I was at primary school when Dad’s Army first aired on UK television, but I still remember the fuss there was over a comedy being produced about the Second World War. After all, the realities of war were still to the fore in the minds of many. Initially, my folks didn’t let me watch it, but when it became clear that it was inoffensive humour based on the real life experience of Jimmy Perry, one of the writers, they relented. And thanks to the multiplicity of TV channels its repeats are still going strong fifty years later.
Possibly the most famous quote from the series arose in the episode where Captain Mainwaring’s hapless platoon was detailed to guard a captured U-Boat crew and in which the gormless Private Pike so irritated the submariners’ Captain (played superbly by Philip Madoc) with the rhyme: “Whistle while you work, Hitler is a twerp. He’s half barmy, so’s his army, whistle while you work” that Madoc demanded his name. “Don’t tell him Pike!” was Mainwaring’s reply in a phrase that has since entered the British lexicon.
As is well known, Perry, who recently died, wrote a number of other sitcoms with ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum‘ and ‘Hi-de-Hi!‘ probably the next best known. His co-writer, David Croft died a few years ago, but their obituaries both referenced the other as integral parts of the whole. So, based on Pike and the submariners, I give you my valediction to them both:
You taunted a man from the Reich
With a rhyme that he just didn’t like.
It made him exclaim:
“You! Give me your name”,
So Mainwaring said: “Don’t tell him, Pike!”.
(Non-native English speakers, and probably some native ones, should note that ‘Mainwaring’ is pronounced ‘Mannering’. My apologies for the last line. It does scan, but you have to get the phrasing right – Frank Sinatra’s speciality; he’d have found it a doddle to say!)