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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Vertical Sales Director

Market related: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Sales Executive

£25k - 28k per year + OTE & Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game