Bill Pertwee: Actor best known for his role as the curmudgeonly Warden Hodges in Dad's Army


The actor Bill Pertwee played more than a satellite character in Dad's Army, the perennially popular BBC sitcom about a hapless Second World War Home Guard platoon on England's south coast.

As ARP Warden Hodges, he was the antagonist who mocked and ridiculed the bumbling unit in the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea. He also challenged the authority of its commanding officer, Captain Mainwaring (played by Arthur Lowe), the pompous, grammar school-educated bank manager who appointed himself to the role over his second-in-command, the laconic, public school-educated Sergeant Wilson (John Le Mesurier).

"Put that light out!" Pertwee would shout as he burst into the church hall where Mainwaring – whom he called "Napoleon" – was drilling his platoon. It was one of a number of catchphrases for which the sitcom's characters became famous.

A greengrocer by trade, the chief air-raid warden could be as pompous as his adversary, but was more coarse – and, when confronted with real danger, showed a cowardly streak by handing back authority to Mainwaring.

The ensemble comedy began in 1968, ran until 1977 with audiences of up to 20 million, and is still repeated today. There was even a 1971 feature film, a radio adaptation (1974-76) and a stage show (Shaftesbury Theatre and national tour, 1975-76), all including Pertwee.

The irony of his being cast as the grumpy warden was that David Croft – who created the sitcom with Jimmy Perry – wanted him on set, knowing that his background in stand-up comedy would always bring humour to it.

"I had worked for David the previous year," recalled Pertwee. "It was just a small part in an episode of Hugh and I, with Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd. I only had a couple of lines, but I had to shout at Terry Scott and push him about a bit in a cinema queue. That must have stuck in David's mind."

Pertwee was born in Buckinghamshire, nephew of the actor-writer Roland Pertwee and cousin of the actor Jon Pertwee (who was considered for the role of Mainwaring in Dad's Army) and the playwright Michael Pertwee. He moved from place to place as a child because his sales rep father took different jobs around the country. When he was 12, his father died and his Brazilian mother was left to bring up Pertwee and his two older brothers alone. The eldest, James, was killed in an RAF bombing mission over Germany in 1941.

After leaving Southend College, Pertwee landed work as a factory machinist with the Southend Motor and Aero Club, whose wartime role was to make parts for Spitfire cannon.

A postwar job with the City stockbrokers Oxley Knox was short-lived after he answered a telephone call with the voice of the broadcaster Raymond Glendenning. It was a talent that would later serve him well – but, at the time, it earned him the sack. He then worked in the sports department of a London store, Burberry, before spending five years as a window cleaner.

However, his ambition was to enter show business and, in 1954, he offered comedy material to Beryl Reid as she was about to open in a London revue. He was invited to join the company and soon gave up his window-cleaning job. Later, he performed at London's famous Windmill Theatre – between the strip acts – and in variety with his wife-to-be, Marion Macleod (real name Marion Rose).

Pertwee's break came in the heyday of radio comedy, when, in 1959, he was invited to join the cast for the second series of Beyond Our Ken, starring Kenneth Horne. He played many characters in the sketch-based programme until it ended in 1964, when the writer, Eric Merriman, fell out with the BBC.

A year later, with scripts by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, it was relaunched as Round the Horne and Pertwee was in the first three series (1965-67). One of his most memorable characters was Seamus Android, a parody of the This Is Your Life presenter Eamonn Andrews.

He had already played the ARP warden in Dad's Army when he appeared as the village policeman in the sitcom Two in Clover (1969-70), starring Sid James and Victor Spinetti as insurance company invoice clerks leaving their jobs to take over a working farm.

Many one-off roles followed in series such as Bless This House (1971), Love Thy Neighbour (1972), Man About the House (1974), It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1981) and Hi-de-Hi! (1986).

When Jimmy Perry and David Croft launched the upstairs-downstairs period sitcom You Rang, M'Lord? (pilot 1988, series 1990-93), Pertwee was cast as PC Wilson.

He also appeared in two Carry On films: as a barman in ...Loving (1970) and as a fire brigade chief who debags the mayor in ...Girls (1973).

On stage, Pertwee acted in West End productions of There Goes the Bride (Piccadilly Theatre, 1974), Worzel Gummidge (Cambridge Theatre, 1981-82), Run for Your Wife (Shaftesbury Theatre, 1983) and See How They Run (Shaftesbury Theatre, 1984-85).

Pertwee was a founder member of the Dad's Army Appreciation Society, of which he was president, and wrote the book Dad's Army: The Making of a Television Legend (1989).

He was also author of Pertwee's Promenades and Pierrots: One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment (1979), By Royal Command (1981), The Station Now Standing: Britain's Colourful Railway Stations (1991), Stars in Battledress: A Light-hearted Look at Service Entertainment in the Second World War (1992), A Funny Way to Make a Living (his autobiography, 1996) and Beside the Seaside: A Celebration of 100 Years of Seaside Entertainment (1999).

Pertwee's wife died in 2005. Their son, Jonathan James, followed the couple into acting as James Pertwee.

William Desmond Pertwee, actor and writer: born Amersham, Buckinghamshire 21 July 1926; MBE 2007; married 1960 Marion Rose (died 2005; one son); died Cornwall 27 May 2013.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album