Get Some In!
was a British sitcom written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey (best known as the writers of The Good Life
) which aired on Thames Television
for five series between 1975 and 1978. It followed the trials and tribulations of a group of Royal Air Force National Service recruits in 1955 (between 1949 and 1960, all healthy males between the ages of 17 and 21 were required to serve in the British military for two years), and starred Tony Selby as Corporal Percy Marsh, the RAF's version of a Drill Sergeant Nasty
. The recruits included snarky Teddy Boy Jakey Smith (Robert Lindsay), well-spoken grammar school graduate Ken Richardson (David Janson), naive vicar's son Matthew Lilley (Gerard Ryder), and pessimistic Scot Bruce Leckie (Brian Pettifer). Most episodes also featured scenes of Marsh's Awful Wedded Life
with his long-suffering wife Alice (Lori Wells).
In the first two series, they went through basic training at the fictional RAF Skelton somewhere in the West Country; at the beginning of the third series, they were assigned to a nursing training course (along with Marsh, who had requested a transfer) at the fictional RAF Midham in Lancashire, where they remained until the end of the fourth series. In an ostensible Grand Finale
, the four National Servicemen were posted to the non-fictional RAF Luqa in Malta, while Marsh was demoted to Aircraftman First Class for cheating on the final nursing exam and posted to Labrador
, and that seemed to be that for the series.
However, the News of the World
, citing audience figures of over 14 million, successfully petitioned Thames to uncancel the series, and the fifth series saw the four National Servicemen (with Jakey now played by Karl Howman, Robert Lindsay having departed to take the lead role in Citizen Smith
) recalled to Britain and posted to the fictional RAF Druidswater in the west of England, where they once again crossed paths with Marsh, who had apparently risked his life in trying to save that of a superior officer and returned to Britain as a hero and a Corporal once again. Viewing figures plummeted, and the series was cancelled for a second and final time without a definite resolution.
The series stood apart from the various other Armed Farces
series on British radio and television (such as The Army Game
, The Navy Lark
, Dads Army
, etc.) by being set in the Royal Air Force. However, the main characters hardly ever even saw
an aeroplane, and only once actually went up in one, true to the experiences of many National Servicemen who joined the RAF in the hopes of taking to the skies only to be bitterly disappointed.
This series provides examples of:
- Accidental Innuendo: The none-too-worldly Matthew occasionally uses suggestive language without realising it. For example, in "Complaints", he introduces an anecdote about he and his fellow Life Boys deciding which of them would read the day's Bible lesson by seeing which of them their brigade leader addressed first by saying, "When I was in the Life Boys, we used to take advantage of Mr. Underwood." Jakey lampshades the innuendo by telling Matthew, "Don't get sordid," which only confuses him.
- Afraid of Blood: When the main aircraftmen are assigned to a nursing course at RAF Midham, Matthew reveals that he is terrified of even the thought of blood, which causes him to lose consciousness (though usually with enough warning to give his glasses to someone so that they are not broken when he falls). For example, in "The Human Body" from Series 3, Squadron Leader Baker follows a question about what the upper arm muscles do (flexion and tension) by asking him what would happen if, for example, the biceps had been torn in half by shrapnel; as his description of the injury gets more explicit, Matthew hands him his glasses and faints dead away, while Marsh laughs hysterically.
- And You Thought It Was a Game: "Crash Exercise" from Series 4 revolves around Marsh and the four aircraftmen being tasked with responding appropriately to a "civilian casualty" (actually a friend of Squadron Leader Baker's who is pretending to be injured). However, Marsh is alerted to this in advance, and when they find a bicyclist lying injured by the roadside, he assumes it is the fake casualty. Unbeknownst to the airmen, the bicyclist really is injured, having crashed into a stone mile post after attracting unwanted attention from a dog. It isn't until he has been conveyed to the hospital and Squadron Leader Baker is called in to sort things out that the mistake is discovered - by which time the fake victim has been brought in with a real concussion after Marsh inadvertently opens an ambulance door into his face.
- Armed Farces: In the RAF of Get Some In!, the officers are toffee-nosed buffoons, the NCOs are petty sadists, the men in the Regimentnote are animalistically savage, and the young new recruits are gullible naifs.
- Awful Wedded Life: Marsh and his wife Alice are constantly arguing, and Alice finally has enough and leaves Percy in the Series 4 opener, "Cards", when he bets her wedding ring in a card game, but returns to him in the Series 4 finale, "Exam Results".
- Bad Liar: Marsh is usually terrible at bluffing his way into desired situations or out of sticky situations with dishonesty.
- In "Rugby" from Series 2, when Ken is invited to join RAF Skelton's rugby team and thereby rub shoulders with the officers, Marsh claims that he plays rugby as well, as a centre forward (which Ken immediately notes is a position in football, not rugby).
- When told he is on a charge for cheating on the nursing exams in "Exam Results" from Series 4, Marsh tries to get out of it by claiming that Flight Sergeant Wells, who put him on the charge, has done so out of racial prejudice, and that while his skin tone might not mark him as Afro-Caribbean, the tight curls in his hair are where it comes out. Squadron Leader Baker is not convinced for a moment and threatens to put him on a second charge for lying.
- Batman Gambit: Two examples, one "heroic" and one "villainous", stand out:
- In "Erks", the first episode of Series 3, Flight Lieutenant Grant tells Marsh that he will make his temporary promotion to Sergeant a permanent one if his recruits finish first in the tests at the end of basic training. Knowing that their first instinct will be to finish last to spite him but that they have more respect for Grant, Marsh tells the recruits that Grant is dying, and that it would mean a lot to him if he could end his career, and life, on a high by seeing the group win the shield for highest test scores. Jakey is suspicious, but agrees to join the other three in putting their best foot forward, and they win the shield - at which point a gleeful Marsh reveals the truth. (His promotion is short-lived, however; the recruits' hut in the barracks burns down, and he is demoted back to Corporal by the end of the episode.)
- In the Series 4 finale, "Exam Results", Jakey, Ken, Matthew, and Marsh are all posted to RAF Luqa in Malta, while Bruce is posted to RAF Minden in Germany. The four National Servicemen decide to manipulate Marsh into exchanging postings with Bruce by claiming that Malta is a barren rock, whereas at RAF Minden he will be surrounded by beer, sausagesnote , and eager German women. Sure enough, the pleasure-seeking Marsh falls hook, line, and sinker for the ploy - and is left stranded when the Minden posting is withdrawn while the four recruits go to Malta together.
- Beware the Nice Ones: In "Labrador" from Series 5, Matthew's internal anger at keeping quiet about what a scumbag Marsh really is finally boils over, and he begins drinking, smoking, leering at girls, and calling Ken "Poofhouse". Marsh, of course, is delighted by the change and invites Matthew to his house for a raucous booze-up. Jakey, Ken, and Bruce finally call in Matthew's father to talk some sense into him.
- Book Dumb: Jakey Smith is not too bright when it comes to academic subjects (in "End of Basic Training", when he is looking at possible postings after completing basic training, he chooses cartography as he thinks it involves cars), but he is by far the most savvy of the four main aircraftmen; in "Erks", he alone suspects that Marsh is trying to pull something when he claims that Flight Lieutenant Grant is dying and that his last wish is that "C" flight win the shield for highest test scores at the end of basic training, and sure enough, he's right (it's all a ploy to get his long-desired promotion to Sergeant).
- Brick Joke: One brick joke in the series took three years to reach its payoff. In what seems like a throwaway joke in "Medical" from Series 1, MO Squadron Leader Baker's incompetent assistant, Rankin, tells his superior that he wants to be a bandsman after watching the band at RAF Skelton assemble for rehearsal; Baker just groans, "Oh, shut up." In "Crisis" from Series 5, Rankin returns as a psychiatric patient at RAF Druidswater, still harbouring ambitions of being a bandsman and eventually threatening to jump off a window ledge if he can't be a musician. Jakey forces Marsh to give him 32/6 to buy a trombone for Rankin... who, inevitably, is a Dreadful Musician.
- British Brevity: Get Some In! lasted for five series with six to eight episodes each for a total of 34 episodes.
- Christmas Episode: "Christmas at the Camp" from 1975 sees the four recruits stuck at RAF Skelton for Christmas. Alice Marsh is taken ill, so Marsh tries to force the aircraftmen to cook his Christmas dinner, only for the turkey to be stolen by a dog. Marsh then tries to get into the NCOs' party, but Alice has recovered enough to go herself, and his treatment of her has left him persona non grata among the other NCOs and their wives, so he is forced to join Jakey, Ken, Bruce, and Matthew for a dull evening of orange squash and bad ventriloquism with the camp chaplain (an evening only Matthew enjoys).
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: One of Marsh's first acts upon being put back in charge of the four National Servicemen at RAF Druidswater in Series 5 is to assign them to morgue detail. However, the death-obsessed Bruce takes to it like a duck to water, and when Marsh renews their assignment to the morgue at the end of "Death", Bruce is smiling from ear to ear. When Marsh sends Bruce and Jakey back to the morgue at the beginning of the following episode, "Morgue", Bruce insists that he enjoys it, which Marsh believes is a failed attempt at Reverse Psychology.
- Cut Himself Shaving: In "Erks" from Series 3, Marsh is promoted to Sergeant and makes a bad first impression in the Sergeants' Mess by demanding waiter service from the LAC serving as bar steward before it begins. Flight Sergeant Tidy offers to show him the billiard room, and after the door closes, the sound of violence issues forth, followed by Marsh holding a cloth over his nose. He tells his wife, Alice, that he "fell over", and repeats the lie to the four main aircraftmen when he sees them later that evening with a dressing on his nose.
- The Dandy: Like most Teddy Boys, Jakey places a great deal of importance on fashionable clothing and hairstyles when he is called up (although, also like most Teddy Boys, he does not shy away from potentially clothing-damaging violence). In the first episode of Series 1, "Callup", he receives a Traumatic Haircut (see corresponding entry) as his "duck's arse" falls victim to the barber's scissors, and in the next episode, "Kit", his main objection to the RAF uniforms is their lack of style. When he encounters a group of his former fellow Teddy Boys while on leave during the Series 1 finale, "36-Hour Pass", they taunt him for his now uncool clothes and hairstyle.
- Dartboard of Hate: During the end of basic training tests in "Erks" from Series 3, Ken imagines Marsh's face superimposed on the target on the rifle range, and is motivated to hit the bull's eye of the target four times in a row.
- Digging Yourself Deeper: In the Series 1 episode "Boots", Marsh selects Matthew to show what he has learned about being on sentry duty, and sets the scene by telling him he is in the Libyan desert guarding millions of pounds of new aircraft from hordes of IRA terrorists. Matthew points out that the IRA would probably not be in the Libyan desert, and proceeds to identify other tribes who might instead be found there as an unimpressed Marsh gives the entire squad an extra hour's bull (cleaning/polishing their quarters). When Marsh then sarcastically identifies himself as Mickey Mouse as part of the roleplay and hands over his identification, Matthew pretends to shoot him for supposedly being Mickey Mouse but having Corporal Marsh's ID. The irate Marsh assigns the flight an extra two hours' bull, which prompts Matthew to say that he's dead and shouldn't be able to speak... which in turn prompts Marsh to make it three hours.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Marsh revels in the power he has over the National Servicemen, and makes it clear in the first episode that they will learn to despise him, and jokes that his name is spelled "B-A-S-T-A-R-D". However, he goes beyond whipping them into good soldiers and straight into bullying them for his own amusement; for example, in the Series 2 episode "Coke", he reacts to the cokenote rationing gripping Britain by helping himself to the barracks' allocation, leaving the National Servicemen to freeze. However, his sadism has stood in the way of his promotion to Sergeant, as his recruits routinely fail their end of basic training tests deliberately just to spite him; ironically, this simply causes him to be more brutal to the recruits as an outlet for his frustration.
- Driven to Suicide: In "Exam Results" from Series 4, Marsh has had his exam results nullified for cheating and been demoted to Aircraftman First Class, his supposedly plum posting to RAF Minden in Germany (which the four National Servicemen tricked him into taking from Bruce in exchange for a posting to RAF Luqa) has been revoked, and his wife, Alice, has left him. He heads for a weir near RAF Midham and plans to jump over the edge and drown himself. However, Alice happens to walk past at the same time with similar ideas; after first mistaking her voice for an auditory hallucination, Marsh declares that their reunion must be a sign that they should go on living - together. Alice seems less thrilled about this than Marsh, but agrees.
- Everyone Meets Everyone: "Callup", the first episode of Series 1, starts with Marsh already established at RAF Skelton, and over the course of the next ten minutes, we see Ken packing his bags in a rush to catch his train to Skelton (which he misses, making him the last new recruit to arrive), Jakey and his girlfriend Edna on another train, Bruce arriving with a group of nameless airmen, and Matthew being dropped off at the camp by his father.
- Exact Words: Marsh sometimes uses this to scam the airmen under his command. For example, in "Crush" from Series 2, when Matthew and Bruce have been assigned to stove cleaning duty in their barracks hut while the others have gone into town for the evening, he tells them he could let them off their duties for the evening, but first drops hints that it will cost them. After Bruce hands over £2, Marsh promptly leaves, telling them that he only said he could let them off their duties, not that he would.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Marsh is hailed as a hero when he returns in "V.I.P. Guard", the first episode of Series 5, in which he is reported as having risked his life to save that of a superior officer. However, in "Labrador", Matthew discovers that Marsh did nothing of the kind, and simply spun what really happened to restore himself to his former rank of Corporal. Rather than report the truth to Marsh's superiors, Matthew and his father simply guilt him into becoming a regular churchgoer to atone for his sins against God.
- First Name Basis: After Marsh is demoted to Aircraftman First Class in "Exam Results" from Series 4, his fellow AC1 Jakey addresses him as "Percy" at every available opportunity, almost using the name as a comma at times.
(as Marsh bitterly cuts the stitches to his Corporal's stripes on his RAF blues)
Jakey: Doin' a bit of sewin', Perce?
Marsh: (icily) Watch your mouth, Ted.
Jakey: Well, I would, Percy, but as you and me are the same rank now, Percy, I have one thing to say to you, Percy, which is "Up yours, Percy."
(later, after newly-promoted LAC Ken pulls rank and orders Marsh to move his furniture in their shared dorm room from the middle of the floor to the corner)
Marsh: That is corporal's furniture!
Bruce: (shoves Marsh) Now stop arguin' and do what the LAC says!
Jakey: Yeah. You see, you must remember, Percy, when you was a corporal, Percy, it was corporal's furniture, Percy. But now you are an AC plonk, Percy... do as you're told, Percy.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The four main aircraftmen form one of these.
- Jakey is choleric. He is by far the most charismatic and savvy of the four, but also has the shortest temper (having been a Teddy Boy before conscription), even venting his anger against the other three in some of the early episodes (such as when Matthew keeps accidentally splashing water over his boots while they are mopping the bathroom in "Medical").
- Ken is sanguine. Though nervous around girls, he enjoys socialising and is optimistic about his possible future with the RAF (despite the periodic reality checks), though he is also likely to be taken in by the schemes of less ethical characters. He is often put forth as the group spokesman not because he is charismatic (he often points out this describes Jakey, not him) but because he is the most intelligent of the four.
- Matthew is phlegmatic. He firmly believes in forgiving and forgetting (even using those exact words when offering an olive branch to Marsh during their farewell scene in "Exam Results"), but is also socially awkward as a result of his somewhat sheltered upbringing and is by far the most gullible of the main four, a trait of which Marsh often takes advantage. His lack of natural leadership inspires Marsh to put him in charge of the title event in "Field Exercise" purely to set him up to fail.
- Bruce is melancholic. Brooding and quiet, he starts counting down the hours he has left in National Service before the end of the first day and quickly slides into despair; in "Medical" he even contemplates suicide. He is also the most pessimistic of the four, convinced in "Exam Results" that the RAF will send them to the four corners of the Earth "just to be bloody-minded", in his case probably sending him to Malaya (which was part of the British Empire but was in the middle of its struggle for independence in 1955).
- Get Out: Squadron Leader Baker's use of this phrase after giving Marsh a dressing down in Series 4's "Exam Results" signals that Marsh is coming to the end of the line after his attempt to argue his way out of being charged with cheating by citing racial prejudice is dismissed as absurd.
Baker: This is utterly ridiculous! You have failed, you are a ward orderly!
Marsh: Yes sir, very well sir. (smiles) But you're not gonna keep me on that charge for cheating, are you, sir?
Baker: Of course I damn well am! Now get out of here before I put you on another charge for, for, for lying!
Marsh: (starting to panic) Er, I would like to apply for a transfer to the King's African Rifles, sir!
Baker: GET OUT!
Marsh: Sir! (clicks his heels before fleeing the room)
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Matthew refuses to use even mild profanity, as Marsh discovers when he tries to browbeat him into saying "blimey" in the Series 1 episode "Boots" (though this refusal is on religious grounds, as "blimey" is a corruption of "God blind me", which the devoutly Christian Matthew regards as blasphemous), mostly restricting himself to such euphemisms as "blink", "blooming", and "flip". He drops the equivalent of a Cluster F-Bomb when the Regiment at RAF Skelton appear in the undergrowth near the end of "Field Exercise" in Series 2... in this case, a Cluster "Flip" Bomb.
- Grand Finale: "Exam Results", the last episode of Series 4, was expected to be the series finale when it was written and filmed, and so Jakey, Ken, Matthew, and Bruce finally escaped from under Marsh's thumb with a posting to RAF Luqa in Malta, while Marsh was hit by Laser-Guided Karma as he was caught cheating on the final nursing exam, demoted to Aircraftman First Class, and posted to a remote RAF base in Labrador. The last two scenes show the four National Servicemen standing on a balcony in Malta soaking in their new surroundings, while in Labrador a furious Alice Marsh switches off a weather forecast predicting continued snow as a parka-clad Percy tries to rouse her interest in a snowball fight. However, the News of the World successfully petitioned Thames to renew the series after all; the actual final episode, "Operation Greenfly", provides no resolution.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: In "Complaints" from Series 2, the four aircraftmen are trying to decide which of them will complain to Flight Lieutenant Grant about the quality of the food when he walks through the mess asking, "Any complaints?", and Matthew notes that when he was in the Life Boys (the junior Boys' Brigade), he and his friends would decide who would read the day's Bible lesson by seeing which of them their brigade leader, Mr. Underwood, spoke to first. They decide that whichever of them is the first to be spoken to by the next person to enter the barracks will speak to Grant, and soon another aircraftman enters, whistling and absently noting that the other four seem to be trying to avoid looking at him. He then sits down with a book, and Matthew notices the title:
Matthew: Oh, The Wooden Horse!note
Aircraftman: (not looking up from the book) Yeah.
(Matthew realises his mistake, but too late; he looks over to see Jakey and Ken pointing at him as if to say "You're it!")
Matthew: Oh, flip!
- Hypocritical Humour: Marsh is good for a lot of this. For example, when he is promoted to Sergeant in the Series 3 episode "Erks" and makes his first trip to the Sergeants' Mess, he orders the bar steward to give him waiter service before it usually begins. Flight Sergeant Tidy takes him aside to explain the rules of the mess, and insists that Marsh address him as "Chief" rather than "Sid" as a Flight Sergeant outranks an ordinary Sergeant. Marsh protests at this, yet thinks nothing of saying that as he outranks the bar steward (a Leading Aircraftman (LAC)), the latter should do as he tells him.
- Ironic Fear: Despite being in the Royal Air Force, Corporal Marsh is paralytically terrified of flying. When he is forced to accompany the aircraftmen on a flight helmed by former Lancaster pilot Wing Commander Birch in the Series 2 episode "Flight", he spends the entire flight rigid with fear, and babbles to a bewildered Bruce that Birch has shrapnel in his head from the war and is flying the plane into the Sun. When Matthew tells the other recruits that Birch will be showing them how the aeroplane flies with only three engines, Marsh screams, "HE'S MAAAAAD!" and runs into the toilet, where he remains locked in for the rest of the flight.
- "Just Joking" Justification: Marsh sometimes tries this to get out of difficult situations. For example, in "Picket Detail" from Series 1, Group Captain Chato has told him that he is being passed over for promotion to Sergeant due to his bullying ways toward the aircraftmen under his command, but that another position will open in six months if he can change his attitude. Marsh leaves Chato's office to find Matthew struggling with a floor polisher, and manages to stop himself from berating him in order to show him how to use it properly. However, Matthew accidentally hits Marsh's foot with the polisher, causing him to unleash a torrent of verbal abuse just as Chato leaves his office. He tries to shrug off the abuse as a joke, but Chato clearly doesn't believe him and indicates that he'll be passed over for promotion in six months as well.
- Kicked Upstairs: In "RAF Midham" from Series 3, the CO at Midham, the genial Group Captain Brice, gives a welcome/farewell speech to the new arrivals at the camp in which he mentions the Air Ministry have kicked him upstairs, so they will be the last new arrivals he welcomes to Midham. His departure kicks off a Tyrant Takes the Helm story arc as his successor, Group Captain Ruark, is far less genial and agrees to Marsh's request to instill some good old-fashioned military discipline in the airmen at the camp.
- Lethal Chef: Cook-Corporal Lionel Jenner, as seen in "Complaints" from Series 2, has lax attitudes toward the cleanliness of his kitchen and the food cooked in it. Rather than removing slugs from the cabbage, he tells his staff to boil the cabbage, slugs and all, and scoop the slugs off the top of the water with a strainer; meanwhile, after Bruce falls headfirst into a vat of leftover porridge, Jenner implies to Marsh that the same porridge will be on the next day's breakfast menu.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: In "Medical" from Series 1, the Medical Officer at RAF Skelton, Squadron Leader Baker, tells Marsh his wife has asked him to look into the possibility that he is having "trouble downstairs". Marsh tries to claim that this refers to damp in the cellar of his house, but in the next episode, "At the Top", Alice confirms that she means his reproductive abilities, as they have failed to conceive a child after five years of marriage. After seeing Marsh get fall-down drunk over the course of the evening, Baker drily diagnoses the problem as "brewer's droop".
- Mistaken for Cheating: In the Series 1 episode "Kit", Marsh confiscates/buys a box of ladies' hankies from Jakey for half a crown and gives them to Alice as a present. However, Jakey has dozens of boxes of hankies which he bought for pennies apiece and is selling at a huge profit, and he sells one to LAC Hodder, the quartermaster at RAF Skelton, to give to his girlfriend as a present. When Marsh shows up to get Ken a replacement kit, he finds one of the hankies on the floor and assumes that Hodder and Alice are having an affair. Ken promises to keep quiet about this apparent indiscretion, but when Marsh discovers that Alice still has all of the hankies in her box, he punishes Jakey for being a spiv and Ken for doubting his wife's fidelity.
- My God, What Have I Done?: In the Series 1 episode "Medical", Marsh claims that the entire flight could be dismissed from National Service if one of them were to commit suicide. When Bruce returns from a round of punishment for mistakes made during earlier drills, he snaps that he might as well shoot himself... and the other airmen (except for Matthew, who was being punished with Bruce and who also believes suicide to be a sin against God) seem to egg him on. When he disappears along with his rifle and a round of live ammunition is reported missing, the airmen are horrified by the thought that they might have helped to drive Bruce to suicide. Fortunately, the missing round of ammunition was just miscounted, and Bruce has actually been talking to a fellow Scot in the armoury about how not to make the same mistakes with his rifle again.
- Naked People Are Funny: In the final scene of "Field Exercise" from Series 2, in a hitherto unseen display of courage, Matthew charges at the RAF Regiment members standing between him, Jakey, Ken, and Bruce and the finish line of their field exercise to return to camp. The Regiment promptly engulfs him and strips him of everything except his beret, which he uses to preserve his remaining modesty as Marsh and the Regiment members laugh uproariously. Fortunately, the distraction has allowed the other three to become the first National Service recruits in RAF Skelton history to successfully complete the field exercise, and Matthew proudly puts his beret on and salutes a flabbergasted Corporal Marsh - then remembers what he was using his beret to cover and immediately "replaces" it.
- Never My Fault: Just as Marsh frequently takes credit for the sucesses and/or hard work of the aircraftmen under his command, so he also blames anyone else but himself when he makes a mistake, sometimes outright lying that someone else was responsible. For example, in "Crash Exercise" from Series 4, when the fake "accident victim" whom Squadron Leader Baker had planted on their ambulance route marches toward the hospital (the ambulance crew having unwittingly picked up a real accident victim instead), Marsh accidentally smashes him in the face with the ambulance door, knocking him unconscious. When he, Ken, and Matthew bring him into the casualty department of the hospital for medical attention, Marsh simply claims that Ken was the one who knocked him out.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the Series 2 episode "Field Exercise", the four main aircraftmen are the only ones left "alive" on the field exercise when they encounter Marsh at a pub. Marsh laughs that when he joined the RAF, he and his fellow recruits ran rings around the Regiment members playing the "enemy" by using their initiative. As he says this, a bus bound for Skelton pulls up behind him. The four aircraftmen run for the bus, claiming to be using their initiative, and ride it back to the camp's perimeter fence as Marsh rides after them on his bicycle screaming in anger.
- The Nicknamer: Like most drill instructors, Marsh has multiple nicknames for the various recruits.
- He addresses Teddy Boy Jakey as "Ted" and "King Edward VII" as well as "Three-F Smith" after Jakey introduces himself as "Smif" and, in a moment of Snark-to-Snark Combat, responds to Marsh's question of whether he spells it with one or two Fs with "Three."
- Marsh decides that the well-spoken Ken must be a closet homosexual, and routinely addresses him as "Poofhouse" or "Nance".
- Matthew, as a devout Christian, is referred to by such derogatory names as "Holy Joe" and "Angel Face" by the far less devout Marsh.
- The Scottish Bruce is known to Marsh as "Jock strap".
- Not Now, Kiddo: When Marsh wakes up the Group Captain at Skelton to tell him Bruce has committed suicide at the end of "Medical" from Series 1, he takes him to the barracks and tries to spin the story to incriminate Jakey, Ken, and Matthew as the ones who drove him to take his own life. However, Bruce is very much alive, and unsuccessfully tries to get Marsh's attention but is shouted down every time until finally the Group Captain demands to know the name of this interrupting troublemaker. Marsh identifies him as Leckie, the one who killed himself... and realisation finally dawns on him. The unamused Group Captain orders him outside to give him a dressing down.
- Oh, Crap:
- In "At the Top" from Series 1, Ken and Matthew get this look when they realise the woman Jakey has met at the local dance and taken to a nearby pub is Marsh's wife, Alice. Jakey gets the same look, only more so, when they tell him.
- In the Series 2 episode "Complaints", Cook-Corporal Jenner gets this look on his face when Matthew hesitantly complains to Flight Lieutenant Grant about the quality of the food, and Grant tries a forkful of cabbage, mutters "Oh my GOD!", and runs out of the mess.
- Marsh gets this look in "Final Exams" from Series 4 when Flight Sergeant Wells claims that the textbook Marsh used to cheat on his final exam was laced with a delayed action indicator which will turn his hands bright green, and he stuffs his hands into his pockets.
- The four recruits all get this look in the Series 5 opener, "V.I.P. Guard", when they discover that the V.I.P. to whom they have been assigned upon arriving at RAF Druidswater is a returning Corporal Marsh, who clearly plans to pick up where he left off with them before being demoted in the previous series.
- Playing Sick: In "Medical" from Series 1, Jakey tries to get himself disqualified from National Service on medical grounds by pretending to be hard of hearing. The Medical Officer tells him to repeat what he says, then whispers, "Six pounds of lettuce." Jakey replies, "When you're ready, Sir!" Finally, the MO tells Jakey to sit down, and Jakey complies... giving away the fact he can hear perfectly well. His ploy of swallowing cotton wool so that it shows up as a shadow on his lungs in his chest X-ray is also recognised straight away, and he passes his medical with flying colours.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: After getting demoted to AC1 and trading away his posting to RAF Luqa in the Series 4 finale "Exam Results", Marsh is posted to an RAF base in Labrador in eastern Canada, where it snows non-stop and he and Alice are assigned to live in a poorly-heated tin hut.
- Reckless Gun Usage: In "Flight" from Series 2, the aircraftmen are taken to the rifle range at RAF Wareham. Matthew spends a few moments making himself comfortable while Jakey, Ken, and Bruce fire their five rounds, then he is ordered to fire his rounds on his own. After not placing the butt of the gun against his shoulder properly, he is caught off guard by the recoil on the first shot. On his second shot, the gun jams, and the dismayed Matthew stands up and turns around, still holding his gun. The other airmen immediately dive for cover, while the alarmed Marsh carefully directs Matthew to turn around, set his gun down gently, and step away from it slowly. Unsurprisingly, he then gives him a bollocking for endangering the lives of everyone present.
- Reverse Psychology Backfire: This happens to Jakey in "End of Basic Training" from Series 3. After seeing Ken, Matthew, and Bruce all get assigned to a nursing course at RAF Midham, irrespective of what they really wanted to do after basic training, he tells the Squadron Leader assigning the aircraftmen to their new posts that he really wants to study nursing, assuming that his "wishes" will also be ignored. To his dismay, the Squadron Leader is delighted... that's exactly what he had in mind for Jakey anyway.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: In "Complaints" from Series 2, Flight Lieutenant Grant reacts to Matthew answering "Yes!" to his question "Any complaints?" as he walks through the mess during dinner as if it were an example of this; no-one has dared complain about the food for a long time for fear of retribution from Marsh or Cook-Corporal Jenner, so Grant has started thinking of the question "Any complaints?" as purely rhetorical (an observation which Marsh, who doesn't know what "rhetorical" means, misinterprets).
- Sarcasm-Blind: The ever innocent Matthew doesn't seem to recognise sarcasm when he hears it. In the Series 2 episode "Flight", he takes Marsh at his word when he says "In your own time" while drilling the aircraftmen on the rifle range, and hasn't even taken aim by the time Jakey, Ken, and Bruce have fired five rounds at the target, as he is busy making himself "more comfy". When Marsh is surveying the results of the other recruits' shots, he drily asks if Matthew is quite comfy yet, and promises not to keep him waiting; Matthew fails to note the sarcasm in his voice and brightly says, "Right you are!"
- Self-Serving Memory: In "Labrador" from Series 5, Marsh has been invited to speak at Matthew's father's church about his heroics in trying to save the life of Wing Commander Pinkerton while he was posted to Labrador. In a series of flashbacks, we see that while Marsh claims that it was Pinkerton whose miscalculation caused their snowmobile to overturn and that he kept a cool head to carry Pinkerton on his back until they were rescued, in reality it was Marsh's fault the snowmobile overturned, he couldn't think through the panic (at one point trying to de-ice the radio with a pickaxe, smashing it beyond repair), and Pinkerton carried Marsh on his back until he collapsed just moments before they were rescued.
- Side Bet:
- In "Crush" from Series 2, Marsh borrows £2 from Bruce to spend on an evening out, then denies all knowledge of the transaction when Bruce asks him to pay him back the next morning. When Matthew chimes in to support Bruce's story, Marsh decides to give Bruce a chance to win his money back by betting £2 that Ken's attempts to romance Squadron Leader Fairfax' lonely wife will get nowhere. Jakey throws in a £2 bet of his own upon overhearing their conversation. In the episode's final scene, Marsh is waiting for a bus with Bruce, Jakey, and Ken when Mrs. Fairfax drives up and tells Ken he left his comb at her house; the chagrined Marsh is forced to pay out to both Bruce and Jakey.
- When Marsh is put on a charge for cheating on the nursing exam in "Exam Results" from Series 4, Ken is convinced that he will finally lose his corporal's stripes. Jakey believes that Marsh might as well be made of asbestos for all his ability to deflect "fire" from above, and bets Ken half a crownnote that Marsh will still have his corporal's stripes when he returns to their shared dorm room. Sure enough, Marsh is still wearing his stripes, and a disappointed Ken hands half a crown to an equally disappointed Jakey... until they see Marsh take out a pair of scissors and begin cutting the stitches of the stripes on his greatcoat. They grin triumphantly as Jakey flips Ken's money back to him and slaps his own half-crown on top of it.
- Stealing The Credit: After he is transferred to RAF Midham and is able to start with a clean slate with a new CO, Marsh engages in credit-stealing at every available opportunity to make himself look better, and continues this trend when the same CO, Group Captain Ruark, happens to be in charge of RAF Druidswater. For example, in "Morgue" from Series 5, he claims to have skipped breakfast so that he can personally re-organise the medical storeroom to make things easier to find and otherwise keep track of, whereas the reality is that he press-ganged a group of National Servicemen (including Jakey and Bruce) to do all the work while he sat back and relaxed.
- There Is a God!: Several episodes feature Matthew ascribing improbable events that work in the aircraftmen's favour to divine intervention.
- In "Ejection" from Series 2, Jakey goes AWOL after getting a letter from his mum claiming that his grandfather is going to be evicted so that his landlord can let his flat for more money; after discovering that his grandfather has bought the house using his life savings, Jakey hitchhikes back to Skelton, hoping to arrive before Marsh discovers he is missing. Just outside Skelton, he flags down a car... and discovers Marsh at the wheel. However, Marsh takes him back to Skelton without disciplinary action and even helps him over the fence. When Jakey wonders why Marsh was so helpful, Matthew declares, "I should have thought that was obvious, really," while looking skyward.
- In "Erks" from Series 3, the first test at the end of basic training requires the National Servicement to jump off a springboard and over a pommel horse. Gymnastics are not one of Matthew's strong suits, so he is clearly nervous about the test, but as he runs forward and jumps onto the springboard, it smashes into fragments beneath his feet. The adjudicator declares, "Faulty equipment! You can have that one, airman!" Matthew smiles, clasps his hands, and looks toward the sky as if to say, "Thank you, God!"
- There Will Be Toilet Paper: In "Kit" from Series 1, Marsh finds a straight razor in Teddy Boy Jakey's coat during their first morning ablutions and threatens to put him on a charge for having an unauthorised weapon. Jakey claims he was going to use the razor to shave (which, as he has just been seen putting a blade in a safety razor, is clearly not true). Marsh orders him to do so, and when the flight return to their barracks after their ablutions, Jakey's face is covered in squares of toilet paper.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: In Series 4's "Final Exams", after Marsh tries to make a pass at Corporal Wendy after she and Bruce have just been married, Bruce finally snaps after all the abuse Marsh has heaped on him ever since he was called up and challenges him to a fight. As the two of them march out of the NAAFI, Jakey rallies Ken and Matthew to go after them, but Wendy stops them, almost invoking this trope word for word, even when Jakey points out that Bruce is hopelessly outmatched (and, sure enough, he returns moments later, having been knocked down by a single punch).
- Title Theme Tune: "It's time for National Service, lads, so get some in! / They'll tell you 'no' if you ask your dads to get some in..."
- Trash the Set: The Series 3 opener, "Erks", is the next-to-last to be set at RAF Skelton, and after the four aircraftmen learn that Marsh lied about Flight Lieutenant Grant's terminal illness to motivate them to win the shield for highest end of basic training test scores and get him a promotion to Sergeant, Bruce gets drunk and douses the floor of their barracks hut with petrol. Jakey, Ken, and Matthew manage to stop him and set about mopping up the petrol, but then Marsh arrives (as he had his nose broken in the Sergeants' Mess earlier that evening, he cannot smell the petrol), taunts them with the knowledge that they helped him get his promotion, and lights a celebratory cigar as the four airmen scramble for the door... just in time for Marsh to unwittingly throw the lit match into the puddle of petrol, burning the hut to the ground.
- Traumatic Haircut: In the first episode, "Callup", Jakey shoves his way to the front of the queue for haircuts and gives the barber detailed instructions as to how he wants his "duck's arse" (the standard Teddy Boy haircut) styled. The barber then grabs the front of Jakey's hair and chops it off completely, causing Jakey to roar with horror as he sees himself in the mirror.
- Two-Faced Aside: The Series 2 episode "Field Exercise" features this trope as a Running Gag. Flight Lieutenant Grant repeatedly tells "C" flight that he will be with them every step of the way during the field exercises, only to turn to Marsh and mutter that he's going back to bed, or that he's returning to the mess and that Marsh should let him know when the remaining aircraftmen have been "killed".
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: In "RAF Midham" from Series 3, the National Serviceman arrive at the camp in the title and find the CO, Group Captain Brice, an amiable fellow who doesn't enforce the same strict, even bullying discipline to which they were subject at RAF Skelton. However, he moves on near the end of the episode, and the new CO, Group Captain Ruark, agrees to let Marsh, who has also joined the nursing course at RAF Midham after asking for a transfer, to whip the camp into shape by instilling a bit of discipline. In the episode's final scene, he makes it clear that he will make their lives just as miserable as they were at Skelton, if not more so.
- Upper-Class Twit: The RAF officers are almost exclusively public school graduates (in "End of Basic Training" from Series 3, an officer effectively tells Ken to his face that a public school background is a requirement to become an officer; as Ken went to grammar school, this rules out this path for him) with clipped RP accents and more interest in rugby matches than in actually running the Royal Air Force. In "Crash Exercise" from Series 4, Squadron Leader Baker is seen in the middle of an argument with a doctor who trained at a rival hospitalnote about... the result of a rugby match between the two hospitals from two years earlier.
- Video Inside, Film Outside: Some of the interior scenes (such as the scene in "Boots" where Marsh lights a canister of gas to show the recruits how well their respirators work and then to familiarise them with how the gas smells) were shot on film on location at actual RAF facilities, but the others (such as those in the various barracks and NAAFIs and Marsh's houses at Skelton, Midham, and Druidswater) were shot on videotape.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: As a devout Christian, Matthew has been brought up to believe that there is good in everyone, and not even being bullied, scammed, and bellowed at on a regular basis for the most minor infractions (or even for no reason whatever) by Marsh seems to shake his faith that, deep down, the corporal is not so bad.
- World's Smallest Violin: When Marsh almost drowns Bruce during a swimming lesson in the Series 3 episode "Swimming" and then visits him in the barracks to offer a very insincere apology, Ken drapes the cloth he has been using to clean their room over his shoulder and mimes playing a violin, making appropriate sound effects until Marsh bellows at him to shut up.
- Would Hit a Girl: In the Series 1 episode "Callup", as Jakey and his girlfriend Edna ride the train to Skelton for him to begin his National Service, he tells her she had better behave herself while he is in the RAF, and holds up a clenched fist as he adds, "Or I'll belt yer."