‘Don’t Panic!’ cried Lance Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army. It summed up one of the greatest characters in post war British comedy, played by Clive Dunn, who has died at 92.
The joke, of course, was that Jones was the first to panic in the face of danger – real or imagined. He personified a generation who served in the last days of Victoria’s imperial army, survived the Great War trenches and ended their military days as a desperate last line of defence in 1940 as the Home Guard.
It came as a shock as a fan of Dad’s Army in the early 1970s to find out that Clive Dunn wasn’t an elderly man but a 50 something actor not much older than my father. (He played on the elderly image in the unlikely 1971 hit Grandad.) He outlived almost all the other Dad’s Army actors.
I remember going to London in 1975 to see Dad’s Army on stage at the Shaftesbury Theatre. We stayed in a basic hotel near Mount Pleasant Royal Mail sorting office. According to Wikipedia, the show was twice disrupted by bomb scares: rather appropriate given the wartime subject of this comic classic.