'Dad's Army' run by women
18th January 2018
In February 2017 Water Lane Theatre Company performed Dad’s Army at the Rhodes Arts Centre in Bishops Stortford. The production was unusual in the fact that the characters in the platoon were played by the ladies of the society.
The following article was supplied by Joanna Heath who played Captain Mainwaring.
“When I watched Dad’s Army as a child my mother would point to Captain Mainwaring as he marched across the field at the end and say “my Uncle Cyril was Captain of the Home Guard in Clowne, he marched just like that, with the same swagger!” When I was cast in the unlikely role of Captain Mainwaring I obviously thought of my Uncle Cyril but as Clowne is in North Derbyshire and about as far from the sea as you can get, I thought all connections and similarities with Dad’s Army ended there, how wrong I was.
Seeing some publicity about the play I was contacted by Cyril’s Granddaughter Julia who had an amazing tale.
Many years ago, her mother Avis had noticed an advertisement in a national newspaper asking for people to come forward to write about their wartime experiences especially in the Home Guard. Avis duly responded with some of her memories of her father and wartime in Clowne. Months later she received a letter from David Croft and Jimmy Perry asking if they could meet to discuss things further. Eventually the pair came to see my Avis and her mother Clarice and a lovely relationship ensued resulting in them being invited to one of the live shows.
Uncle Cyril wasn’t a bank manager, but he was what Mainwaring would describe as a public figure. He was a JP and head of the coal board and just like Mainwaring, everything had to be right.
One night the Home Guard were asked to sound the church bells when the Luftwaffe came over. It was a Mr Newton’s turn to go on watch in the tower and he fell asleep. It was the night Sheffield got bombed and he was nicknamed Nodder Newton after that. This was used in one episode with Godfrey falling asleep with his flask of tea on top of the church tower. One of Nodder Newton’s daughters was my mother’s dancing teacher and another daughter was my Aunt’s best friend, so we knew “Godfrey” quite well.
The Pike character was based on Jimmy Perry, but the scarf wearing was based on my mother’s old friend Cedric whose mother would never let him go out without his scarf. To be fair he didn’t have croup, but only one functioning lung as a result of TB. He was sickly as a youth but lived on to his mid ‘80s, so perhaps this “Mrs Pike” was right all along.
The Walker character is attributed to a teacher who lodged with my grandmother when an entire school was evacuated from Lowestoft to Clowne. His name was Bert Watson and he was Sergeant in the Home Guard. He tried to kiss both Clarice and my Grandmother unawares on a couple of occasions, only to be hit on the head with a variety of kitchen implements – you couldn’t make it up.
The Home Guard were also in charge of dealing with the Italian POW camp situated on the outskirts of Clowne. One night the Italians escaped and the Home Guard rounded them up and some got taken prisoners at the chapel. This adventure was converted by Perry and Croft into the Deadly Attachment, the episode with the German prisoners.
Cyril converted the pantry into an ammunition store (with primed grenades) and the front room became an office and was full of uniforms guns etc. I remember it from the 70s, minus the guns it was very much like Mainwaring’s office even then, large wooden desk and big black dial telephone.
Mainwaring may have been “a jolly person at heart” but Cyril was jolly in person, he used to tell me funny stories and sing me old time music hall songs, his home was full of laughter. I am very pleased to be related to this Captain Mainwaring.”