"Brilliant timing by Royal Mail to issue these Dad's Army stamps considering what we are debating over the next two days in the House of Commons." With further irony, Britain finds that, like Brexit, the actors, were not quite what they seemed to be.
Arthur Lowe played the leader of the troop, Captain Mainwaring. In the five years after the last episode of the series and before his death at the age of 66 in 1982, his alcoholism got worse and he was reduced to acting in pantomimes and touring theatre productions, sometimes passing out on stage or at dinner. A heavy smoker whose weight had ballooned, he was stricken by a fatal stroke in his dressing room at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, before a performance of 'Home at Seven.' "You stupid boy" originated from that moment when Jimmy Perry told his father he wanted to make his way in the theatre.
John Le Mesurier, who died the year after Arthur, at the age of 71 and played Sergeant Wilson, was also a heavy drinker, although never noticeably drunk. In the year the series ended he collapsed in Australia and flew home, where he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and ordered to stop drinking and accepted that "it was the cumulative effect over the years that had done the damage." In his last 6 years he avoided spirits and drank only beer and smoked cannabis in those spells of abstinence from alcohol.
James Beck had played Private Walker over six series, when he died at the age of 44 in 1973, suffering from pancreatitis which is invariably caused by alcoholism. Jimmy Perry commented that heavy drinking was common in show business at the time and that he paid little attention to his habit until : "I saw Jimmy’s legs and they were purple. It was the last episode he appeared in before he died."
Clive Dunn, who played Lance Corporal Jack Jones, and is immortalised with "Don't panic", was the second youngest member of the cast when he played the role of its oldest member, whose military service in earlier wars with General Kitchener made him the most experienced member of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard. Not known to the public was the fact that his staunch socialist beliefs often caused him to fall out with Arthur Lowe, who was an active Conservative and when Clive was appointed an OBE in 1975, it was reported that Arthur would only accept a higher-rated honour from the Queen. He died six years ago at the age of 92.
Arthur Ridley was 72 when he first played the prostate-prone, ancient Private Godfrey and was perhaps the the most surprising member of the team. Born in 1896, he served as a captain in the Army during First World War, where he was riddled with shrapnel, bayoneted and hit on the head by a German soldier's rifle butt and then medically discharged in 1916. He then went into acting and distinguished himself both in repertory theatre and also as a the writer of 30 plays, including 'The Ghost Train' in 1923. In the Second World War he actually served in the Home Guard in his home town of Caterham. He died at the age of 88 in 1984.
"Don't tell him, Pike!", in a reference to Captain Mainwaring's most famous line from Dad's Army.