck

Private Charles Godfrey         Arnold Ridley

Private James Fraser             John Laurie

Private Frank Pike                 Ian Lavender

Chief Warden Hodges            Bill Pertwee

Reverend Timothy Farthing     Frank Williams

Verger Maurice Yateman        Edward Sinclair

Mrs Fox                                Pamela Cundell

Mrs Pike                               Janet Davies

Private Sponge                      Colin Bean

 

Norfolk (and Suffolk) Film Locations

Most of the external footage for the series was filmed in and around the town of Thetford in Norfolk. Each summer the cast and crew would come up to the town and stay in either the Bell or the Anchor Hotels in Bridge Street. The actors usually stayed at the more 'up-market' Bell while the crew lodged at The Anchor. (The Anchor Hotel is now boarded up and derelict but may be re-developed shortly.)

The Anchor Hotel

The Derelict Anchor Hotel in Thetford

Thetford Guildhall became Walmington-on-Sea Town Hall - and it was from the Guildhall clock tower that the German pilot dangled in 'Time On My Hands' (1972). The Guildhall was also used in 'The Captain's Car' (1974).

Thetford Guildhall

Thetford Guildhall

The flint cottages of Nether Row were used in four episodes: 'Man Hunt' (1969), 'The Armoured Might of Corporal Jones' (1969), 'The Big Parade' (1970) and 'Time On My Hands' (1972).

Flint cottages at Nether Row, Thetford

Nether Row, Thetford

Thetford's Palace Cinema featured in both 'The Big Parade' (1970) and 'A Soldier's Farewell' (1972). The Palace was also the place were the cast gathered at the end of each week's filming to view the 'rushes'. Newtown, Old Bury Road and Mill Lane, in the town, also make an appearance.

The Palace Cinema, Thetford

The Palace Cinema, Thetford

The Bell Hotel was used for the first scene of the first show called 'Man of the Hour' (1968). It made use of the 'Norvic Room' which is now the hotel's restaurant.

The Bell Hotel, Thetford

The Bell Hotel, Thetford


Stanford Battle Area

The Stanford Battle Area (STANTA) lies a few miles north of Thetford and was created during WW2 as a training area for British and NATO forces. Five villages were evacuated to create the area - namely: Stanford, Lynford, Tottington, West Tofts and Buckenham Tofts. The area provides many of the iconic locations for Dad's Army including the marvellous end-credit sequence where the platoon move across open ground wearing camouflage. It was BBC director Harold Snoad who was ultimately responsible for choosing Thetford saying: 'I wanted a battle area we could have control over and had narrowed it down to Stanford, which I knew was going to work very well.'

Below is a list of the episodes featuring the Battle Area:
 

Location Episode
Langford Church 'No Spring for Frazer' (1969)
Baileybridge, Buckenham Tofts 'Battle of the Giants' (1971)
Stanton Lake, West Tofts 'Battle of the Giants' (1971) and 'Come in Your Time Is Up (1975)
Blackrabbit Warren 'Everybody's Trucking' (1974), 'Wake-Up Walmington' (1977) and 'Number Engaged' (1977)
Croxton Heath 'The Day the Balloon Went Up' (1969) and 'Gorilla Warfare' (1974)
Frog Hill, Stanford Opening and closing sequences from series 3 onwards.
Buckenham Toft stables 'Command Decision' (1968), Boots Boots Boots' (1970) and 'the Test' (1970)
West Tofts Church 'The Lion Has 'Phones' (1969) and 'Don't Forget the Diver' (1970
Cross Roads, West Tofts 'Battle of the Giants' (1971


Many other external scenes were shot in Norfolk or Suffolk. 'Sons of the Sea' (1969) was shot on the Norfolk Broads and 'Don't Forget the Diver' (1970) at Drinkstone windmill in Suffolk. Other locations used include: Honington, Bardwell, Bressingham, Wacton, Brandon, Santon Downham, Oxburgh Hall ('Museum Piece' 1968), Weeting, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Lynford Hall (Mundford).

Weybourne Railway Station in North Norfolk was the location for 'The Royal Train' (1973)

Weybourne Railway Station

Weybourne Station

Many of the extras for the series were drawn from the Thetford Music and Drama Society or the Thetford Senior Citizen's Club.

The Steam Museum at nearby Bressingham provided authentic fire engines, steam rollers and traction engines for a number of the episodes. Today, Bressingham hosts an impressive recreation of Walmington-on-Sea - as well as a collection of Dad's Army memorabilia.

A Dad's Army museum has recently been set up inside Thetford Guildhall by the Friends of Thetford Dad's Army. It is quite hard to find as it lies on Cage Lane behind the Guildhall.

Dad's Army Museum, Cage Lane, Thetford

The Dad's Army Museum, Thetford

On Sunday 20th June, 2010 a statue of Captain Mainwaring was unveiled  by David Croft - on ground close to the River Little Ouse. It was made by the sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn and features Mainwaring wearing his Home Guard uniform, seated on bench with his baton across his knees.

Local councillors have also approved plans for the redevelopment of the Anchor Hotel and it is hoped that, in future, this will provide  accommodation for Dad's Army fans wanting to visit Thetford.


Dad's Army
- the movie

However, when Columbia Pictures came to make the Dad's Army movie(released in 1971) - they abandoned the normal Norfolk locations and headed further south. Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire was transformed into Walmington-on-Sea - while other scenes were shot at Seaford in Sussex and at Shepperton Studios. The famous scene with the white horse on the raft heading down river was filmed at Chobham in Surrey.


Famous Catchphrases from the Series:

Mainwaring: 'You stupid boy, Pike.' and 'Right then, pay attention.'

Godfrey: 'May I be excused?'

Frazer: 'We're doomed!'

Jones: 'Don't Panic, Mr Mainwaring!', 'They don't like it up 'em!' and 'Permission to speak, sir'.

Hodges: 'Put that light out!' and 'I'm going to get you Napoleon.'

Wilson: 'Is that wise, Sir?'

Pike: 'What would mum say, Uncle Arthur?'


The Theme Tune

The Dad's Army theme tune was written by Jimmy Perry and Derek Taverner and was performed by Bud Flannagan. Here are the lyrics:
 

Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Hitler
If you think we're on the run?
We are the boys who will stop your little game.
We are the boys who will make you think again.
'Cos who do you think you are kidding Mr. Hitler?
If you think old England's done?

Mr. Brown goes off to town
On the 8:21,
But he comes home each evening
And he's ready with his gun.

So watch out Mr. Hitler
You have met your match in us.
If you think you can push us
We're afraid you've missed the bus.

So who do you think you are kidding Mr. Hitler?
If you think old England's done.

The Missing Episodes

In an attempt to save space in its library, the BBC (criminally) wiped three original video tape recordings from series two - namely: 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Walker', 'A Stripe for Frazer' and 'Under Fire'. If you possess any recordings of these episodes - then the world would love to hear from you!
 

Links:

More Dad's Army Location Photographs
 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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