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.

News
David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

Arts and Entertainment
art
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
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 General

Higher Level Teaching Assistants in Bradford and West Leeds

£65 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are currently seeking Higher L...

EYP

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Job opportunity for an Early years ...

QA Manual Tester - Agile

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Bursar/Business Manager

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Experienced bursar or business...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories