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.
Dad's Army was an ensemble sitcom on The BBC about the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon in World War II, a band of mostly elderly volunteers who would have been their (fictional) town's first line of defence, had the Germans invaded (Walmington-on-Sea and Eastgate (their rival town) are mirrored in the real Northern Kent seaside towns of Birchington-on-Sea and Westgate). The show aired for nine years (1968-77), though the war had only lasted six.While waiting for the invasion, the platoon did its best to prepare, resulting in many hilarious mishaps. They occasionally did some military work, such as guarding downed German pilots, and took part in training exercises with the regular army, where they were often surprisingly successful. They also had a vigorous rivalry with the neighbouring platoon and with the Chief Air Raid Warden, who sometimes tried to sabotage the platoon. Almost every character involved had a catchphrase that most British people can still repeat with very little memory-searching.The characters included:
Captain George Mainwaring - pompous bank manager, no combat experience, appointed himself captain. Pronounced "Mannering".
Catchphrase: "Are you sure that's wise?" (usually in response to the Zany Scheme of the week) as well as "How absolutely lovely!" when responding to something that Mainwaring would prefer to treat as Serious Business.
Lance-Corporal Jack Jones - butcher, veteran of the Sudan (i.e. the late 1890s), longwinded but eager for action.
Three catchphrases: "Don't panic" (while panicking), "Permission to speak, sir?" and "They don't like it up 'em" (talking about the African tribesmen ("fuzzy-wuzzies") he fought in his youth and flourishing a bayonet.)
Private Frank Pike - mollycoddled teenager. Was often seen wearing a scarf. Always addresses Wilson as "Uncle Arthur", though Pike may in fact be Wilson's (illegitimate) son. Word of God confirms he was.
Catchphrase: "Uncle Arthur?"
Private James Frazer - Scottish undertaker, former Royal Navy cook, very gloomy.
Catchphrase: "We're doomed!" (words can't quite describe his delivery, but it would not look out of place on the set of a Hammer Horror film, on a villager warning the hero not to go up to the castle.)
Private Charles Godfrey - Even older than the rest of the platoon, excessively polite and friendly and a butt of constant humour relating to his weak bladder.
Catchphrase: "Might I be excused ..." (Gesturing to the bathroom, or a convenient hedge)
Private Joe Walker - good-natured spiv who evaded conscription on dubious grounds. (Allergic to corned beef. Allegedly...) Usually to be found trying to sell people things. Occasionally came good by happening to have just the item the platoon needs - for a price, of course. The actor died during the course of the series and was replaced by...
Private Cheeseman - Welshman with a camera, big teeth and glasses, introduced only in later seasons. (First appeared as a one-off press photographer character the year before he became a regular.) Almost no-one remembers him, he didn't stay long, and his departure gave a small boost to...
Private Sponge - farmer, generic guy, used when one of the main cast needed a supporting character to talk to. Later put in charge of the second half of the platoon, and given slightly more plot relevance.
Mrs Pike - Pike's neurotic, overprotective mother who often interrupts him in the middle of platoon activity. Suspiciously close "friend" of Wilson.
Mrs Fox - overbearing and flirty local woman, often causes trouble when the platoon is involved in arranging public events. Later marries Jones at the end of the series.
Captain Square - leader of the Eastgate platoon and occasional rival to Mainwaring.
Catchphrase: "You blithering IDIOT!"
Wilson was strongly implied to be having an affair with Pike's mother, with a suggestion that he might actually be the boy's father. (One episode revealed that he already had a daughter by his estranged wife.)Much humour was derived from Mainwaring's resentment of Wilson. Even though Mainwaring was in charge, both at work and in the Home Guard, Wilson was from a much higher social stratum and eventually inherited a title. His effortless charm and dignity utterly infuriated Mainwaring, the archetypal "pompous little man".The interplay between the two characters was always beautifully worked and the series is often held up as an example of near-perfect character comedy, enhanced by the acting talents of Arthur Lowe (Mainwaring) and John Le Mesurier (Wilson). Lowe has merely to bristle his moustache to render the audience helpless with laughter; Le Mesurier was hired because (in the words of a member of the production team) "He suffers so beautifully."The show, whilst at all times remaining funny, also had more serious plots, like the way the platoon react when they find out that Private Godfrey was a conscientious objector in the first world war. It later turns out that he had in fact enlisted as a stretcher bearer and received the Military Medal for his bravery.The show did not have an arc, but it did have continuity. During the first season, the platoon's equipment gradually improved as the regular army provided them with surplus gear. Over the series, Jones had a romance which culminated with a marriage in the final episode.Came fourth in Britain's Best Sitcom.
This show provides examples of:
Abhorrent Admirer: Mrs Fox occasionally fills this role, although Jones didn't seem to mind her too much ...
Acting for Two: In one episode Arthur Lowe starred as both Mainwaring and Mainwaring's estranged brother.
Anti-Climax: Frazer's story about the "old empty barn".
Ascended Extra: The previously unnamed Private Desmond, when he joins the main characters on a mission in the episode "Sons of the Sea." It's never explained why they didn't use Sponge, who by this stage was getting more lines and character focus.
Ash Face: Happens to Mainwaring when he attempts to shut off the power to the lighthouse, but ends up blacking out the entire pier, in "Put That Light Out!".
Bad Omen Anecdote: The dour Scot Frazer is fond of doing this, much to Mainwaring's exasperation.
Beware the Nice Ones: Sergeant Wilson. In the last episode it was even revealed that he had been an artillery captain during the First World War. Additionally, Private Godfrey, who was revealed as having been a conscientious objector during the First World War, but had served as an unarmed stretcher bearer, rescuing injured soldiers during the Battle of the Somme, for which he was awarded the Military Medal.
Blind Without 'Em: Corporal Jones. He accidentally signs the desk when he enlists in the Home Guard.
Borrowed Catchphrase: In one episode, an army officer demands to know why Mainwairing believes a stranded German pilot will give himself up any minute. Mainwairing, in no mood to explain that the reservoir he landed in is being filled and the German will be under water in ten minutes simply replies that "It seems that they really don't like it up 'em."
Breaking the Fourth Wall: The cast turning to the camera and toasting the real Home Guard at the end of the final episode.
Break Out the Museum Piece: In an early episode the platoon go to the museum with the intention of taking weaponry, but do not succeed in finding anything usable. The museum's caretaker who is trying to stop them, however, makes good use of the pieces inside to stop them entering.
Butt Monkey: If anyone is going to be getting soaked to the skin, clumsily tripping over themselves or otherwise being made to look like an idiot, it's Private Pike.
Catch Phrase: Aside from their individual catchphrases, a character tended to say, "There is a war on, you know" in almost every episode.
Character Outlives Actor: Walker. When actor James Beck was taken into hospital, Walker got a Written-In Absence, leaving a note in his place on patrol to explain that he has gone to conduct "business" in London. Beck later died and Walker was never heard of again - at least on television, When the show was remade for radio other actors continued the role after Beck's death, and when the show got a radio sequel years after the end of its run, Walker was mentioned as alive and having returned to Walmington-on-Sea.
He's also seen in the scene set in 1968 featuring several of the characters that opens the very first episode.
Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Discussed by Mainwaring, who does not rate the French ("no use after lunch - all that wine and garlic is very debilitating"), and Wilson, who, being an actual veteran of WWI, does.
Chekhov's Gun: In the episode "Battle of the Giants", Walker mentions having made flags for both their platoon and the Eastgate platoon. They will be used at the end of a contest, in short form, whoever flies their flag first, wins. Although just a passing remark, it turns out later that Walker made both flags say "Walmington-on-Sea" so they would win whoever flew the flag first.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Miss King vanishes without a trace after series one. Also happens to Private Cheeseman; Ascended Extra Private Desmond, who had a role in one episode and was never heard from again; and Private Bracewell, a character who appears only in the first episode. Word of God has it that Bracewell was intended to be a recurring character but was cut because the producers felt his character was too much like Godfrey's.
Classically Trained Extra: John Laurie as Private Frazer. The actor was somewhat bitter about being best remembered for this role rather than his theatrical work.
According to show writer Jimmy Perry, most of the background platoon members were played by retired actors or writers rather than the usual extras.
Criminal Doppelgänger: "The Face on the Poster" is based around Jones being chosen as the face of a Home Guard recruitment campaign, but his photo gets switched at the printing shop, causing his face to end up on the Wanted poster for an escaped POW instead.
Downer Ending: 'Mum's Army' — Mainwaring falls in love, but the woman leaves him rather than destroy his life with a scandal.
Draft Dodging: Frank Pike doesn't want to evade military service, but his medical test reveals a rare blood group. He's excused from active service on the grounds that they'd have nothing to transfuse him with in the event of injury. So he stays in the Home Guard instead - except that he doesn't admit to this until after the platoon has held a fish-and-chip supper in his honour.
A now Missing Episode from series two was based around Walker's attempts to evade the draft. He fails, and has to join the army - but is soon discharged when he turns out to be allergic to corned beef, the only rations available.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: A few one-off characters fit this trope. Drill Sgt. Gregory in "Room at the Bottom" and Captain Ramsey in "We Know Our Onions" are excellent examples.
Dropped After the Pilot: The pilot episode had a character called Private Bracewell who never appeared again. Word of God says it was decided that he was too similar to Private Godfrey and dropped.
Every episode of Series 1 begins with faked newsreel footage, combining real-life World War II footage with material containing the show's actors. This was dropped starting with Series 2.
For some bizarre reason the first episode has a laugh track over the title sequence, which ends up rendering the series' theme tune completely indecipherable. Fortunately, this was never done again.
The black-and-white episodes have a much more crudely animated title sequence, very little location filming, and lack the ending montage that the colour episodes had (instead featuring the actors superimposed over a still image, with the technical credits rolling over a black background).
Edible Ammunition: In "We Know Our Onions", the platoon, having failed to retrieve the cache of rubber ammunition they were supposed to use, win an initiative test by firing onions at their attackers.
Estalbishing Character Moment: Almost every episode started with Mainwaring inspecting the troops, giving first time viewers a quick run down of the main cast
Frozen in Time: The series started in 1940, went through 1941, and then at a point roughly in the middle decided to stay somewhere in 1942. Justified, in that after 1942 it became increasingly clear that the Germans weren't going to win, Britain wasn't going to be invaded, and there was less overall need for the Home Guard.
Gentlemen Rankers: Sergeant Wilson behaves very much like a cool, calm, collected, and softly spoken officer (in contrast to the order barking martinet that was Captain Mainwaring) in his WW2 Home Guard duties, however this was eventually explained as him actually having been an officer in the First World War.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Barely even trying. In the episode "The Four-and-a-Half Feathers", Jones describes his patrol in the Sudan encountering an elderly fakir (a sort of monk). Jones constantly refers to him as the "Old Fakir". Say it out loud and wonder how that made it past the censors...
And at least one episode title. "Round And Round Went The Great Big Wheel" is a quote from a really filthy song.
The Ghost: Mainwaring's wife. Closest we get to seeing her is the large overhang she leaves in the bunk bed.
The Guards Must Be Crazy: In the episode where the platoon are delegated to guard a captured German submarine crew, the platoon do pretty well on this score. It's Hodges who falls for the old sick prisoner trick and lets the Germans get the upper hand.
Mind you, Mainwaring really should've left his revolver with Wilson or Jones before going over to help.
Handcar Pursuit: The climax of "The Royal Train" involves Hodges on a handcar chasing a runaway train with the platoon aboard, so he can throw them the widget they need to stop the train. Then they throw the train into reverse, and it becomes Hodges on a handcar fleeing a runaway train instead.
Hidden Depths: Captain Mainwaring knows how to play the bagpipes. (See Sexless Marriage for the reason why.)
Hypocritical Humor: Private Frazer was very fond of asserting one point of view, only to immediately switch to the opposite one when it no longer became a good idea to hold the first one.
It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY: Mainwaring frequently has to correct others on the pronunciation of his name. Captain Square continues to say "Mane-wearing," no matter how many times he is told otherwise.
It Must Be Mine: Happens when Mainwaring is trying to buy some oranges at a charity auction from Hodges, who predictably is doing everything in his power to stop him getting them. Eventually Wilson tells Pike to buy an orange for Mainwaring, but neglects to tell the captain, resulting in Mainwaring entering a furious bidding war against himself. He eventually ends up paying ten shillings for it (when the first one sold for a couple of pence).
Let's Get Dangerous: In a sense; while the platoon rarely saw anything in the form of a genuine military operation, every so often the viewer was reminded that behind the bumbling Mainwaring and his men were brave soldiers fully prepared to fight and die in the defense of their homes and country if it came down to it.
And none braver than Mainwaring himself, who would be the last man out of a bombed building and once faced down a desperate German prisoner with an unloaded gun. (It turned out that the German's gun was unloaded too.)
Typified by this exchange in an early episode when the elements of the platoon believe an invasion is underway and elect to stay and try and delay the German advance to give the regular army time to counter-attack.
Captain Mainwaring: "It'll probably be the end of us, but we're ready for that aren't we men?" Private Frazer: "Of course."
Living Prop: The majority of the platoon — you know, the other two ranks of men?
Ms. Fanservice: Miss King, a character in the first series, was intended to be this. She was then inexplicably written out, and hardly anyone remembers she was ever in the show. Later on, Mrs Pike would often take the role.
The Napoleon: Captain Mainwaring. Hodges eventually calls him "Napoleon" to irritate him.
In one episode, he even literally dreams that he's Napoleon.
Pike: "Why don't you have a word with Mr Jones' mother?" (facetious, since Jones is elderly)
Jones (sadly): "You leave my mother out of this. My mother's gone to another place."
Pike (quietly): "Sorry, Mr Jones."
Not So Different: For all their class-conscious rivalry and dislike of each other, both Captain Mainwaring and Warden Hodges are rather pompous men who've let the sudden burst of power and authority they now have as a result of their wartime duties go to their heads a bit too quickly.
Mainwaring and Wilson also count. Mainwaring is envious of Wilson's social position in life (upper class, gets on easily with others) while Wilson is envious of Mainwaring's professional position. (Manager of the bank and Leader of the home guard platoon)
Not What It Looks Like: In one episode, Pike borrows a bank staff car to take Hodges's niece on a date to the cinema; but the car breaks down and it takes him all night to push the car back to Walmington-on-Sea. Hilarity Ensues the following day as he hopelessly tries to convince everyone that's all they were doing during the night ...
Obsolete Mentor: Corporal Jones is a veteran of many wars but his love of bayonets is more often a hindrance than a help.
Of Corsets Funny: In one episode, the various members of the Home Guard are desperately attempting to look younger to avoid being transferred to the ARP. Captain Mainwaring notices that Sergeant Wilson is standing straighter than usual and it is revealed that he is wearing a girdle (or, as he refers to it, a "gentleman's abdominal support").
Only Sane Man: Sergeant Wilson. Pike and Walker also have their moments.
Parachute in a Tree: "Time On My Hands" centres on the characters' efforts to pull down a German pilot whose parachute is caught on the town clock.
Patriotic Fervor: Captain Mainwaring often naively harps on about the strengths of the allied forces, but quickly dismisses any positive remarks about the Nazis with "We'll have none of that talk here!"
Our side displayed "British initiative!", while similar behaviour by the enemy was derided as a "typical underhand Nazi trick!"
Phony Veteran: Captain Mainwaring had a habit of exaggerating his military service in the Great War.
Mainwaring: I served in France (quietly) during the whole of 1919. Wilson: I thought the war ended in 1918. Mainwaring: Someone had to clean up the mess!
Real Song Theme Tune: Averted, though the Dad's Army theme is often mistaken for a real wartime song. It was actually written by Jimmy Perry and performed by Bud Flanagan, who was a popular singer in the 1930s and 1940s.
Mrs Fox's first name is initially given as Marcia, but becomes Mildred in the final episode of the show.
Square is first introduced as "Corporal-Colonel Square" and later becomes Captain. Handwaved by the show's producers stating that he had simply received a promotion ("Corporal-Colonel" being an amalgamation of his current rank in the Home Guard and his previous one while in the military, Truth in Television as this was done in real life with some veterans).
In the first episode, Fraser runs a philatelist's shop. In later episodes, he's an undertaker.
Several minor characters' names were retconned over the course of the show. Mrs. Yeatman's name is initially given as Anthea, then Tracy and finally Beryl. Mr. Blewitt's name changed from Norman to Sidney, while Walker's recurring girlfriend was named Edith Parish in her first appearance but became Shirley in subsequent episodes.
The Rival: Hodges. Captain Square occasionally fills this role as well.
Runaway Train: In one episode, the unit had to move a train out the way of an incoming one after the drivers got drunk, but ended up with a runaway train after it turned out they'd left the brake wheel back at the station and that the line was all downhill from that point. Cue Captain Mainwaring climbing over the train roof, the warden, vicar and verger on a handcart trying to bring them the brake wheel and then them having to go damn fast the other way after the platoon accidentally put the train into reverse.
The Runt at the End: Corporal Jones is always a beat behind the rest of the platoon when drilling.
Secret Weapon: The platoon are called on to stop a radio-controlled mobile bomb (based on the real-life Panjandrum) that's rampaging around the countryside.
Justified somewhat: a Missing Episode did actually have Walker drafted, and discharged on medical grounds because of the allergy - corned beef was the only rations available!
Second Face Smoke: In the episode where the platoon are delegated to guard a captured German submarine crew, the German officer is smoking a cigarette and blows smoke in Mainwaring's face. Mainwaring waits until he's out of sight to cough and splutter.
Separate Scene Storytelling: Technically speaking, the entire show. The very first episode begins in 1968, with Mainwaring addressing his men as part of the "I'm Backing Britain" campaign. The entire show is his fond recollection of those halcyon days...
Also Corporal Jones in "The Two and A Half Feathers". A veteran of the Sudan War claims that he was saved by a native tribeman after Jones left him out in the desert to die. The tribesman was Jones dressed in Arab robes; he remained silent about his role in order to cover up a scandalous affair the veteran was involved in.
Spin-Off: The aforementioned radio series, It Sticks Out Half a Mile, broadcast between 1983-84. It centred around Hodges, Pike and Wilson teaming up to renovate the abandoned pier in a nearby seaside town, and was later turned into an original TV series called High and Dry
The pilot featured Mainwaring and Wilson. Arthur Lowe died soon afterwards hence Mainwaring being replaced with Hodges. Then, when John Le Mesurier passed away after recording one series, it was decided to just put it to rest (as a direct Dad's ArmySpin-Off, at least).
Squirrels in My Pants: In "Room at the Bottom", Corporal Jones gets ants in his pants and, while trying to remove them, accidentally signals the platoon to advance into an ambush.
Strapped to a Bomb: In a classic episode, the over-age Walmington platoon are tasked with guarding the captured crew of a U-boat. The Germans try to escape and take Corporal Jones as a hostage, rigging a hand-grenade down his trousers that will explode if the Captain's wishes are not complied with. Fortunately, Sergeant Wilson has seen to it that there is no detonator in the grenade... but only he knows this...
"You know, Wilson, over the years that I've come to know the members of the platoon, I've become quite fond of them. But I can't help feeling sometimes, that I'm in charge of a bunch of idiots."
That Came Out Wrong: Captain Mainwaring manages to get a block of rationed cheese as a surprise for his wife. However, when he telephones her with the good news, things don't quite go as he planned.
"Yes, Elizabeth. I think I may have a little surprise for you tonight..."
One episode revolved around the platoon trying to find out whether a parachute that had landed in a nearby field was a British parachute (which are white) or Nazi parachute (which are cream.) Unfortunately, Walker had found it and had it made up into women's lingerie to sell. Hilarity Ensues as Mainwaring visits each of Walker's customers and has to ask to see their underwear...
Upper-Class Twit: Wilson exhibits some of these traits, although not as much as Mainwaring would like to think he does. Captain Square also has elements of the trope.
Uptown Guy: One episode involved Pike becoming engaged to Violet Gibbons, whose mother used to be Mainwaring's cleaner. Trouble follows as the snobbish Mainwaring tries to put an end to the relationship: "The bank doesn't like THAT sort of thing, you know!"
Vitriolic Best Buds: Mainwaring and Wilson's differences of class and methods often put them at odds with each other but they stick together nevertheless.
War Was Beginning: The very first scene of the series takes place in 1968, as Mainwaring (who is an alderman and Chariman of the Rotary Club by this point) speaks at a function in support of the then-contemporary "I'm Backing Britain" campaign and describes how the war began and the platoon was formed.
Who's on First?: In both the radio and TV episode versions of 'The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Walker', Walker's called up to the army. Mainwaring and Wilson go to London to see an official, thinking it's a mistake. Said official is looking for walkers (i.e. people who walk for charity races) for a friend of his. You can see where this is going.
You Didn't Ask: In one episode where the platoon helps to gather in a harvest, Mainwaring asks Sponge, a farmer, to show the others how to operate a threshing machine. Sponge admits that he is a sheep farmer and doesn't know how the machine works. When Mainwaring demands to know why Sponge never said so before, Sponge points out that Mainwaring never asked him ...
You Look Familiar: Michael Knowles played various small roles in different episodes. John Ringham played Private Bracewell in the first episode and returned later as Captain Bailey for several episodes.