Tuesday 25 October 2016

Dad's Army and the Matter of Britain

The death of Jimmy Perry, the creator of Dad's Army, prompts me to repost this article about the TV programme and the British myth. Since I wrote it, the referendum that David Cameron offered to prevent Tory voters defecting to UKIP has changed British history. It is once again ourselves alone - apart from, that is, Nato and the Americans.

Jonathan Freedland has written a thought-provoking, if condescending, article in The Guardian, likening Nigel Farage, the leader of the British Eurosceptic party UKIP, to Captain Mainwaring in Dad's Army. I think Private Walker is more apposite but let that pass.  (If you don't know the programme it is pointless for me to explain but you might enjoy this.)

I prefer to point out that Captain Mainwaring, Pooterish, self-important, ridiculous, was a hero, whereas his much more agreeable adjunct, Sergeant Wilson, intelligent, suave, funny and upper middle-class, was weak. Mainwaring would have laid down his life for his country. Wilson would have been a defeatist, perhaps a quisling, had the Germans conquered Sussex, at least if not carefully watched by Mainwaring. 

Actually, the real myth bequeathed by the Second World War is that fascism is still a great danger or will be in Europe in the next twenty years. Evil morphs. The nearest thing to a fascist threat today and for the foreseeable future comes from Muslim extremists, not anti immigration parties.

Going to war with Germany with 1939 was in any case catastrophic for Britain, for the country we ostensibly went to war to save, Poland, for our ally France - and for the whole world. This truth is obscured by heroic myths. Continued here.


  1. The Battle of Britain will stand as an enduring testament to British pluck. No one can take that away from you!

  2. I'm glad you pointed out that Captain Mainwaring really is a hero. He's a brave and fundamentally decent man.

  3. David in Banja Luka26 October 2016 at 14:58

    Surely, all the members of the platoon are heroes but each in his own way

    I don't share your opinion of (Sgt) Wilson as weak. Modest and self-deprecating, yes. Traits that used to be considered desirable for a gentleman, which he is most definitely meant to be.

    Totally agree with the calamitous outcomes for UK of both world wars for UK.

    1. Weak is not t e right word but soft is - it's all so long ago that I saw the programme but there were some times when he seemed lacking in courage?

    2. David in Banja Luka27 October 2016 at 09:55

      Sgt Wilson may have been familiar with the saying:

      There are old soldiers and there are bold soldiers.

      But there are no old, bold soldiers. :)

  4. David in Banja Luka27 October 2016 at 09:51

    My favourite scene from the programme:

    U-boat Capt: Your name will also go on the list. What is it?

    Capt Mainwaring: Don't tell him Pike!


    The clip was on mute when I first opened it.