Jimmy Perry passed away today at the ripe old age of 93.
Jimmy Perry was a hero of mine before I knew who he, or David Croft, were. Because among the things that Jimmy Perry brought into my life was Dad’s Army.
And I bloody love Dad’s Army.
As with many of these things, I was encouraged to watch it by my dad, although I’d like to think that I’d have fallen upon it myself anyway and been in stitches within minutes. I’ve seen every episode a ridiculous number of times. And, unlike the constant repeats of Friends or Big Bang Theory which we seem to be subjected to these days, Dad’s Army is funny. Every single time. Not funny in a wry smile as you remember a punchline funny. But actually, genuinely laugh out loud funny.
And we have Croft and Perry to thank for that.
Sure, they did other things, like It Ain’t ‘Alf Hot Mum and Hi De Hi, but nothing has the same lasting appeal and comfy familiarity as a bunch of creaky old timers standing to attention in a church hall. And, of course, a beat later Jones standing to attention. It’s funny every time. I can’t explain why, but it is.
As is the gun drill in the newly weaponised butcher’s van. Or the sight of the platoon walking down Walmington High Street while Jones has a grenade in his pants. Or every single time Wilson says, “Is that wise, sir?” Jones dressed as a tree, Mainwaring saying “You stupid boy!”, Walker’s black market sales or Hodges’ desperate attempts to get the best of “Napolean” Mainwaring.
And Dad’s Army is, ever so slightly, autobiographical. With the character of Pike, the young man with the curious blood disorder and a scarf his mum makes him wear, being based on Jimmy Perry’s own experiences with the war. Although I’m sure that Perry wasn’t to be found one afternoon sitting atop a ladder merrily singing “Whistle while we work, Hitler is a berk…” only for his name to be added to a list by an angry German airman. And you’d like to think he wasn’t daft enough to get his head stuck in a gate…
And who didn’t want to go to the Novelty Rock Emporium, eh? As one of the crucial patrol points on Walmington’s coast, the Rock Emporium was almost a character in itself. Always mentioned, but never seen I like to think that the Rock Emporium was thrown in to show the sort of very British things that the Home Guard protected. Seaside rock is an institution that must be saved from all invaders.
So thank you, Jimmy Perry, for the countless half-hours I have spent in the company of your characters. And for the time I will continue to spend with them.