What was your favourite part about filming Saluting Dad's Army?
The best part of filming this series was getting to meet Frank Williams, who played the Reverend Timothy Farthing. He and Ian Lavender are the only two surviving members of the main cast and it's glorious to meet someone who not only was actually there throughout the filming but who had such mischievous insight into it all. Ian is amazing, I've met him several times, but Frank - though quite frail these days - is still absolutely on it and has a delightful twinkle in his eye. Weirdly enough he, Frank Williams, was a lay member of the general synod, which is quite an interesting sideline for a man most famous for playing a huffy Anglican priest.
It's fascinating to hear Mr Peter Blackburn, one of the few surviving veterans of the Home Guard, talk about his experiences...
He was an extraordinary man and it was lovely just to sit opposite him and hear these crystal-clear memories and stories come tumbling out - still so fresh in his mind. It was interesting to hear his Home Guard experience from the point of view of a young farm boy, one of several careers that were protected. Peter was very much required to remain and keep his dad's farm running at full capacity so wasn't allowed to join up - probably a relief for his parents but that must have been very tough on him. Coincidentally he was very close to Thetford, which is where they filmed all the location footage for Dad's Army. What was lovely though was that all the stories, the characters, the escapades, the cock-ups... they all felt so familiar. The human side of the Home Guard story had evidently been perfectly captured by Perry and Croft in their Walmington-on-Sea platoon.
Were there any facts/stories that came up during filming that surprised you?
That's a very good question! The thing I was most delighted to have confirmed was how well all the cast members of Dad's Army got on. There were some very different characters in there of course. I think Arthur Lowe and Clive Dunn probably enjoyed rubbing each other up the wrong way, but there was something truly lovely about the way they relished each other's company. I'm sure there was something of the wartime ENSA spirit within the group, which would have been very recognisable to Croft and Perry.
The business of getting the show filmed was clearly something they all adored and their fortnight of location filming up in Thetford sounds like a scream - two weeks in the summer up in the Norfolk countryside in the most hilarious company imaginable - what's not to love?
When did you first start watching Dad's Army?
I can't remember not watching it! My earliest memory of watching it is probably from 1974 or 1975. It's one of those shows that you watched as a family and it was so nice to have a comedy that you could all roar with laughter at. And, when you're little, to have elements of slapstick that even you can understand. The great joy of it having been filmed in front of a live audience is that, if you're only 4 or 5, you can laugh along too even, if you didn't entirely get the gag. VERY important at that age!
Do you have a favourite episode?
There's an episode called, I think, 'My Brother and l' where Arthur Lowe is playing Captain Mainwaring and Captain Mainwaring's ne'er-do-well brother. The brother, Barry, turns up and is just about everything Mainwaring is not: a sort of desperate, dodgy, spivvy alcoholic in a loud checked suit and a broad northern accent. His very existence shows up Mainwaring's carefully presented airs and graces and gives the lie to his social pretensions. And because he's a drunk, he's this very dangerous loose cannon and beautifully played by Lowe who does 'drunk' better than anyone else I've seen.