Britain's Warriors in Waiting; BOOKS

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Griffith

More than 30 years since the final episode of Dad's Army was broadcast, it remains one of the most popular series on TV and it's not hard to see why. The humour, the situations, the characters; all are quintessentially British, and if it seems a little dated, then so much the better.

The essential aspects of the national character remain the same and it's a tribute to the scriptwriting skills of Jimmy Perry and David Croft that they were able to create so many enduring and endearing archetypes.

Just how close the TV show was to reality is amply demonstrated in Norman Longmate's affectionate tribute to the men who served in the real Dad's Army. Longmate himself was in the Home Guard as a young man, and he admits that he bore more than a passing resemblance to Private Pike.

Echoes of other much-loved characters abound. The real-life equivalent of Corporal Jones could have been Alexander Crieff, a former regular soldier in the Black Watch who had first fought under Kitchener in the Sudan and gone on to serve in the First World War.

Presenting him with a commemorative clock on his 80th birthday, Crieff's commanding officer dismissed rumours that he had been present at the battle of Bannockburn but insisted that he had fought 'in practically every damn battle since'.

An officer in another platoon gave an unwittingly perfect impression of Captain Mainwaring when he was demonstrating the correct way to ignite a Molotov cocktail - a petrol bomb - and insisted that it was completely safe and foolproof. At which point one of his men begged permission to speak: 'Excuse me, sir, but your breeches are on fire. …