Misconceptions About Dad's Army

Over the years many misconceptions and rumours have for one reason or another become folklore surrounding Dad's Army. Many of them caused by slack journalists getting it wrong, and the rumours are then perpetuated by the next journalists who come along. Hopefully this page will set a few records straight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Misconceptions about Dad's Army

Below are some of the myths and mistakes that have cropped up many times over…and the correct story


The Casting of Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier
Right from the beginning of the series a silly myth arose over the casting of the two top stars. The myth states that at the very last minute in rehearsal for The Man And The Hour, as if on a sudden whim, Jimmy Perry and David Croft decided to switch the roles of Mainwaring and Wilson around for the actors.

The press has often quoted that Arthur Lowe was originally to play the Sergeant and John Le Mesurier the Captain. This is simply not true. Two factors have perhaps lead to this story. The first is when Jimmy Perry first wrote the pilot script, then called The Fighting Tigers, he had made a list of actors he would have liked to play the parts. This was some time before David Croft had gotten involved, and before the BBC had commissioned the series. At that stage he'd noted his desire for Arthur Lowe to play the part of Sergeant Wilson opposite Robert Dorning as Mainwaring.

This original idea of pairing Dorning as the captain and Lowe as the Sgt was inspired by the pair in the similar boss/subordinate role in the popular Granada comedy series Pardon The Expression and its spin-off, Turn Out The Lights. Jimmy Perry had enjoyed the chemistry between the two actors on-screen and pencilled them in as the types he'd have liked.

As it turned out, BBC bosses like Michael Mills did not want Arthur Lowe for any part, simply because for some years he'd largely been contracted to ITV stations such as Granada. Even this was a bit of a myth on their part because he actually did a lot of work for the BBC, it's just his well known roles as Leonard Swindley were ITV.

Originally the BBC comedy bosses hoped film and comedy actor Thorley Walters would accept the part of Mainwaring. He didn't want the part, and it was then offered to Jon Pertwee (later to become Doctor Who). He too did not wish to take the role of Mainwaring due to other commitments. It was only after this second rejection that Michael Mills and David Croft gave into Jimmy Perry's insistence, and offered the part to Arthur. It was surely Jimmy's masterstroke in those early days. It was the part of Mainwaring offered to Lowe, not Wilson at all.

Meanwhile, the part of Sergeant Wilson had not been cast. Michael Mills (head of BBC Light Entertainment at the time) suggested John Le Mesurier. After some dithering about the role, John finally accepted. There was never any suggestion that he may play the Captain, as that role was already cast.

Another BBC boss was Hugh Weldon, who perhaps added to the myth by telling the press and others that he had assumed John would naturally be the Captain and Arthur the Sergeant, simply because of their class backgrounds. He had stated his surprise to find the two switched in rank. However he never actually meant they'd been switched within the show, just in the context of their normal roles in other shows.

In fact Jimmy Perry had hit upon the idea of having a 'common' officer in charge of an upper-crust NCO much earlier, when he'd recalled an incident that occurred in his real life. He had served in India during the war, and on demob in 1947, Jimmy was on a ship home to Blighty. Here he found himself under the command of a very common officer whom the men despised. Jimmy had snuck out to the deck under cover of darkness and written 'No Common Men For Officers' on the ships funnel. No-one ever found out it was him! So perhaps a bit of Private Frazer's personality came from Jimmy's own ideas! It was this memory that early in the piece during the re-draft of The Fighting Tigers with David Croft into what became The Man and the Hour, before the casting was completed, had been worked into the script. So therefore when casting was done, Lowe was always meant to play the captain, and Le Mesurier the Sergeant.

Frazer vs Fraser
Many publications mis-spell Private James Frazer's surname as Fraser. The name is definitely Frazer, as seen on his shop front in a number of episodes, and in scripts and official books.

Walmington-on-Sea
How many times have we seen this spelt incorrectly? There is a misconception that Walmington has an 'r' in it, making the town Warmington. This is totally incorrect, and we only have to listen to the cast as they pronounce the word to know this.

There have been many instances throughout the series where the viewer can read the name Walmington-on-Sea for themselves. To my knowledge on only one occasion did a member of the crew slip up with this. The Verger's Sea Scout costume has Warmington-on-Sea embroidered on the shoulder - but then the Verger always was a trouble maker!

Having read this page on the old site, DAAS Member Chris McColl of Bournemouth sent details of an actual place in Britain called Warmington. It is a small village, located five miles south-west of Peterborough, located on the A605. As this is a real place, it gives more reason why the fictional town should be spelled differently, as Walmington. Thanks Chris.

I have lost count of the times that I have also read journalists and fans alike state our favourite platoon comes from Warminster or Warminster-on-Sea. It is of course Walmington. In reality, Warminster is a town in Wiltshire, England, and is nowhere near the sea.

Though set on the Kent coast, Walmington is fictional, and the place only exists on TV (and in our hearts). Another place that is often confused with 'our' town is Wilmington. There are two Wilmington's in Britain, one in East Essex, and the other, like Walmington, is actually in Kent. It is however nowhere near the coast, and is very close to London.

Le Mesurier
Sometimes people pronounce John's surname as it is written. His ancestors were from the Channel Islands and it was originally a French name. But it is pronounced in such a way that it rhymes with treasurer. We actually also see the name written as le Mesurier and Le Mesurier. It seems that both are accepted as correct.

Ages
Many of the press reports over the years have misquoted the ages of certain cast members, so here's a guide to set the record straight:

 
Actor
Born
Died
Aged
Arthur Lowe 22 Sep 1915 15 April 1982
66
John Le Mesurier 5 April 1912 15 Nov 1983
71
Clive Dunn 9 Jan 1920 Alive
88
John Laurie 25 March 1897 23 June 1980
83
James Beck 21 Feb 1929 6 August 1973
44
Arnold Ridley 7 Jan 1896 12 March 1984
88
Ian Lavender 16 Feb 1946 Alive
62
Bill Pertwee 21 July 1926 Alive
82
Frank Williams 2 July 1931 Alive
77
Edward Sinclair 3 Feb 1914 31 August 1977
63

 

If you know of any other myths or misconceptions, or wrong facts that need putting right about the series which we can include on this page, please let us know

 

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All material published on this site, unless otherwise credited, has been written by and is copyrighted to Dave Homewood. ©2008. We hope that you will use this site as a resource to further your knowledge of the series.