Search

Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring - Dad’s Army still enthralls the nation 50 years on

PUBLISHED: 07:00 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 08:23 31 July 2018

The cast of Dad's Army which is celebrating 50 years. The show was filmed in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. Picture: PA

The cast of Dad's Army which is celebrating 50 years. The show was filmed in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. Picture: PA

It brought joy to viewers during its nine-year run and enthusiasm for Dad’s Army is still going strong as the sitcom celebrates its 50th year.

The Dad's Army museum based in Thetford.  Captain Mainwaring (Mick Whitman) outside the museum. Picture: Nick ButcherThe Dad's Army museum based in Thetford. Captain Mainwaring (Mick Whitman) outside the museum. Picture: Nick Butcher

Millions laughed at the antics of Capt Mainwaring, Sgt Wilson, Cpl Jones and other members of the Walmington-on-Sea’s Home Guard, as they prepared to repel any invading Germans.

Bressingham Steam Museum have a collection of memorabillia and vehicles from Dad's Army. Pictured is an image from the filming using the Austin 8 which was used in the making of 'Private Pike'. Picture: Sonya DuncanBressingham Steam Museum have a collection of memorabillia and vehicles from Dad's Army. Pictured is an image from the filming using the Austin 8 which was used in the making of 'Private Pike'. Picture: Sonya Duncan

First broadcast on the BBC on July 31 1968, Norfolk and Suffolk have a proud connection to the series - written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft - with most of the external scenes having been filmed in the area.

Dad's Army 40th anniversary celebration procession through Thetford. .
Actor Ian Lavender and co-writer David Croft being driven through Thetford
. Picture: Steve AdamsDad's Army 40th anniversary celebration procession through Thetford. . Actor Ian Lavender and co-writer David Croft being driven through Thetford . Picture: Steve Adams

Thetford's Dad's Army Museum chairman 
Stuart Wright. Picture: Sonya DuncanThetford's Dad's Army Museum chairman Stuart Wright. Picture: Sonya Duncan

For nine years the cast and crew of the show, which included Suffolk resident Ian Lavender, Arthur Lowe and Clive Dunn - were welcomed into the Thetford area where they stayed during filming - mainly at the Bell Inn.

The Dad's Army line-up of Arthur Lowe as Capt George Mainwaring, John Le Mesurier as Sgt Arthur Wilson, Clive Dunn as L-Cpl Jack Jones, John Laurie Pvt James Frazer, Arnold Ridley as Pvt Charles Godfrey, Ian Lavender as Pvt Frank Pike and James Beck as Pte Joe Walker. Picture: BBCThe Dad's Army line-up of Arthur Lowe as Capt George Mainwaring, John Le Mesurier as Sgt Arthur Wilson, Clive Dunn as L-Cpl Jack Jones, John Laurie Pvt James Frazer, Arnold Ridley as Pvt Charles Godfrey, Ian Lavender as Pvt Frank Pike and James Beck as Pte Joe Walker. Picture: BBC

Scenes were shot at various places around the town, at the Stanford Training Area (STANTA) near Mundford, Lynford Hall, Brandon Railway Station, Santon Downham and Elveden Tower.

The Dad's Army Museum, Thetford. Picture:  Steve AdamsThe Dad's Army Museum, Thetford. Picture: Steve Adams

As well as across other parts of Norfolk including Oxburgh Hall, near Swaffham, and the Broads.

Bressingham Steam Museum's Dad's Army exhibition. Picture: Archant LibraryBressingham Steam Museum's Dad's Army exhibition. Picture: Archant Library

Attracting 18m viewers, the show was one of the most watched television programmes of the time. It gave birth to a host of catchphrases - including, “don’t panic”, “stupid boy,” and “we’re all doomed,”.

Thetford's Guildhall was used in scenes from Dad's Army. Picture: Sonya DuncanThetford's Guildhall was used in scenes from Dad's Army. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Old and young alike are still enthralled by the series, which also spawned two feature films, one in 1971 and another in 2016.

Picture shows: The  classic 'Dads Army' line-up of Arthur Lowe as Capt George Mainwaring, John Le Mesurier as Sgt Arthur Wilson, Clive Dunn as L-Cpl Jack Jones, John Laurie Pvt James Frazer, Arnold Ridley as Pvt Charles Godfrey, Ian Lavender as Pvt Frank Pike and James Beck as Pte Joe Walker, in the comedy sitcom 'Dads Army', Christmas/Xmas Special, 1971.Picture shows: The classic 'Dads Army' line-up of Arthur Lowe as Capt George Mainwaring, John Le Mesurier as Sgt Arthur Wilson, Clive Dunn as L-Cpl Jack Jones, John Laurie Pvt James Frazer, Arnold Ridley as Pvt Charles Godfrey, Ian Lavender as Pvt Frank Pike and James Beck as Pte Joe Walker, in the comedy sitcom 'Dads Army', Christmas/Xmas Special, 1971.

Stuart Wright, chairman of Thetford’s Dad’s Army Museum, said: “Despite it being 50 years ago since it was first broadcast, it is still as popular as ever.

The Dad's Army museum based in Thetford. 
Captain Mainwaring (Mick Whitman) outside the museum. Picture: Nick ButcherThe Dad's Army museum based in Thetford. Captain Mainwaring (Mick Whitman) outside the museum. Picture: Nick Butcher

“It is timeless comedy and time after time it has been voted one of the most popular television series.

The cast of Dad's Army which is celebrating 50 years. The show was filmed in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. Picture: PAThe cast of Dad's Army which is celebrating 50 years. The show was filmed in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. Picture: PA

“The catch phrases have become ingrained in our psyche and I think they will be for many more years to come.”

He added that people from across the world visit the museum, which held a celebratory event on Saturday, such is the show’s everlasting popularity.

“Thetford continues to benefit from tourists who come in and we had our busiest ever year for tours,” he said. “The museum’s biggest complaint on Trip Advisor is why aren’t we open more.”

Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens, near Diss, also sees a lot of visitors and has been the official home to the Dads Army Appreciation Society’s collection since 2000, and includes a recreation of Walmingtonon-Sea.

Dad’s Army and Thetford

Locations in Thetford used to film the series include the Guildhall, the former Place Cinema and the flint cottages of Nether Row.

Many extras for the series were drawn from the Thetford Music and Drama Society or the Thetford Senior Citizens’ Club.

In 2010, a full-size bronze statue of Captain Mainwaring was unveiled in the town by series writer David Croft.

The Dad’s Army Museum was founded in 2007 and is housed in the Old Fire Station. It contains exhibitions and photos featuring the show’s most famous stars as well as a display on some of the stars who made brief appearances, such as Barbara Windsor.

Jones’ van from the show is housed at the nearby Charles Burrell Museum.

The museum also has the 1940s-style Marigold Tea Rooms, with war-time recipe cakes.

For more about the museum visit the Dad’s Army Museum website.

Most Read

Latest from the Thetford and Brandon Times

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists