February 2016 is the planned release date of the new film version of Dad's Army. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Dad's Army is a “classic” British TV sitcom from the 1970s, running from 1968 – 1977 to be more precise. Set after the Dunkirk evacuations of World War II, during the dark days of the Nazi invasion threat to the south coast of England, it follows a misfit band of Home Guard from the fictitious town of Walmington-on-Sea, one of Britain's last lines of defence should an invasion have taken place.
Coming from all walks of life, from bank managers to aristocrats, the Home Guard, and its predecessor the Local Defence Volunteers, drew their numbers from men in retirement, reserved occupations and boys as yet too young for military service. Their role was to guard local defences and key installations, as well as many Anti-Aircraft duties.
Original period Royal West Kent Regiment officer's SD cap.
It is unclear as to where exactly the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea lies other than being on the south coast of England, however from studying the platoon's cap badge it would appear to be somewhere in the county of Kent. Mainwaring's band wear the rearing horse of the Royal West Kent Regiment, as was custom for Home Guard to wear their local regiment cap badge.
After watching various episodes of Dad's Army, it seems that the actor who played Captain Mainwaring wore several versions of the peak cap, and it would certainly be interesting to know where they are now. From a collector's view point, especially one whose terrible habits often involve analysing war films to see if the uniforms and headdress appear authentic, much to the annoyance of fellow viewers, his caps appear to be postwar rather than wartime.
While it is hard to confirm this without habeas corpus, the cap buttons and badge appear too shiny for the 1940s, suggesting they are anodised aluminium and not bronze, as was standard for wartime Service Dress caps. Not that being historian authentic was what Dad's Army was all about.
Written by two geniuses of British television comedy, David Croft and Jimmy Perry, Dad's Army drew part inspiration from Perry's own wartime experiences, with slapstick storylines and loveable characters, that soon became household names.
In typical British humour, resourcefulness and not least, keeping a stiff upper lip, the show followed the self appointed and sometimes pompous Captain Mainwaring, the local Bank Manager, the suave layed back aristocratic Sergeant Wilson, and a bunch of other “characters” including an old bayonet touting corporal left over from the 19th Century going by the name of Jones, who got kids up and down the country muttering the now iconic phrase, “they don't like it up them!”, to the shifty but kind hearted black marketeer Walker.
With 80 television episodes the Walmington-on-Sea platoon experienced many dare devil adventures and schemes, from rescuing an entangled airman to guarding a U-Boat crew, with chaotic and comical results. 75 years on from wartime England and with many of the those who lived through it slowly passing on, it is easier for us to view that period in a easier light, however the series should not be taken as poking fun at the Home Guard, nor should it be accepted as an unofficial unit history either. Dad's Army should be seen as a compliment to the Home Guard, the bravery of its members, their resourcefulness and above all spirit. One could even ask, if the organisation would have had such a long lasting legacy without it?
Starring some icons of British theatre and film, such as John Le Mesurier and Arthur Lowe, as well as the thespian John Laurie and the playwright Arnold Ridley, Dad's Army cultivated a loyal audience and even now still manages to give contemporary shows a good run for their money.
The planned 2016 film is not however the first adaptation from small screen to silver screen. In 1971 a feature film was release although did not manage to capture quite the same magic of the TV shows. It will thus be interesting to see how a modern audience will react to the new film and even more so how loyal fans will take it. A fan of original shows is always cautious of remakes and adaptations, and I for one feel there will only ever be one Captain Mainwaring, Sgt Wilson, Corporal Jones, Hodges, need I mention the whole cast? The voices, mannerisms and faces of these superb actors made the characters. As a fan of the original, I remain skeptical but open-minded.