Steer for the deep waters only

Robert Day's thoughts on his photography, his writing and his business

Who do you think you’re kidding?

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I was looking through a friend’s blog today, and I came across a comment I’d posted. The comment told a story from my father’s history, and I thought it worth repeating. The comment was sparked by the release of a remake of the film of Dad’s Army, which started out as a BBC TV sitcom in 1968 telling the story of the wartime Home Guard. The original tv cast had a feature film outing in the 1970s, and that film got remade in 2016.


On Dad’s Army: I haven’t seen the remake, and frankly I’ve no intentions of deliberately doing so; it struck me as a particularly egregious example of ‘remake by numbers’ and no remake could possibly have the relevance of the original. My father enjoyed the original because he’d been in the Home Guard and many of the situations in the show had relevance to him; his platoon commander was also the local bank manager, and there were Boer War veterans in it as well. There most resemblance ended. Dad lived in what was then rural Essex, though now it’s the very edge of Greater London, and in 1940-41 the Home Guard were actually getting all the latest weapons and training from some of the best front-line regiments because they were expected to have to repel invasion at any time.

He always told this story: some of the Boer War vets were getting on in years, and once, on an exercise, one of the younger blokes had a little go at them for not being able to run so fast. “Run?” one old-timer said, “We didn’t join this outfit to run, we joined to fight!”

“Well, then, what’ll you do if Jerry comes?”

“I’ll take my rifle and a box of ammo and I’ll go up that tree at the crossroads, and I’ll just pot away at them until they roll over me.”

That sort of sobering comment sometimes – not often, but sometimes – came out in the original series, and it was the skill of the writers that they could inject that sort of thing into the comedy and bring the audience up sharp from time to time, just to remind them that life ain’t all fun and games.

Of course, there were actors in the original cast who had been in combat. The most interesting example was Arnold Ridley*, who had combat decorations and had been wounded in WW1. There is a wonderful episode where his character, Godfrey, is ‘outed’ as having been a conscientious objector in WW1, and the rest of the platoon, of course, ostracise him, Then, one day on exercise, Godfrey rescues Captain Mainwaring from a dangerous situation and is injured himself. When they go to see him afterwards when he is recuperating at home, they see that he has the Military Medal on display in his room. He’d actually ended up as a stretcher bearer on the Western Front and been decorated for bravery in rescuing men from No Man’s Land under fire. Oh how everyone’s opinion suddenly changed. That episode should be required viewing for anyone, and it shows how great comedy can teach life lessons. I doubt whether the remake gets or could get anywhere near that.


*Arnold Ridley was also a playwright, best known for his play The Ghost Train. His great-niece, Daisy Ridley, played the lead role in the seventh Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.


Written by robertday154

May 3, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Since writing this post, I’ve determined to write the full story of dad’s wartime experiences as I remember them, in a project I’ve tentatively entitled “My Father’s War”. Dad didn’t have “a Good War” in the way a lot of other people seem to have had, where what they did during the war set them up for life in terms of opportunities, contacts and introductions which they were able to exploit in the post-war years; but his experiences in the Army made him the man he was and taught him valuable life lessons which he never forgot and stood him in good stead for the rest of his life.

    Recording my memories of his memories is second best, but at least I shall be able to record the key events and some of the anecdotes (after all, I heard them a number of times!); and that way, they will be recorded and may at some point fill a gap in the written record, or pass some of those life lessons on for others to benefit from.

    I shall have to have a search to see if I can track down the few photographs Dad had from that time, as well as a number of other items of memorabilia I have access to. The more I can find, the better the final product will be. Depending on how substantial the finished work turns out to be, I shall then consider whether it justifies being put into publication as a book (almost certainly through self-publication; war memoirs have to be pretty earth-shattering or to involve Big Names to get any commercial publisher interested). I have a number of other writing and photography projects on the go right now, but few of them are in such an advanced stage or subject to deadlines that I can’t divert some attention to this one.


    May 12, 2017 at 10:25 am

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