Unforgettable characters, catch phrases galore, and a memorable theme tune which sounds like a genuine wartime standard but isn’t. No wonder Dad’s Army is one of most popular British sitcoms in history.
Inevitably many of the elderly cast have since died. This is what happened to the members of Walmington-on-Sea’s finest who no longer like it up ‘em.
Arthur Lowe – Captain Mainwaring – 15 April 1982, aged 66. Never too sure of his lines Lowe was once offered three copies of the script so that if he lost one on the bus and one on the Tube he’d still have one to study at home. “I wouldn’t have that rubbish in my house!” he replied. Appeared on BBC TV lunchtime show Pebble Mill At One on the day that he died, publicising the play in which he was appearing with his wife. Back at the theatre, Lowe fell asleep in his dressing room while reading a book. He never regained consciousness. Suffered from narcolepsy. Stroke.
John Le Mesurier – Sergeant Wilson – 15 November 1983, aged 71. Claimed in his autobiography that after being ordered to give up booze he began to smoke ‘extra strong cigarettes’, ie., cannabis. He once openly smoked a joint at the BAFTAs. Famous last words: “It’s all been rather lovely.” Stomach haemorrhage brought on by cirrhosis.
James Beck – Private Walker – 6 August 1973, aged 44. Pancreatitis. Strange that in a cast of elderly actors Beck was the first to die. The show was never quite the same without him. Fell ill while opening a fete in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Slipped into a coma in hospital. Died three weeks later. Heart failure, kidney failure, and pancreatitis.
John Laurie – Private Frazer – 23 June 1980, aged 83. A fine classical actor Laurie worked with everyone from Hitchcock to Olivier. Only member of the cast who actually served in the Home Guard during WW2. Loved doing the Times crossword. Early on famously told co-writer Jimmy Perry: “I hope this is going to work laddie. To my mind it’s a ridiculous idea …” Emphysema.
Arnold Ridley – Private Godfrey – 12 March 1984, aged 88. Suffered shrapnel wounds, an injured hand, fingers, and a blow to the head from the rifle butt of a German soldier during World War 1. First bite of fame came in 1925 when his play ‘The Ghost Train’ became a massive West End hit, but lost everything when his film company went bust, and he had to sell the rights. Unknown.
Clive Dunn – Lance Corporal Jack Jones – 6 November, 2012, aged 92. Was only 48 years old when he started playing the elderly butcher cum Hun basher. There is a internet rumour doing the rounds that he also provided one of the alien voices in the Cadbury’s Smash ads in the 70s. Complications following operation.
Janet Davies – Mavis Pike – 22 September 1986, aged 59. A trained shorthand typsist Janet always kept busy between parts. Only member of the main cast not to appear in the Dad’s Army feature film, where Pike’s mum was played by Liz Fraser. Also starred in Last of the Summer Wine and the Dick Emery Show. Cancer.
Edward Sinclair – the Verger – 29 August 1977, aged 63. Didn’t turn professional until his late forties. Died soon after Dad’s Army finished, prompting Arthur Lowe to state at his funeral: “With the loss of Teddy it is now quite clear that there will be no more Dad’s Army.” Heart attack.
Talfryn Thomas – Private Cheeseman – 4 November 1982, aged 60. Brought in as a regular member of the platoon after the death of James Beck. Also worked with Ken Dodd, and made a memorable appearance in the original version of Terry Nation’s utterly brilliant Survivors. Heart attack.
Colin Bean – Private Sponge – 20 June 2009, aged 83. Longest serving member of the platoon’s backrow, appearing in the black & white 1968 pilot, right through to the start of the last series. Unknown.
Harold Bennett – Sidney Blewitt – 15 September 1981, aged 81. Went on to greater fame as Young Mr. Grace in Are You Being Served? As a young man toured America with a circus. Gave up acting for a period to bring up his children, working at a light company. Heart attack.
Eric Longworth – Claude Gordon, Town Clerk – 20 August 2008, aged 90. While working as assistant manager at the Oldham Coliseum Repertory Theatre the actor playing Macbeth was accidentally stabbed and died, reinforcing the superstition which surrounds the play. Unknown.
Geoffrey Lumsden – Captain Colonel Square – 4 March 1984, aged 70. Trained to be an engineer. Also appeared in everything from The Saint, and Tales of the Unexpected, to Bergerac. Once played opposite James Steward in a stage version of Harvey. Unknown.
Check out my latest movies here.