The creator of Dad’s Army, Jimmy Perry, has died aged 93 after a brief illness.
His work on the show – along with that of the producer, David Croft – created one of the most popular British television programmes of all time, which was remade as a film this year.
He was also responsible for It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang, M’Lord? Perry’s death was reported on Sunday by the BBC, for which he worked.
Perry based many of the characters in Dad’s Army, which ran for 80 episodes over nine years from 1968, on people he met during the time he spent serving in the Home Guard during the second world war.
Born in Barnes, in south-west London, in 1923, he had been too young to join up at the outbreak of war in 1939. The mollycoddled Private Pike was based on Perry himself.
The part of Private Walker, who had links to the black market, was initially written for Perry but he was persuaded to change his mind. “At first I deeply resented it, but looking back now, perhaps they were right: it would have been a constant source of irritation to the rest of the cast,” he wrote in his autobiography, A Stupid Boy.
It was Private Pike who took a leading role in arguably the programme’s most famous scene, involving a German U-boat captain. The kriegsmarine officer demands Pike’s name and his superior officer, Captain Mainwaring, responds: “Don’t tell him, Pike.”
Besides Dad’s Army, Perry and Croft – who died in 2011 – also worked together on It Ain’t Half Hot Mum in the 1970s and 80s. Despite its popularity at the time, the programme has been reviled in recent years as racist and homophobic.
“People complain that the language was homophobic, and it was, but it was exactly how people spoke. And I should know – I was in a Royal Artillery concert party that travelled around India,” Perry told the Guardian in 2003.
“We had a sergeant major who hated us. He’d say: ‘No man who puts on make-up and ponces about on a stage is normal – what are you?’ ‘We’re a bunch of poofs!’ we’d reply. And those experiences are ones that enabled me to write It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum.”
But he denied that the programme was racist, saying it became known to some for that “because of ignorance”. He said: “It’s not the British Asians who call the show racist. They called – and still call it – ‘our programme’. It was BBC executives who’d never been to India who thought it was racist.”
After the war, Perry went on to train as an actor at Rada and worked at Butlin’s holiday camps. He won an Ivor Novello award in 1971 for the Dad’s Army theme tune and was awarded an OBE in 1978.