We're doomed! Mr Mainwaring's last stand found in BBC vault

The pilot episode for a sequel to Dad's Army featuring the last performance of Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring, one of Britain's best-loved comedy characters, has been returned to the BBC archive after 20 years.

The pompous old muddler's swansong comes in a pilot episode for a sequel to Dad's Army. Called It Sticks Out Half a Mile, it was a little-remembered radio spin-off about Mainwaring's attempt to restore a neglected pier. The show was recorded in 1982 but never broadcast, out of respect for Lowe, who died of a stroke just weeks later.

The planned series was eventually recast, with Bill Pertwee reprising his Dad's Army role as Warden Hodges in place of Mainwaring's bumptious bank manager, and ran for 13 episodes.

The original pilot disappeared from the BBC archives, and has only now resurfaced after its creator, the veteran sitcom writer and producer Harold Snoad, discovered a copy at home.

The half-hour episode featuring Lowe is significant for several reasons. Not only does it boast the actor's last recorded performance, but periodically he can clearly be heard slurring his words - a symptom of the narcoleptic disorder that he was suffering from at the time.

The pilot is more amusing and poignant than the Pertwee version. In it, a retired Mainwaring is forced to beg for a loan to finance his unlikely pier venture from his sceptical bank manager - none other than John Le Mesurier's Sergeant Wilson, his former deputy.

Mr Snoad, who sent the episode back to the BBC following one of its periodic appeals for the return of lost archive material, explained: "I came up with this idea about Captain Mainwaring wanting to buy a pier. After the war, he had moved to Switzerland where he had been working in a cuckoo clock factory, but had decided to return to England because the climate didn't agree with his wife's chest.

"I rang up Arthur Lowe and he finally said yes, he'd like to do it. Initially, the idea was to do it for TV, but the BBC suggested it would work better on radio."

Though Lowe delivered a typically well-timed turn as the pompous Mainwaring, newly humbled by his subservience to Wilson, his failing health meant that the recording of the pilot was not without its difficulties.

"Arthur was suffering from narcolepsy, and he would start to doze off part-way through the recordings," said Mr Snoad. "We got it in the can in the end, but before we could transmit it, Arthur sadly died."

That a version of It Sticks Out Half a Mile did finally make it on to the radio was largely down to the enthusiasm of Lowe's widow, Joan. The programme eventually came off the air a year later, after Le Mesurier's death. A year or so later, Mr Snoad persuaded the BBC to commission a TV comedy play based on the same premise. Walking the Planks starred the late Michael Elphick with Richard Wilson in the bank manager role, though the names of their characters were changed to avoid upsetting the Dad's Army faithful.

It failed to make a full series on BBC1, but in 1987 it re-surfaced finally asHigh and Dry, a six-part sitcom on ITV, again starring Wilson, this time alongside Bernard Cribbins. This really was an end-of-the-pier show: when viewers complained about stagey-looking seaside sets the series was swiftly axed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£17 - £20 per hour: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owned and c...

Guru Careers: Mac Operator / Artworker

£Negotiable (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Mac Operator / Artworker to ...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore