Walmington-on-Sea, 40 years on

August 4, 2008 at 6:39 pm (anti-fascism, comedy, history, Jim D, war)

I’m ashamed to admit that it took Jonathan Ross last night, to remind me that Dad’s Army is 40 years old. Happily Clive Dunn, Bill Pertwee, Ian (“stupid boy”) Lavender, Frank Williams (the vicar), and Pamela Cundell (Mrs Fox) are still with us, as are the writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft.

“…England has got to be true to herself. She is not being true to herself while refugees who have sought our shores are penned up in concentration camps, and company directors work out subtle schemes to dodge their Excess Profits Tax. It is good-bye to the Tatler and the Bystander, and farewell to to the lady in the Rolls Royce car. The heirs of Nelson and of Cromwell are not in the House of Lords. They are in the fields and the streets, in the factories and the armed forces, in the four-ale bar and the suburban back garden; and at present they are still kept under by a generation of ghosts. Compared with the task of bringing the real England to the surface, even the winning of the war, necessary though it is, is secondary. By revolution we become more ourselves, not less. There is no question of stopping short, striking a compromise, salvaging ‘democracy’, standing still. Nothing ever stands still. We must add to our heritage or lose it, we must grow greater or grow less, we must go forward or go backward. I believe in England, and I believe that we shall go forward.”

-George Orwell, (closing lines of) The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius (February 1941).

More Dad’s Army appreciation and You Tube clips (including the wonderful Frazer’s Curse ) over at the Sots!


  1. modernityblog said,

    why hasn’t there been a University course:

    “Dad’s Army, the real meaning? a pastiche of the British Left”

    Hmm, thinking about it those characters in Dad’s Army were more organised and focused than a lot on the contemporary Left!

    SU blog is covering the AWL at the climate camp.

    PS: you might want to send some reading glasses to the folks (Jason) in PR, as they can’t make sense of the rather black humour (and obvious point) in the article by Sean “How I came to advocate an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran”


  2. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    Denham fancies himself as Captain Mainwaring (or ‘Napoleon’) prancing around in faux army uniform with his rifle (or broomstick) getting ready to ward of the invading hordes of ‘Islamofascists’.

  3. KB Player said,

    Permission to speak Sir!

    Loved the series especially Walker the Spiv, shame he died early.

    Captain Mainwaring, though a pompous, absurd, buffoon was also brave and patriotic and you could imagine that if there had been an invasion he would have led a cock-up of a defence and got himself shot for it. So you could root for him a bit.

    Two favourite scenes:-

    The one where Pike and Wilson are wearing German uniforms and don’t want to take them off as they’re so smart.

    The one where Frazer thinks Mainwaring is going to look a fool when trying to play the bagpipes but Mainwaring in fact can play the bagpipes because he’d learned them when in Scotland on his honeymoon, having nothing else to do there.

  4. runia said,

    It was the best thing Croft & Perry ever did.
    I didn’t think it was very good, but nonetheless, the best thing they ever did.

  5. question said,

    so wait are you proposing that a front with British imperialism in WW2 could have led to a revolution in “England”?

    I thought Jim Denham was a marxist and would argue that WW2 emerged out of a deep crisis of capitalism and that the bosses turned workers against each other in a savage and pointless war which through its mass destruction of capital and resolving of the crisis of leadership in imperialism, resolved global capitalism contradictions at the expense of the workers and allowed for the system to get back on its feet paid for by brothers and sisters blood.

    I had my differences with the AWL when I was visiting London but I did not realise things were this bad. 😦 I´m not being sarcastic, that´s genuine sadness that a former activist wants to send workers to fight each other in an imperialist war instead of their own bosses.

  6. Darren said,

    I remember seeing a documentary on Arthur Lowe years ago where it was suggested that he based Captain Mainwaring on Clem Attlee.

    Turns out Arthur Lowe was a bit of a Tory and was passing on his political loathing onto his character. . 😉

    Funny to think that two of the most brilliant comic actors from that period – Lowe and Leonard Rossiter – were to the right, so to speak.

  7. Jim Denham said,

    ‘question’: the views expressed in the passage I quote are those of George Orwell, not myself. However I don’t agree with you that WW2 can simply be written off as a “pointless” , “imperialist” conflict (as WW1 most certainly *can*). There was a genuine anti-fascist element to it, as well as an imperialist one. Trotsky’s Proletarian Military Policy was a groping attempt tp come to terms with this difficulty. Certainly, James P. Cannon’s “Socialism on Trial” (the PMP in practice) is far from simply defeatist. I’m told that Ernest Mandel has also written some stuff about the differing and contradictory aspects of WW2.

    So, ‘question’, while I reproduced the Orwell quote because I thought it went rather well with the ‘Dad’s Arrny’ theme rather than because I fully agree with it…I most certainly don’t agree with your description. It’s a difficult, complex issue and I’m certainly grateful that I wasn’t around to have to deal with it at the time.

  8. Sue R said,

    I think it went on for too long, it ran out of steam in the later series, especially when they started dying off. We won’t see their like again. No brilliant comedies on tv nowadays, either infantile lads humour or anodyne family situation comedy. Father Ted had flashes of brilliance, and the IT Crowd was developing, but apart from that nothing.

  9. Bruce said,

    I think the quote shows Orwell at his most sentimental – on the same plane though not politics as Major going on about ladies on bicycles and warm beer – though he wasn’t the only one to see the Home Guard as a possible people’s militia (ex-CPer Tom Wintringham, for example).

    I thought Clive Dunn was dead. Am I wrong?

  10. runia said,

    Sue R,

    Off the top of my head, how about The Office, Extras, Spaced, Peep Show and Green Wing?

  11. Jim Denham said,

    Yes, Bruce, you *are* wrong: Clive Dunn (one of the *youngest* cast members!) is still alive and living (I think) in Spain.

    Btw: the Major speech you refer to was, in fact, lifted word-for-word from an essay by Orwell…

  12. kb72 said,

    “how about The Office, Extras, Spaced, Peep Show and Green Wing?”

    I’ve only seen The Office, Extras and Peep Show. I thought The Office painfully observant but not funny, while Extras and Peep Show are brilliant and funny. How bleak, and dark, and cruel they are and what a low view of humanity they have compared to Dad’s Army, which is good-natured and affectionate.

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