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Series / Dad's Army

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Don't panic! Don't panic!

"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."
— The iconic theme tune

Permission to describe Dad's Army here, sir?

Permission granted.

Dad's Army was an ensemble sitcom on The BBC about the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon in World War II, a motley band of mostly elderly volunteers who would have been their fictional town's first line of defence had Nazi Germany invaded. The show aired for nine years (1968-77), though the war itself had of course only lasted six, and today remains among the most beloved of all BritComs over half a century after it debuted. Almost every character was finely and consistently drawn and had a catchphrase that most British people can still repeat with very little memory-searching.

While waiting for the presumed invasion, the platoon does its best to prepare, resulting in many hilarious mishaps. They occasionally do some 'genuine' military work, such as guarding downed German pilots, and take part in training exercises with the regular army, where they are often surprisingly successful. The rest of the time they merely have to cope with the peculiar tense tedium involved in staying on alert for an invasion that never actually comes, as an essentially past-it, incompetent, yet brave and (mostly) willing rabble with occasionally clashing temperaments. They also have a vigorous rivalry with the neighbouring Eastgate platoon and with their obstreperous local Chief Air Raid Warden, who sometimes tries to sabotage the platoon.

The main characters were:

  • Captain George Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe): The pompous bank manager with no combat experience who appointed himself captain. Pronounced "Mannering".
  • Sergeant Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier): Mainwaring's diffident deputy bank manager and platoon second-in-command, who proved a constant source of frustration due to his laid-back manner and his higher social class and military experience. Was strongly implied to be having an affair with Pike's mother, with a suggestion that he might actually be the boy's father.note 
  • Lance-Corporal Jack Jones (Clive Dunn): The local butcher and a 30-year veteran of the British Army, having served in the Sudan and WWI. His eagerness to see action was matched only by the amount of long-winded stories of questionable relevance he was willing to launch into.
  • Private Frank Pike (Ian Lavender): Mainwaring's bank clerk, Wilson's (supposed) nephew and an all-round mollycoddled teenager, enthusiastic but hopelessly wet behind the ears. Was often seen wearing a scarf.
  • Private James Frazer (John Laurie): The sour, gloomy and very Scottish local undertaker. A former Royal Navy cook, he made little secret of both his intense desire for more power in the platoon and exactly what a martinet he'd be if he ever got it.
  • Private Charles Godfrey (Arnold Ridley): A gentle soul, even older than the rest of the platoon, excessively polite and friendly and a butt of constant humour relating to his weak bladder. Due to his WW1 experiences and his general physical ailments, he generally serves as the platoon medic.
  • Private Joe Walker (James Beck): Good-natured spiv and the only platoon regular of military age — he evaded conscription on dubious grounds (allergic to corned beef). Can lay his hands on seemingly any kind of black-market goods. 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. Beck tragically passed away part way through the sixth series, leading to the writers retiring the character.
  • ARP Chief Warden William Hodges (Bill Pertwee): The local greengrocer, chief air-raid warden and Mainwaring's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis. The two usually feud over rights to use the local church hall, their respective class differences, and their equal over-inflated sense of self-importance due to their wartime duties.

Other significant characters were the rather effete local vicar, Timothy Farthing (Frank Williams), whose church hall the platoon made use of; the pompous verger Maurice Yeatman (Edward Sinclair), who tended to act as Hodges' fawning lackey; Mrs. Pike (Janet Davies), Pike's neurotic and overbearing mother who was heavily implied to be having an affair with Wilson; Private Sponge (Colin Bean), another member of the platoon who would often be called upon whenever a supporting role was needed; Mrs. Fox (Pamela Cundell), an overbearing local lady "of a certain age" with a bit of a thing for Corporal Jones; and Captain Square (Geoffrey Lumsden), the commanding officer of the nearby Eastgate platoon with a rivalry towards Mainwaring.

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 and pathos, like the way the platoon react when they find out that Private Godfrey was a conscientious objector in World War I. Although they were duly contrite upon discovering that Godfrey in fact served valorously on the Western Front as a volunteer stretcher-bearer, they realised that, irrespective of Godfrey's wartime activities, their behaviour had been reprehensible.

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 Britains Best Sitcom. A film with all the original cast was released in 1971, while a feature film remake was released in February 2016 starring Toby Jones as Captain Mainwaring and Bill Nighy as Sgt. Wilson. We're Doomed, a Docudrama about the behind-the-scenes making of the show, aired in December 2015.

As of its 50th Anniversary in 2018, the show is still being Re Run every Saturday evening on BBC Two, as well as being seen regularly on Gold.

This show provides examples of:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: In "The Royal Train", the Vicar, the Verger, the Mayor and Hodges are on a handcar following the home guard in a train, when the train goes into reverse. To avoid the train hitting them, they try to outrun it by reversing the handcar, rather than jumping off the handcar and out of the way.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Mrs. Fox occasionally fills this role, although Jones didn't seem to mind her too much and they eventually embark on a romance.
  • AB Negative: In "When You've Got to Go", Pike is finally called up to join the Royal Air Force. During a blood donation drive, he finds out that he has a very rare blood type, and the RAF later rejects him as they would not be able to give him a blood transfusion should he need one. Pike doesn't tell the rest of the platoon this until after they've held an expensive fish and chip supper to say goodbye.
  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: In "A Soldier's Farewell", Captain Mainwaring has a cheese-induced dream that he is Napoleon after Waterloo and Sergeant Wilson is the Duke of Wellington, among others.
  • Acquired Error at the Printer: In one episode, a printer mixes up photos of Corporal Jones (intended for a recruiting poster) and an enemy agent (intended for a "Wanted!" Poster).
  • Actor Allusion: Ian Lavender is a fan of Aston Villa and chose to wear a claret and blue scarf (the club's colours) as Pike as a way of showing support for his team.
  • Actual Pacifist: Private Godfrey is unable to even kill a mouse he caught stealing from his pantry, and was a conscientious objector in the previous war (although he served as a medic hauling the wounded out of no man's land under fire, and was awarded a medal for extreme bravery in doing so). He is made the platoon's medic so he can still serve with them without being asked to kill anyone.note 
  • Adolf Hitlarious: The theme tune, "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mister Hitler?", is a pastiche of wartime songs that treated Hitler as a joke. Viewers would be forgiven for assuming that it was an actual war song, although it was in fact written for the show.
  • Aftershow: It Sticks Out Half a Mile was a radio-show attempt at making the series without Captain Mainwaring or most of the platoon. Arthur Lowe was supposed to voice his character in the show but he died after making one episode, so they built up Wilson as the main character. John Le Mesurier's death a year later effectively ended all work on the programme as a Dad's Army spinoff, and it was re-tooled for TV as High & Dry starring Bernard Cribbins as the would-be pier restorer and Richard Wilson as his reluctant financial backer.
  • Almighty Mom: One thing that could derail the orderly military life of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard was Mrs. Pike storming round to complain about all the things Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson were making her son do. Private Pike, the youngest member of a platoon largely composed of elderly men too old for regular military duty, and otherwise a pampered mummy's boy was frequently excused the more arduous and dirty aspects of military service for this reason. Nobody wanted his mum coming round to complain.
  • Aloof Leader, Affable Subordinate: Captain Mainwaring is a stiff-backed, shouting martinet, while Sergeant Wilson is far more soft-spoken and easy-going when dealing with the men. For example, if Mainwaring wants the platoon to fall in, he will bellow, "Platoon, fall in, three ranks!", while Wilson won't even raise his voice as he says, "All right chaps, would you mind just falling in now, please, three rows- er, ranks."
  • America Won World War II: In "My British Buddy", the Walmington Home Guard are infuriated by the arrival of American troops whose attitude is that they're going to succeed where the British have failed. Matters aren't helped by the fact that the first thing the American soldiers do when they get there is try to steal the British soldiers' girlfriends, and then act very entitled and hard-done-by when they find they can't get a good drink. It all ends in a fistfight. Warden Hodges' comments didn't help the situation any either — mockingly saying that the US had joined the war quickly this time, "Two and a half years instead of three!"
  • Americans Are Cowboys: In "My British Buddy", Walmington-on-Sea is hosting the first US troops on British soil, so Captain Mainwaring asks Sgt Wilson how he should greet them. Wilson suggests, "Howdy partner, put it there" while offering to shake hands. Mainwaring scoffs at this, saying he's been watching too many cowboy movies. This becomes the inevitable Brick Joke when the American captain enters and holds out his hand to Mainwaring. "Howdy partner, put it there!"
  • Anti-Climax: Frazer's story about the "old empty barn" among others note . Made funnier by the fact that all of Frazer's previous stories had been quite long-winded, and came to definite — and invariably dreadful — conclusions.
  • Armed Farces: The series is set in the British Home Guard during World War II and features an arrogant but inept platoon commander, his sensible but ignored second-in-command, and five of the men under their command, three of whom are over 60 years old, one of whom is a conniving spiv, and one of whom is a wet-nosed mummy's boy.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Private Sponge. He tended to be an extra given some speaking lines whenever the characters needed to talk to someone outside the main cast, but he began to get more substantial roles in episodes following the death of James Beck, as his character (Walker) was written out and the writers would often need someone to fill his place. It didn't ever get to Promoted to Opening Titles status, but he's nevertheless a lot more prominent from about Series 7 onwards.
    • The previously unnamed Private Desmond, when he joins the main characters on a mission in the episode "Sons of the Sea". This part was originally intended for Private Sponge but his actor was unavailable.
  • 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!".
  • Attractive Bent Species: In "Operation Kilt", Walker persuades Frazer to join him in using a pantomime cow to sneak up on a Highland regiment during a training exercise. Things do not go according to plan when a bull takes an interest. (Frazer gets the worst of it, since he is playing the back half of the cow.)
  • Author Avatar: Jimmy Perry based Pike on his own background and his experiences during the war. He originally wrote the part of Private Walker for himself to play, but David Croft vetoed this on the grounds that other cast members would think Perry had taken the best part for himself.
  • Awful Wedded Life: It is frequently implied that Mainwaring is trapped in a loveless and unhappy marriage to Elizabeth, his unseen wife, who is domineering, neurotic and withholding of affection. For example, in "If the Cap Fits..." Mainwaring reveals he learned to play the bagpipes on his honeymoon in Scotland because "there was nothing else to do".
  • Bad Omen Anecdote:
    • Pike is a fan of the cinema and narrates the plots of films that relate to the platoon, even if the relationship is vague. When the film example does mirror reality, he picks scenarios which end in death.
    • Frazer will often find the time in the various predicaments that the platoon face to observe that their potential fate is "a terrible way to die", to note that "we're doomed" when peril is awaiting them or to regale the platoon with an anecdote of a much similar experience he is aware of that ended rather bleakly for all concerned. He also has quite a line in dark, atmospheric and rather long-winded tales which start promisingly with the lure of supernatural horrors and terrors, only to ultimately prove disappointing and end rather mundanely, such as the tales of 'The Auld Empty Barn' (there was nothing in it) and his friend Jethro, who apparently fell victim to a curse that ensured certain death; Jethro indeed did die at the age of 86.
  • Badass Pacifist: In "Branded", it's revealed that Godfrey was a conscientious objector during World War I, causing many of his friends to regard him as a coward and lose respect for him. He earns it all back by the end of the episode and then some when it's further revealed that he applied for training as a field medic, and won medals for bravery by venturing into No Man's Land in search of wounded soldiers and carrying them on his back, under heavy fire, across the barbed wire and minefields of the Battle of the Somme, to safety. He thinks that his military medal is "too garish" for someone like him.
  • Balloonacy: In "The Day The Balloon Went Up", this happens to Mainwaring when everyone except him lets go of a stray barrage balloon. It floats away, getting him airborne. The climax of the episode involves trying to get him down.
  • Banana in the Tailpipe: In the first episode, while having a discussion of how to take on a tank with improvised weapons, Jones suggests plugging the exhaust with spuds (potatoes). Mainwaring points out that it wouldn't work because tanks have long, thin exhaust pipes. Jones asks why they can't use long, thin spuds.
  • Baseball Episode: Well, Cricket episode, Home Guard vs. ARP Wardens, with a special guest appearance by Yorkshire and England fast bowler Freddie Trueman as a ringer brought in by Hodges.
  • Battering Ram: In "Museum Piece", the platoon uses a battering ram in an attempt to break down the doors of the museum, only to be defeated by some Door Judo by the museum caretaker.
  • Bawdy Song: Godfrey's song about a monk, although we're only ''told'' he sang it, not what it was about. The cast's reactions are more than enough for us to guess.
  • Bayonet Ya: Corporal Jones was always advocating the use of the bayonet ("They don't like it up 'em!", as he always says). Played for Laughs when they tried to adapt his van (working as a makeshift armoured car) to run on literal gas, stored in a bag attached the roof. And the order was given to point the guns upwards through the openings in said roof...
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Sergeant Wilson is almost invariably polite and charming with everyone, including the men under his command, but he's more than ready to snap into action in the face of enemy threats, and at one point, he punches Hodges for being rude to Mrs. Pike. In the last episode it was even revealed that he had been an artillery captain during the First World War.
    • Private Godfrey is even more kindly and soft-spoken than Wilson, and he was revealed as having been a conscientious objector during the First World War, but he served as an unarmed stretcher bearer, rescuing injured soldiers during the Battle of the Somme, for which he was awarded the Military Medal.
    • Mainwaring himself does actually face up to a real German with a real gun, in the genuine (if mistaken) belief that the German is armed — and pulls it off...
  • Big Blackout: The series takes place in a town located at an unspecified point on the South-Eastern English coast during World War II, at a location considered to be a prime target for German attack (either Sussex or Kent, though the platoon's cap badge indicates that Walmington is in the latter county). While a blackout was imposed across the whole of Britain during the Blitz, it was enforced particularly more severely in the regions the show is set in, as the line of the expected German invasion was also the shortest route for German bombers to take when attacking London. Draconian penalties were imposed on those who allowed even the slightest chink of light to show from outside their home; a corps of air-raid wardens was recruited to enforce the legislation and were widely hated for their petty attitude and the way they exerted the powers they had been given. This was satirised in the officious and unpleasant personality of Chief Warden Hodges, a working-class shopkeeper suddenly placed in a position of power.
  • Big Damn Movie: Dad's Army (1971) has this atmosphere to it, even though it's adapted from the early episodes.
  • Bird-Poop Gag: Implied in "Getting the Bird". Walker dopes a flock of pigeons and tries to sell them to Jones as meat. However, the drugs wear off and they fly into Captain Mainwaring's office and cause chaos. As Walker and Jones try to round the birds up, Pike complains "Look what those pigeons did to my forage cap!" but Mainwaring tells him to stop complaining as he's heard it's lucky.
  • Black Market: Both sides of the World War 2 Black Market with the classic 'spiv' Walker selling all sorts of dodgy goods 'off the back of a truck' and the genial Jonesy quietly providing extra sausages and the like from his butcher's shop.
  • Black Market Produce: Local spiv Private Walker sometimes dealt in produce as part of his black market activities. It plays a major role in "We Know Our Onions" where he has been using Jones' van to fulfill a black market order for Warden Hodges, the greengrocer, and has half a ton of onions hidden in the back when the platoon is ordered to take part in a Home Guard efficiency test and travel there in the van, towing a Smith gun with them.
  • Blatant Lies: Many are the episodes where Frazer can be heard grumbling in multiple scenes about what an incompetent buffoon Mainwaring is, only for Mainwaring to put on a display of courage, leadership, or intelligence that would do most men proud, leading Frazer to declare, "I never doubted you for a single minute!" Mainwaring, who has invariably overheard Frazer's previous complaints, generally gives him a look of quiet disbelief.
  • Blind Without 'Em:
    • Mainwaring takes his glasses off in a coffee shop and struggles to find the door a few feet away.
    • In an effort to prove his youthfulness when enlisting in the Home Guard, Corporal Jones takes off his glasses and accidentally signs the desk.
  • Bomb Disposal: In "Something Nasty in the Vault", Wilson and Mainwaring find themselves in a bank vault holding an unexploded bomb that's dropped out of a German plane. True to the nature of the show, the bomb disposal expert is little help and wacky hijinks ensue.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: In "The Lion Has Phones", an army officer demands to know why Mainwaring believes the inhabitants of a stranded German plane will surrender in two hours. Wilson, rather than explain that the reservoir the plane landed in is being filled and the Germans will be under water in two hours simply replies that "See the fact is they do not like it up them."
  • Brains Versus Brawn: The series 5 episode "Brains Versus Brawn" makes this trope the primary conflict. Jones and Walker get upset when they learn that the Training Major left out their platoon from training a new unit of commandos. Mainwaring backs the division arguing that commandos use brute force rather than cunning and intellect so they don't need training from the likes of them. This leads to Pritchard suggesting they run a training exercise competition in which the different troops have to deliver a fake bomb to the Officer-in-Charge's office. Brains win out in the end, after Walker orders for the delivery of a second fake bomb to the Officer-in-Charge's office.
  • 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 "Museum Peace" 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.
  • British Brevity: Zigzagged. Series ran anywhere from 6 to 14 episodes. By virtue of running for a decade however, it made an unusually mighty total of 80 episodes by its end in 1977 (albeit with three early episodes believed to be lost).
  • 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. This was something of a justified / invoked trope, since Ian Lavender was one of the younger members of the cast and thus one of the few who was still actually capable of doing such physical comedy without potentially risking serious injury or illness.
    • Corporal Jones also tends to get subject to a lot of physical humiliation over the course of events. Similarly to Pike, he was actually played by Clive Dunn, one of the younger actors despite the character's age, meaning he could safely be subjected to a lot more physical comedy.
    • Hodges also suffers his fair share of misfortune, though in his case it's because he's so annoying the audience would no doubt approve.
  • Camp Gay: Reverend Farthing shows signs of this; in "Time on My Hands", he tells Hodges that he got the idea to fire an arrow attached to a silk thread attached to a piece of twine attached to a rope that the stranded Home Guard can use to climb down from the Town Hall clock from a fairy story, and Hodges sneers "I expect you know all about fairies."note 
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Inverted. Captain Mainwaring is an oafish but brave amateur and Sergeant Wilson is a suave aristocrat with extensive military experience. Mainwaring's (and Wilson's) intense awareness of the class inversion was a comedy goldmine. Only in the last episode was it revealed that Wilson was indeed a genuine Regular Army Captain Smooth from the previous war. He was filling in as sergeant so that Mainwaring could be Captain if he wanted to; having been a real captain he had no intention of squabbling over who should be a Home Guard captain at his time of life.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In "The Lion Has Phones", there is a scene in a cinema. Behind the two women in the ticket office is a poster for The Edge of the World. This is a real movie which starred John Laurie.
  • Character Catchphrase: Each main character had at least one main catchphrase, and some developed others as the series progressed. While a more complete list can be found on the individual entries at the character page, the more well-known ones for each character were:
    • Captain Mainwaring: "(You) stupid boy!" (directed at Pike); "I think you're getting into the realms of fantasy, Jones..."
    • Sgt. Wilson: "Are you sure / Do you think that's wise, sir?"; "Would you mind awfully stepping this way?"
    • Corporal Jones: "Don't panic!" (while panicking); "Permission to speak, sir?"; "They don't like it up 'em!" (referring to his bayonet); and "Sir, I should like to volunteer to be the one to... "
    • Private Pike: "If you don't let me [do X] I'll tell Mum!"
    • Private Frazer: "We're doomed... doomed..." [Accompanied by a mad, wild-eyed stare that would not be out of place in a Hammer Horror film]
    • Private Godfrey: "Do you think I might be excused, sir?"
    • Warden Hodges: "Put that light out! PUT THAT BLOODY LIGHT OUT!"; "You ruddy 'ooligans!"; "Now look 'ere, Napoleon..." [directed at Mainwaring]
    • Aside from individual character catchphrases, at least one person would (rather officiously) declare "There is a war on, you know..." in almost every 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.
  • Child Soldiers: Jones was one, joining the British Army as a drummer boy in 1884.
  • Christmas Special: Three of 'em:
    • 1971 - "Battle of the Giants", where the platoon is challenged to a test by the Eastgate platoon, with Hodges, The Vicar, and the Verger as judges. They seem unlikely to win and their chances worsen when Jones has a bout of malaria.
    • 1975 - "My Brother and I", where Mainwaring's drunken brother Barry arrives in Walmington-on-Sea claiming that their father's pocket watch, held by Mainwaring, belongs to him. Mainwaring gives him the pocket watch to assuage him, but Barry gatecrashes Mainwaring's party for local dignitaries.
    • 1976 - "The Love of Three Oranges", where the Vicar organises a bazaar to which each member of the platoon donates something. Hodges donates three oranges, rare due to wartime rationing. Mainwaring is determined to buy one of the oranges for his wife.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • 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. The second episode, "Museum Piece", has Mainwaring and Wilson briefly mention his golf club, but that's as good as Bracewell got for the rest of the series.
    • Miss King vanishes almost without a trace after Series 1, probably because her inclusion was purely because of Executive Meddling as it was felt that the show needed a young female character. She did appear in the 1971 movie (played by a different actress), but in the series, the only subsequent reference to her was in the Series 4 episode, "A. Wilson (Manager)?", when she is briefly mentioned by Pike in an off-hand line of dialogue in Mainwaring's office.
    • Walker's girlfriend Edith, also known as Shirley (but played by Wendy Richard regardless of what her name was), vanished from the show after Walker was Put on a Bus following James Beck's untimely death.
    • Also happens to Private Cheeseman. The character got a mixed reception and was seen as the Replacement Scrappy in the wake of Beck's death. Word of God also stated that some of the other actors, especially John Laurie, felt that Cheeseman was getting too many laughs. He disappeared after series seven without any explanation.
  • 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 (not that this stopped him from cashing his pay cheques for the series).
    • According to show writer Jimmy Perry, most of the background platoon members were played by retired actors or writers rather than the usual extras.
  • Colonel Makepeace: Private Sponge.
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: In the episode "Keep Young and Beautiful," where the men must disguise themselves to look younger in order to avoid being drafted into the ARP.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: The escapades of "No Spring for Frazer" would have been prevented if only Frazer had checked in his trouser pocket a bit sooner.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: In "The Armoured Might of Lance Corporal Jones", Joe Walker lights his cigarette from a flame sprouting from a leaking gaspipe without realising it.
  • Courtroom Episode: In "A Brush with the Law", Mainwaring is charged with showing a light and taken to court by a gleeful Hodges. When Mr. Yeatman tries to tell Hodges he's responsible, he is blackmailed into remaining silent. Walker then blackmails the judge, Colonel Square, into freeing Mainwaring due to Walker observing the light being switched on at the time he brought Square some illegal whiskey. Then Mr. Yeatman admits in court he had switched on the light.
  • Creator Cameo: Jimmy Perry appears in the episode "Shooting Pains" as entertainer Charlie Cheeseman. Perry originally intended to play Joe Walker, but was talked out of it by David Croft.
  • Creepy Mortician: Moody dark moor Scotsman Frazer.
  • 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.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Wilson is the focus of "Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret", "A. Wilson (Manager?)", "Getting the Bird", "The Honourable Man" and "The Recruit".
    • Jones is the focus of "The Showing up of Corporal Jones", "Two and a Half Feathers", "When Did You Last See Your Money?" and "High Finance".
    • Frazer is the focus of "A Stripe for Frazer", "No Spring for Frazer", "If the Cap Fits" and "The Miser's Hoard".
    • Godfrey is the focus of "Branded", "All is Safely Gathered In" and "Is There Honey Still for Tea?"
    • Pike is the focus of "War Dance", "When You've Got to Go" and "The Making of Private Pike".
    • Walker is the focus of "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Walker".
  • Deadpan Snarker: John Le Mesurier was cast as Wilson because, in the words of the BBC brass, "He suffers so beautifully." With the pompous Mainwaring above him and the various liabilities below him, he deals with being the Only Sane Man in the platoon with quiet sarcasm. Just to give two examples from the same scene in "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Walker" (as reconstructed in 2019):
    • With Mainwaring waiting to inspect the platoon, Wilson gives the command (well, invitation) "Open order... march." Jones, true to form, is a second or two behind the others, and says, "I'm sorry, sir - I'm not my usual self today!" Wilson mutters, "Oh yes you are, Jones."
    • When Walker arrives with the bad news that he's being called up for military service and must report for his medical in ten days, Mainwaring declares that the time has come for action, not words, and asks Wilson if he agrees. Wilson, well aware of how much his superior at the bank and in the platoon loves the sound of his own voice, says, "I always think it's rather a good idea to keep the words to a minimum, sir."
  • Decoy Hiding Place: In "The Lion has Phones", a montage shows the Home Guard platoon disguising themselves as haystacks, garbage cans, and gravestones for their camouflage training. Then we see a row of milk churns lined up like the platoon, who actually turn out to be hiding behind a fake wall attached to a nearby barn.
  • Delayed Reaction: One of the best-known is in "Room at the Bottom" when Wilson gives Mainwaring Captain Bailey's message:
    Mainwaring: What did he want? Usual red-tape nonsense, I suppose?
    Wilson: Yes, he just wanted you to take off one of your pips.
    Mainwaring: Oh, is that all? (looks up sharply) He wanted what?
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: In "The Test", the ARP probably could have won their cricket match against the platoon without any assistance. But Hodges is so determined to beat Mainwaring that he brings in a professional ringer and then over-confidently declares and puts Mainwaring's team in to bat, expecting his star player to bowl them all out in a few overs. But then the ringer gets injured after one ball, and the Home Guard successfully chase down the ARP's score.
  • Domestic Abuse: Sometimes Captain Mainwaring appears sporting minor physical injuries, such as a black eye in "War Dance" for which he offers comically unconvincing explanations such as "walking into the linen cupboard door". It is strongly insinuated that these injuries are the result of domestic violence and they often seem to happen before a function or event where other women may be present, to which Elizabeth is invited but cannot attend as it would involve going out.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: In "A Brush with the Law", Jones tells a story about a soldier who reports for training, and when his commanding officer tells him to choose between a Lee-Enfield and a Martini, responds "make it a martini, and go easy with the ice!" He then follows this up with a long-winded explanation of how the soldier was confusing a Martini-Henry rifle with an alcoholic drink.
  • Doomed New Clothes: In "The Desperate Drive of Corporal Jones", Mainwaring gets a fancy new dress coat and uniform. The former gets burnt when the platoon inadvertedly use it to send smoke signals and the latter gets ruined when he has to dive on the ground.
  • Door Judo: In "Museum Piece", the museum caretaker defeats the platoon's attempt to break down the museum door with a Battering Ram by opening the doors so they charge straight through.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: In "War Dance", Mainwaring showing up to the dance with a black eye from his wife is Played for Laughs. In the same episode, Pike makes a surprise announcement that he is engaged. Mrs. Pike is implied to have violently kicked him and Wilson out of the house afterwards.
  • Downer Ending: "Mum's Army" — Mainwaring falls in love, but the woman leaves him rather than destroy his life with a scandal. This was a Shout-Out to the film Brief Encounter.
  • 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.
    • The lost Series 2 episode "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker" 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. Although Ramsey turns out to be a Reasonable Authority Figure in the end.
    That's the best bit of initiative I've seen in this whole war! I'm going to give you twelve stars!
  • 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.
  • Drunk with Power: Mainwaring and Hodges throughout the series. Frazer during his brief stint as The Tyrant Taking The Helm.
  • Due to the Dead: Spoofed when Jonesy knocks out a radio-controlled secret weapon in "Round and Round Went the Great Big Wheel". "I've killed it!" Somber music plays as everyone takes off their hats.
  • During the War: Specifically from the foundation of the Local Defense Volunteers in 1940 to somewhere in 1942.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness:
    • 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).
  • Earned Stripes: In "A. Wilson (Manager)?", when Sergeant Wilson is promoted to Lieutenant of the Eastgate platoon, he supposedly walks around town in officer's uniform trying to find servicemen to salute him. Due to a paperwork mix-up, every other member of the platoon (except Pike, the one responsible for the mix-up) receives a letter telling him he has been promoted to sergeant. They all show up at parade wearing sergeant's stripes and Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way: In "A. Wilson Manager", Frazer (mistakenly believing he has been promoted to sergeant) practices what he intends to tell the platoon:
    Frazer;: You can have it the easy way or the hard way. The easy way's not very easy, and the hard way is very very hard!
  • 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.
  • The Eeyore:
    Frazer: We're dooooomed!
  • Enemy Mine: Despite his hostility toward the platoon, Hodges has sided with them in times of need; in "Wake Up Walmington", as there had been no German invasion, the townspeople had grown indifferent and contemptuous toward the platoon and the wardens. To shock them out of their apathy, Captain Mainwaring and Hodges join forces and the Home Guard disguise themselves as foreign invaders to scare the town into taking the war (and them) seriously.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Almost every episode started with Mainwaring inspecting the troops, giving first time viewers a quick run down of the main cast.
  • Facepalm: Sergeant Wilson, frequently.
  • Fell Off the Back of a Truck: Walker's excuse for how he came by various goods is that they fell off the back of a lorry.
  • Food as Bribe:
    • As a butcher with access to rationed meat, Jones does this often.
    • Hodges promises people onions (also rationed) if they agree to donate blood for the ARP, who are competing with the Home Guard in a donation drive.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Frazer sometimes refers to the English (especially Mainwaring) as Sassenachs, a derogatory Scots Gaelic term for the English.
  • Forgotten Framing Device: The first episode started in the 1960s with Captain Mainwaring addressing a Rotary Club dinner and reminiscing about his time in the Home Guard, before flashing back to the story of the founding of the platoon. This was never referred to again in the remainder of the series, possibly as its inclusion was due to Executive Meddling.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Walker is a textbook spiv, a fast-talking black market dealer who can get you all manner of goods that are rationed or otherwise of limited availability - everything from booze, cigarettes, and confectionery to nylons, elastic, extra ration books, and even cars - as long as you don't ask too many questions about where and how he gets them and accept that he's probably going to mark up the price. The Walmington platoon isn't the only one that depends on his ability to get luxury goods that have become scarce thanks to the war; in "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Walker", a brigadier at GHQ tells Mainwaring that Walker's ability to procure black market booze is all that keeps the Boer War veterans in his platoon on their feet.
  • Frozen in Time: While running from 1968 to 1977, the series started in 1940, went through 1941, and then 1942 [due to the inclusion of American troops in the episode 'My British Buddy']. 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.
  • Funny Background Event: The closing credits show the platoon double-timing it across a field towards the camera. Towards the end, at the left of screen, you can see that Godfrey is a long way behind the others.
  • 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.
  • The Ghost: Mainwaring's wife. The closest we get to seeing her is the large dent she makes in the top half of a pair of bunk beds. She is finally seen in the 2016 movie, when she's running a women's auxiliary platoon (of which most of the members are relatives or love interests of the main characters).
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: In "The Deadly Attachment", in which the platoon are delegated to guard a captured German submarine crew, they 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.
  • 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.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: In 'Things That Go Bump in The Night', the group get chased by a group of dogs, and split up inside a shed and up a tree. Because the aniseed on Pike's uniform is attracting the dogs, he is forced to surrender it, with a small whimper of 'Don't look'. After covering his modesty with just two small bags, he later dons a potato sack.
  • Haplessly Hiding: Appears twice in the episode "Operation Kilt", when Captain Mainwaring's platoon try to spy on a rival platoon who are headquartered at a local farm. The first time, Private Walker and Private Frazer try to sneak through the fields while wearing a cow costume, but they attract the attention of an amorous bull. The second time, Corporal Jones hides in a hay cart while the rival platoon leader Captain Ogilvie gives his men a briefing. Ogilvie attaches a map to the side of the hay cart and marks key points on it with long pins, stabbing Jones in several rather personal areas as he does so.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Captain Mainwaring knows how to play the bagpipes. (See Sexless Marriage for the reason why.)
    • Pike can drive a train.
  • High-Class Glass: It's revealed that upper-class Sgt. Wilson requires a monocle because his sight is weaker in one eye than the other. Captain Mainwaring — who is middle-class, wears glasses and is ridiculously class-conscious — immediately feels threatened because of this.
    Wilson: Show me in King's Regulations where it says a sergeant can't wear a monocle!
  • Hilarity Ensues
  • Home Guard: The basis of the show.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Private Walker's black-market goods include plenty of items of dubious quality; in the first episode, he sells a watch to a fellow Home Guard member with the stock "waterproof, shockproof" spiel given by hundreds of dealers in stolen or counterfeit watches in film in television.
  • Hufflepuff House: Private Sponge 'and the others'.
  • Humble Hero:
    • Godfrey, who was awarded the Military Medal for bravery as a stretcher-bearer during World War I, but doesn't wear the ribbon on his uniform as he finds it "too garish".
    • Wilson and Frazer are, respectively, a former Army officer and a former Royal Navy cook, both of whom saw active service in WWI. Whether their lack of medal ribbons was an intentional invoking of this trope or an oversight on behalf of the costume department is unclear, but they and Godfrey all have the correct medal ribbons on their uniforms in the 2016 movie.
  • Humiliation Conga: Pike endures one during "Things That Go Bump In The Night". He gets soaked with water several times, scared senseless and because the uniform he is wearing is attracting dogs, has to strip fully naked. If that's not enough, he is sent out first to check if the dogs are distracted, with his only protection being two small bags over his genitals and backside. He sums it up well:
    Pike: [Stripping his uniform off] I'm fed up! In the past 24 hours, I've been soaked to the skin three times, been scared out me wits, nearly torn to pieces, and now I got to walk around naked.
  • 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.
    • Mainwaring occasionally lectures Walker for dealing in black market goods, but is happy for Walker to supply him and the platoon with said goods. Walker usually points this out.
    • Jones's catchphrase "Don't panic!" mainly pops up in the context of him running backwards and forwards bellowing it uselessly while beginning to panic in the middle of a crisis.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In "Battle of the Giants!", Mainwaring hits a balloon in mid-air with a pistol at the first attempt. Even he looks stunned.
  • Impromptu Fortress: In "The Battle of Godfrey's cottage" due to a misunderstanding Captain Mainwaring is left believing the invasion has begun, and that the majority of the platoon are out of Walmington-On-Sea. Having only Jones and Frazer (as well as Godfrey as he later discovers) to hand and realising they have no hope of repelling any invasion force on the beaches, they resort to setting up an improvised base at Godfrey's cottage due it being in a key strategic point on the main crossroads out of town, hoping they will be able to at least hold the invading Nazi's off long enough for General HQ to organise a proper counterattack (and them all openly acknowledging they will certainly die in the process). This leads to them setting up the Lewis gun out the living room's window, and resort to using Godfrey's pillows filled with crockery as makeshift sandbags.
  • Inter-Service Rivalry: The Home Guard vs the ARP.
  • I Resemble That Remark!:
    • Frazer when Jones lampshades his Mad Eye expressions.
      Frazer: My eyes are perfectly sane! Captain, look here — would you say I had mad eyes?! [Very mad look]
    • Pike is not a coward. He's done ever such brave things. Even pulled dead mice out of traps.
      Pike: [practically in tears] Stop calling me a soppy boy.
  • It Must Be Mine!: Happens in "The Love of Three Oranges" 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).
  • Karma Houdini: Frazer mistreats Godfrey when he is revealed to have been a conscientious objector in WW1 and knocks Pike's cake out of his hand. At the end of the episode Frazer claims to have been on Godfrey's side all along and suffers no repercussions.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In "Asleep in the Deep", the platoon and Hodges have to draw lots (represented by slips of paper with crosses on them) to determine who will be the unlucky ones to lead the platoon in shifting the rubble trapping Godfrey and Walker in a bombed pumping station. When it comes to Frazer's turn to pick, Hodges rudely shoves him out of the way so he can pick instead. Naturally, the sheet of paper he picks has a cross on it.
    • Meanwhile Mainwaring lies that his (blank) sheet of paper also has a cross, to make sure none of his men are in danger
    Frazer: What a pity! I was going to pick that one.
  • Large Ham: Ian Lavender had a lot of fun pretending to be a German officer in "Ring Dem Bells":
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Corporal Jones.
  • 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 defence 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, but he didn't know that at the time.)
    • Typified by this exchange in "The Battle of Godfrey's Cottage", when the elements of the platoon believe an invasion is underway and elect to stay and try to 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.
    • Jones has a chestful of quite legitimate campaign medals, while Godfrey was decorated for bravery as a stretcher bearer in 1916.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: In season five's "If the Cap Fits...", Manwaring grows tired of Frazer's grumbling and puts him in charge of the platoon.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Numerous platoon members are promoted or demoted over the course of the series. However, as Status Quo Is God, none of these rank changes lasted long.
  • Living Prop: The majority of the platoon — you know, the other two ranks of men?
  • The Load: Godfrey. Jones, too, is more often a hindrance than a help.
  • Lost in Character: Pike takes it a bit too seriously when he's picked to play a German officer in a Home Guard training video. He starts affecting a German accent and declaring that "vee are ze masters now!"
  • Madness Mantra: Corporal Jones' frantic cries of "Don't panic! Don't panic!" - generally while he is the one running back and forth in a blind panic.
  • Malaproper: Jones frequently gets less-common words muddled.
    Jones: All the gases will build up and we might get sophisticated!
  • Meal Ticket: There are hints that Mrs. Fox's interest in Jones is due to his ability to get extra meat for her. Even Jones has his suspicions.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: Mrs. Pike in an episode that was surprisingly risqué for its time. Also happened to Mrs. Mainwaring in one episode.
  • Mobile Shrubbery: In "Don't Forget the Diver", Jones disguises himself as a tree and is pushed along a river by Frazer in a diving suit as part of a plan to capture a windmill.
  • The Movie: Dad's Army (1971) (which RetConned most of the first episode)
  • Ms. Fanservice: Miss King, a character in the first series, was added by executives against the writers' wishes with the intention to be this. She was then dropped, and hardly anyone remembers she was ever in the show. Later on, Mrs. Pike would often take the role.
  • My Local: The Anchor.
  • The Napoleon: Captain Mainwaring. Hodges eventually calls him "Napoleon" to irritate him. In "A Soldier's Farewell", he even literally dreams that he's Napoleon.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: In "The Two-and-a-half Feathers" Jones speaks of serving under an incredibly profane sergeant (played by Arthur Lowe!) but whenever the sergeant is swearing, all the actual curses are replaced with raspberries.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: The three eldest members of the Platoon, Godfrey, Frazer and Jones, fit this respectively. Godfrey is a polite, kindhearted pacifist who will only fight back if pushed far enough. Frazer is a dour, critical man who in one episode becomes a spiteful jerk. Jones is far more personable than Frazer but more willing to fight back than Godfrey.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Stand-up comedian Charlie Cheeseman, "The Cheerful Chump", who appears in "Shooting Pains" played by show creator/writer Jimmy Perry, is an expy of Max Miller, aka "The Cheeky Chappie".
  • No Longer with Us: Corporal Jones gets one regarding his mother:
    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.
    Jones: Angmering.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In "The Making of Private Pike", 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 ...
  • Nuns Are Funny: Played with; while nuns themselves only very infrequently showed up (for perhaps obvious reasons), a frequent point of conversation was the point of enemy parachutists, saboteurs and Fifth Columnists disguising themselves as nunsnote . In "The Deadly Attachment", this ends up leading to a lengthy tangent regarding the possibility of real nuns defecting by stealing a German plane and parachuting out.
  • 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 "Keep Young and Beautiful", 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").
  • Offscreen Crash: A plane noisily crashes into the reservoir in "The Lion Has Phones".
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: One of these results in Jones thinking that Mrs. Mainwaring is pregnant.
  • Only Sane Man: Sergeant Wilson. Pike and Walker also have their moments.
  • Outfit Decoy: Employed by a rather humiliated and annoyed Pike in "Things That Go Bump In The Night". Because aniseed on his clothes is attracting a pack of attack dogs, he is forced into removing his uniform to distract them. This allows the platoon to slip away, albeit with Pike now naked.
  • Pacifism Is Cowardice: In "Branded", Private Godfrey discloses that he is a pacifist and was a conscientious objector in World War I, only for the platoon to turn on him as a coward. It's later revealed he was decorated for bravery under fire as a medic hauling the wounded out of no-mans-land, and there is some reflection on the meaning of bravery.
  • Pantomime Animal: In "Operation Kilt", the platoon attempts to use a pantomime cow to sneak up on a Highland regiment during a training exercise. Things do not go according to plan when a bull takes an interest.
  • 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.
    • Hodges finds one in "Man Hunt".
  • 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!"
  • Perilous Old Fool: Corporal Jones, a veteran of three wars and probably a bigger danger to his allies than he ever could be to the enemy.
  • Phony Veteran: Captain Mainwaring had a habit of exaggerating his military service:
    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!
  • Poor Communication Kills: In the lost Series 2 episode "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker", Walker is called up for military service. Concerned at the lack of access to black market goods (especially alcohol) this will cause, Mainwaring tells Wilson to send a telegram to the War Office which opens "DESIRABLE WALKER NOT CALLED UP YET", meaning "[It is] DESIRABLE [that] WALKER NOT [be] CALLED UP YET." However, the Brigadier at the War Office who receives the telegram has a brother-in-law who is trying to organise a speed walking team to boost morale and has asked him to circulate an advertisement around Home Guard platoons looking for long-distance walkers who haven't been called up yet. He therefore interprets the telegram to mean "[We have a] DESIRABLE WALKER [who has] NOT [been] CALLED UP YET." The ensuing conversation with Mainwaring and Wilson only serves to89 thoroughly confuse all three and does nothing to help Walker's problem.
  • Precision F-Strike: Mainwaring lets out one in "Mum's Army". When Mrs. Gray reminds him of his position at the bank, he blurts out "Damn that bloody bank!"
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Captain Mainwaring often has to tell people his surname is pronounced "Mannering".
  • Red Baron: Jones was known as "the Mad Bomber" in WWI due to his interesting grenade drills.
  • Repeated Rehearsal Failure: In "A Brush with the Law", when Captain Mainwaring is put on trial after being accused of defying blackout restrictions, and Wilson decides it will help Mainwaring's case if all the members of the platoon give the same testimony. He tries to drill into them "On the evening of the 7th we paraded in the church hall as usual, at 9.45 we all left the hall together and Captain Mainwaring put out the light in the office", but Jones mangles it into "On the night of fourteen fifth, we paraded in the light and I put the Captain out together."
  • Retcon:
    • Dad's Army (1971) retcons most of the first episode.
    • 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, Frazer 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.
  • Retired Badass: He may not seem it, but Jones more than qualifies for this trope after spending 30 years in the British Army and serving with distinction in Sudan and WWI.
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension: In "Asleep in the Deep", a bomb falls on the local pumping station as Godfrey and Walker are patrolling there, trapping them. When the platoon try to free them, they get stuck with them, and when a pipe bursts the room rapidly begins filling with water.
  • The Rival: Hodges. Captain Square occasionally fills this role as well.
  • Roll in the Hay: In "The Day the Balloon Went Up", Captain Mainwaring gets hooked on a barrage balloon and is carried across country, at one point smashing through a hay bale and startling a pair of young lovers.
  • Runaway Train: In "The Royal Train", the unit have to move a train out the way of another train carrying HM King George VI after the drivers mistake sleeping tablets for saccharine tablets, but they end up with a runaway train after it turns out they left the brake wheel back at the station and that the line is 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.
  • Running Gag:
    • During drills, whatever the command may be - "Atten-SHUN!", "Stand at EASE!", "About TURN!", etc. - Jones will always be a second or two behind the rest of the platoon in carrying it out.
    • Mainwaring struggles to get the hang of the military's use of the 24-hour clock; Wilson regularly has to translate between 12-hour and 24-hour time for him. (In a case of Strange Minds Think Alike, they meet a Brigadier at the War Office in "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker" who has the same problem.)
  • The Runt at the End: Corporal Jones is always a beat behind the rest of the platoon when drilling.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: See here.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: Pvt. Walker — skirt-chaser and black marketeer who has avoided the draft due to a 'corned beef allergy'. Justified somewhat: "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker" (one of the three lost Series 2 episodes) did actually have Walker drafted, and discharged on medical grounds because of the apparently genuine allergy — corned beef was the only rations available!
  • Sea Mine: In "Menace from the Deep" the Walmington-on-Sea platoon is stranded on the Walmington-on-Sea Pier. The situation becomes worse when a sea mine drifts underneath the pier. When Hodges falls off the pier, the magnetic mine is attracted to his steel helmet.
  • Sealed Orders: Parodied. Captain Mainwaring is given not only sealed orders but also "Sealed Instructions for Opening Sealed Orders"; when their seal is broken, they read "Break the seal on the sealed orders and then destroy these instructions".
  • Second-Face Smoke:
    • In "Branded", when Walker emerges from the smoke-filled shed during the fire rescue drill, he defiantly blows a huge puff of smoke straight into Hodges' face (having disobeyed Mainwaring's instructions to put out his cigarette before entering the shed) before climbing the ladder over the wall.
    • In "The Deadly Attachment", the German U-Boat captain is smoking a cigarette and blows smoke in Mainwaring's face. Mainwaring waits until he's out of sight to cough and splutter.
  • Secret Weapon: In "Round and Round Went the Great Big Wheel", the platoon are called on to stop a prototype radio-controlled mobile bomb (based on the real-life Panjandrum) that's rampaging around the countryside.
  • 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...
  • Sexless Marriage: Explains why Mainwaring learned the bagpipes:
    Mainwaring: I spent my honeymoon in a remote village in Scotland called InverGeechie. It was a wild and lonely place. The nights were long... and there was nothing else to do.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: In "Boots, Boots, Boots", Wilson and Pike decide to sabotage Mainwaring's plans to take the platoon on a 20-mile route march by replacing his boots with an identical pair half a size too small - unaware that Walker has concocted a similar scheme with Jones, Frazer, and Godfrey. On the day of the route march, Wilson and Walker are sporting identical bandages from having hit their foreheads trying to sneak their replacement pairs of boots into Mainwaring's air raid shelter, while Mainwaring is clearly hobbling when he arrives and heads into his office to retrieve the map for the march. Just then, the cobbler who sold the others the smaller pairs of boots shows up with a newly-repaired pair Mainwaring dropped off the previous week. Mainwaring promptly puts them on in place of his sabotaged boots, and the episode ends as the platoon leaves on the route march, completely unaware that their scheme has failed.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: When out of uniform, Walker wore incredibly well-tailored suits.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy:
    • Private Cheeseman (played by Talfryn Thomas) was added to the cast in Series 7 after the death of James Beck, but David Croft and Jimmy Perry thought he was "irritating without being funny", while John Laurie, who had already cornered the "eccentric Celt" role in the series, resented the number of funny lines Cheeseman was given, so he was quietly dropped for Series 8.note 
    • Happened in-universe when the Vicar and the verger joined the platoon and proved such an annoying burden that everyone made sure they left again soon after.
  • Shout-Out: A few episode titles were plays on film titles, for example "The Two and a Half Feathers" (to The Four Feathers).
  • A Simple Plan: The Walmington-On-Sea platoon could produce a chaotic outcome to the simplest of tasks.
  • Small Town Rivalry: Walmington-on-Sea and Eastgate.
  • The So-Called Coward:
  • Soldiers at the Rear:
    • Private Joe Walker's "allergy" to corned beef.
    • Frazer proudly boasts that he was at the battle of Jutland. He was, but he was actually a cook making the shepherd's pie below decks (although a role still carrying incredible risk).
    • Mainwaring was stationed on the Orkney Islands during the First World War. He didn't actually make it to France until the conflict was over, much to his embarrassment.
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: Reversed: there is an original cast radio series based on the TV episodes.
  • Spin-Off: The 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. The pilot featured Mainwaring and Wilson, but Arthur Lowe died soon afterwards, and Mainwaring was 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 Army Spin-Off, at least). It was later turned into an original TV series called High & Dry starring Bernard Cribbins and Richard Wilson.
  • Spotting the Thread: The U-Boat crew's plan to take the platoon prisoner via a grenade down Jones' trousers is foiled when the Colonel notices that Jones isn't wearing his full uniform — something out of character for Mainwaring to let anyone in his platoon do and out of character for Jones himself. And then he literally spots the thread of string connecting the grenade pin to the U-Boat captain's hand.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: The Animated Credits Opening shows Swastika-emblazoned arrows sweeping over western Europe (including one that gets lost for a bit), while the lone Union Jack arrow retreats back to its start point, then sticks its tail out further and pulls back across the Channel. All set to a jaunty tune about how Britain's not beaten yet. For a Genius Bonus, the moving arrows are historically accurate, charting the movements of the three German armies tasked with cutting the British army off from the French and then seeking to split it up and prevent its evacuation back to Britain. note 
  • 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.
  • The Starscream: Frazer. He never misses an opportunity to casually undermine his superiors and position himself for promotion. In " Room at the Bottom", when the rest of the platoon ask for Mainwaring to be reinstated, Frazer anonymously puts his own name forward to be captain. In another episode he gets to lead the platoon for a few days and relishes it. It's implied that he actually does have some command ability but is too draconian in his leadership style to be truly popular or effective, meaning that no one really minds if Mainwaring is in charge.
  • Status Quo Is God:
    • In one episode, Wilson is appointed manager of a bank in nearby Eastgate and is set to join the local home guard. His new bank is bombed soon afterwards and he returns to Walmington.
    • In another, Private Pike finally gets his call-up papers. As this would mean the end of his involvement in the platoon, however, fortunately for the status quo it turns out he has an extremely rare blood type, meaning that he is essentially classified 4F and discharged.
    • In "Room at the Bottom", General Headquarters realises that Mainwaring simply gave himself the rank of Captain. He's first demoted to Lieutenant and then later to Private. By the end of the episode, he's restored to Captain.
  • Strapped to a Bomb: In a classic episode, "The Deadly Attachment", 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 only a dummy detonator in the grenade ... but only he and Pike know this.
  • Suicide as Comedy: Subverted. After Wilson hands Mainwaring the letter telling him he is no longer in charge of the platoon Wilson steps outside as it is read. A few seconds later a gunshot is heard to which Wilson blurts "My God, he's shot himself!" Fortunately it was an accident with the rifles outside and Mainwaring is instead having a more traditional Heroic BSoD.
  • Surrounded by Idiots
    Mainwaring: 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.
  • Television Geography: Walmington-on-Sea is clearly meant to be somewhere on the south coast of England. The outdoor filming was all done — inland — around Thetford in Norfolk in the east of the country, however. It is never specified quite where the fictional town is, and the clues given are contradictory. There are frequent references to Eastbourne, which is also on the same train line ("My Brother and I)", as well as to Hastings; these point to a location in East Sussex, with some suggesting that it could be based on Bexhill-on-Sea, although Bexhill has no pier. On the other hand, the platoon's cap badges clearly show the county symbol of Kent. Deal, in Kent, has been suggested since it has a pier and is next to Walmer (possibly the inspiration for the name "Walmington"). Another suggestion is the town of Wilmington in Kent. Birchington-on-Sea on the North Kent coast is another credible inspiration, especially since its neighbouring town is Westgate, a name very reminiscent of the Walmington platoon's rivals in Eastgate.
  • 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.
      Mainwaring: 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 ...
  • Those Two Guys: The Vicar and Verger.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The captured German U-Boat captain in "The Deadly Attachment" ("your name vill also go on ze list!" etc.)
  • Tin-Can Telephone: In one episode, the platoon investigate the use of this as a form of long distance communication, only to be foiled by the verger and his hedge shears.
    • To be fair they were only using the tins to practice proper radio procedure.
      Mainwaring: Hello all stations Charlie 1, hello all stations Charlie 1, report my signals all stations Charlie 1, over.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Before they get their rifles, the platoon has to make do with makeshift weapons along these lines.
  • Truth in Television: In the final episode, Corporal Jones and Mrs. Fox's wedding cake consists of several cardboard "cakes" that are dismantled to reveal a small, un-iced sponge cake. This was standard practice at wartime weddings since sugar rationing meant that a traditional wedding cake wasn't an option.
    • Inverted, the series depicts the Home Guard as never actually having seen action. In real life, the Home Guard lost over 1000 men killed in air raids, long-range artillery bombardments of South-Eastern England from occupied France, and gun battles with the IRA who were trying to sabotage the Allied war effort in support of their Nazi allies. The Home Guard would actually engage German aircraft and V1 flying bombs with their machine guns and dedicated coastal and anti-aircraft artillery batteries, have their own bomb disposal units, and capture numerous shot-down Luftwaffe airmen, escaped prisoners of war, IRA terrorists, and saboteurs.
  • Tuckerisation: The church, St. Aldhelm's, was named after a church David Croft attended in his youth.
  • Two Men, One Dress: In "Operation Kilt", Frazer and Walker attempt to use a pantomime cow to sneak up on a Highland regiment during a training exercise.
  • The Unintelligible: Ivy, Pike's occasional girlfriend.
  • 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!" Despite Wilson's commonly-known, but universally-overlooked relationship with Mrs. Pike...
  • The Vicar: The Reverend Timothy Farthing. Frank Williams (who in real life served as a lay member of the Church of England's General Synod for many years) also played him in the 2016 film adaptation — the only cast member to reprise the same character in that film note .
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hodges has an epic one in "Time on My Hands" after the platoon accidentally destroys some scaffolding that he and his men had taken two days to rig up in the town hall clock tower.
    Hodges: Vandals! 'Ooligans! It took me and my men two days to rig those ladders!
    Godfrey: How do you think they're going to get down now?
    Hodges: I don't know, and I don't care. So far as I'm concerned, they can stay up there forever and starve! Ruining my ladders! You know what I'm going to do now, I'm going to go out in the street and give Mainwaring a piece of my mind! And I'm going to shout loud! And when I want to shout loud, I can shout very loud indeed! I've had enough of you, Mainwaring! I hope you stay up there forever so I can enjoy this war in peace! And I do enjoy this war! In fact, I've never enjoyed anything so much in all my life as being Chief Warden, and you ... you always spoil it!
  • 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 Chairman 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.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: In "Room at the Bottom", Mainwaring is demoted to private. However, without him in command, morale and discipline plummets, so the others write to GHQ asking for him to be reinstated (except Frazer, who "anonymously" recommends himself for promotion instead).
  • Wedding Finale: The last episode "Never Too Old" featured the wedding of Corporal Jones and Mrs. Fox.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret" (series 2), Mrs Pike takes in an evacuee, who appears at the end of the episode. The child is never seen or mentioned again after this episode, even during the occasional scenes that take place in the Pike household.
  • 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.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The Two and A Half Feathers" has Jones reminiscing about the Sudan War, with the members of the cast playing the various heroes and villains. In the flashback, Wilson is the platoon's commanding officer and Mainwaring the sergeant — inverting their usual positions.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser:
    Jones: Please let me be a nun Mr. Mainwaring.
  • Written-In Absence: Walker is absent from the season six finale "The Recruit" due to James Beck being in a coma with acute pancreatitis during its recording. His absence is explained by a note left in his place, saying he has "gone up to the smoke for a few days to do a deal" — this segment was hastily written into the script at the last minute by Jimmy Perry and David Croft when Beck became ill.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Frazer, with his Doomy Dooms of Doom pronouncements, appears to think he's a character in a horror movie. Luckily for him, he's a sitcom character.
  • Wrong Song Gag: In "A Soldier's Farewell", the captain was not impressed with the soldiers' behavior of the platoon after the cinema. He has them practice standing at attention for the British National Anthem, but by mistake, Wilson plays the German National Anthem instead.
  • You Didn't Ask: In "All Is Safely Gathered In", the platoon helps to gather in a harvest. Mainwaring asks Sponge, a farmer, to show the others how to operate a threshing machine. Sponge says that he doesn't know how the machine works because he's a sheep farmer. When Mainwaring demands to know why Sponge never said so before, Sponge points out that Mainwaring never asked him.


Video Example(s):


Dad's Army

The iconic opening titles, depicting the advance of the German military and subsequent British retreat in May 1940. With a chipper defiant tune over the top.

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5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpreadingDisasterMapGraphic

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