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David Croft, writer of BBC comedy greats, dies


David Croft and his writing partners gave the world immortal phrases: "Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only vunce"; "You stupid boy!"; and "We're all dooooomed!".

They are lines that are firmly embedded in the brains of anyone who watched BBC1 in the 1970s and 1980s. Without Croft, who has died at the age of 89, we would never have fretted over the condition of Mrs Slocombe's pussy in Are You Being Served?, or learned of the Nazis' desperate plan to steal the priceless painting, "Fallen Madonna Mit Der Big Boobies", in 'Allo 'Allo.

In a statement, his family said the "truly great man" had died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Portugal. Tributes immediately poured in from writers and comedians. Actor Melvyn Hayes, one of the stars of It Ain't Half Hot Mum, described him as a "genius" who was "a privilege to work with".

Nostalgia was the key ingredient of almost all Croft's sitcoms: a look back at 1940s or 1950s Britain and British attitudes that was always affectionate rather than satirical.

Much of Croft's work was autobiographical: he served in the Royal Artillery during the war, he had run-ins with stroppy ARP wardens (the platoon's sworn enemy in Dad's Army), he'd been entertainments officer in India, and he'd produced stage shows at Butlins holiday camp (his inspiration for Hi-de-Hi!). He transformed these experiences into comedies of class.

David Croft and his writing partners, Jimmy Perry and Jeremy Lloyd, set the gold standard for sitcoms and maintained it over 20 years. It's quite an achievement. Permission to weep, sir.