Dad’s Army was the happiest time of my career. We were like a family, and a lot of lasting friendships were made. Sadly, Ian Lavender (Private Pike) and I are now the only ones left, but I know that everyone who was fortunate enough to have been in the show felt the same way.
I joined in series three (first broadcast in 1969), when it was already very popular. It’s quite true that the BBC had doubts about it at the beginning, but in those days they would nurture a programme and not get cold feet if it wasn’t an immediate success.
I think Dad’s Army works because the characters are wonderful, and the writing is extraordinarily good, and it is true to the time it is set in. Jimmy Perry had been in the Home Guard himself, and he was determined that all the details would be accurate.
One of the great things about it was the way it gave a new career wind to a number of older actors. Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey) and John Laurie (Private Frazer) were in their 70s when it started.
When it ended, it set me off on a remarkable round of jobs and promotions within the Church. I played another vicar in Hi De Hi, then an Anglican priest in Hallelujah with Thora Hird, then an archdeacon in a TV adaptation of Vanity Fair, and finally I became a bishop in BBC sitcom You Rang M’Lord?. So I suppose you could say I have found the Dad’s Army role rather difficult to escape from, although I have no regrets.
I am still working. There’s a little touring show I do called More Tea Vicar, with Chris Gidney, who co-wrote my memoirs. We talk about my life, and there are always questions from the audience about Dad’s Army. Next year, I am going to be a speaker on a Dad’s Army cruise. And I have a guest part in the new film.
The interest in the show never fades. Parents show it to their children, who love it, too. And so it goes on.
Read our article on 20 things you never knew about Dad’s Army in the February issue of Saga Magazine
Read David Gritten’s review of Dad’s Army