East Anglia, Dad’s Army and the North Sea


I visited the Norfolk town of Thetford a year earlier but didn’t do my research properly and the Dad’s Army Museum wasn’t open.  The reason was that it is run by volunteers who have jobs to go to and only opens on a Saturday so this year I made sure that we went there on the right day.

This post isn’t going to make a lot of sense to overseas readers because Dad’s Army was an English situation comedy which was first broadcast in 1968 and fifty years later remains one of the funniest and most popular of all BBC programmes.  I am a huge fan and will happily sit through endless reruns of the shows.


It is set during the Second World War and is a story about the British Home Guard which was a amateur defence force army made up of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service either because of age (hence the name “Dad’s Army”) or by being in professions exempt from conscription.  Their job was to defend Britain against a German invasion force of Panzer Tanks and battalions of crack Wehrmacht troops. This was most unlikely and is the real basis of the whole series of programmes.

The show called the fictional town they defended Walmington-on-Sea which was said to be on the south coast of England but it was actually filmed in Thetford in East Anglia.

In 2004 Dad’s Army was voted fourth in a BBC poll to find Britain’s Best Sitcom. It had previously been placed thirteenth in a list of the one hundred Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000.

English humour is the finest in the World but doesn’t always travel that well but just watch this little scene which was voted the funniest ever Dad’s Army gag line of the entire series (over eighty programmes) to get a little flavour of the show…

Don't Tell Him Pike

Funniest Scene

American humour especially struggles to cope with British wit and interestingly a pilot US show based on Dad’s Army was tried and piloted.  It was called Rear Guard but flopped badly and never made it into a full series.  If you watch this disaster then you will understand why…

This is the US version of the same scene

The little museum turned out to be a real treasure store, crammed full of memorabilia relating to the series, pictures, video clips, scrap books, newspaper articles and pictures and photographs of all the stars.  Kim is not such a big fan of Dad’s Army as I am but enjoyed this place just as much as I did.  We stayed longer than expected and then finished with a cup of tea and a cake at the Marigold Tea Room which is a recreation of one of the sets famous from the series.

Mainwaring's OfficeMarigold Tea Rooms

The star of the show was an actor called Arthur Lowe who played the lead character of Captain Mainwaring.  There is a statue of both of them, as it were, in the centre of the town by the riverside (The Little Ouse) so after the museum we made our way through the town and the Saturday market and found the Captain sitting pompously as ever down by the waterside.

Mainwaring Thetford

It was always going to be hard to follow the visit to the Dad’s Army Museum and so it proved when on the way back to the car park we visited the Ancient House Museum which had a few interesting items but didn’t detain us very long and soon after we were on the road again and on the way to the caravan park destination.

Along the route we chose another National Trust property and forever keen to get maximum value for our annual membership we called in at Ickworth House bear Bury St. Edmunds.

It turned out to be an interesting stop at an unusual eighteenth century stately home built in the Italianate style with a huge central rotunda and two complimentary wings to the east and the west.  There are a sequence of rooms to pass through, first the servant’s quarters below stairs and then the largely Victorian rooms of the nobility and upper classes who once lived there.

We stayed for an hour or so and then completed our journey to the village of Kessingland on the extreme east coast of England.

Ickworth House

We had intended to arrive first at the caravan so that we could organise the arrival of my daughter and grand-children in an orderly way but we were delayed by supermarket shopping and they arrived before us and by the time we turned up Sally and the children had the place looking just the way they like it – rather like England would have looked like if the German Panzer Divisions had successfully invaded and passed through in 1941.

We dealt with the unpacking as best we could and then in early evening to satisfy the children made our way to the nearby beach and although it had been a very warm day I have to say that I didn’t expect to find myself swimming in the North Sea at seven o’clock in the evening.  This was probably my first time in the North Sea for about fifty years or so, since I was a boy on family holidays but under intense pressure from grandchildren…

North Sea Swimming

… the North Sea, let me tell you, is not the warmest water in the World!

40 responses to “East Anglia, Dad’s Army and the North Sea

  1. My dad was in the Home Guard, he couldn’t join up as he was doing essential war work, he worked at Becton Gasworks he was a blacksmith. After knocking off he’d come home, bus train and walk, then had his “tea” got washed changed into his army uniform and off he went to Parsloes Park in Dagenham (walked) where he sat at his gun all night shooting down Jerries. He was actually credited with shooting 2 down, he was the gun layer,

    Picture of my dad on my latest post

    Not really much fun. Come home have breakfast and off to Becton again

    Dads army was just a silly show.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Allo Allo was even more difficult for the non Brits to understand and appreciate. Very clever series. I one spent an evening in an alpine mountain hut with two lads from Netherlands who said it was a very popular show there, who then proceeded to “act out” several scenes with tears of laughter streaming down their faces.


  3. I’m not going to argue about it but I hated “Dad’s Army” and still do. Still an interesting post though so thank you!


  4. Actually, British humor travels well enough, and I can testify to being a big fan of everything from Fawlty Towers to the St. Trinian naughty girls! Are You Being Served?, The Vicar of Dibley, the Carry On series – early ones, anyway – Waiting for God, Keeping Up Appearances, the Black Adder series, Mr. Bean, and many others have been shown on public television here and are frequently the highest ranked shows they are so funny and well done! Well, the St. Trinian series and the Carry On series appear elsewhere, even the cinema. It’s quirky humor, I agree, but not impossible to enjoy and laugh, and laugh, and laugh! Allo! Allo! was one of my favorites, too, though I cringed a bit to think WWII was far gone enough that it could be a source of humor. Dad’s Army struck me more that way since it took place on your side of the English Channel and we all know the tragic, intense war of survival that took place there when GB was pretty much all alone to fight fascism.


  5. You might have worn a khaki T-Shirt, Andrew!


  6. I think the great thing about the series was that it did show just how brave the Home Guard was – Captain Mannering was pompous and full of himself but he would still volunteer for things which may have ended in his death – he was very courageous, as were they all. They couldn’t do much because of their age, but they did what they could, the best they could. With all the government propaganda about the invasion and the enemy, and with memories for many of the war 20 years earlier, the prospect of action along the coastal towns in particular was very real.
    Great post Andrew – I really want to visit the museum now!!


  7. Great post Andrew. One wonderful and one dreadful clip


  8. Laughed out loud even though I knew what was coming. “Henderson” just doesn’t have the same snap to it!


  9. I know the submariner sketch is a favourite, but the one that really does it for me is when Mainwaring, having denigrated Godfrey for being a conscientious objector in WW1, learns he was nevertheless awarded the military medal. Godfrey’s sister explains he was a stretcher bearer at the battle of the Somme, and went out to rescue a large number of men under heavy fire. “Oh it wasn’t all that heavy” says Godfrey.


  10. That cap really suits you, Andrew 🙂 🙂 Suits you, sir! Now who said that?


  11. Forty years ago, a few days after the famous episode was broadcast, I watched Derby County best West Ham 2-0 in a night match at the old Baseball Ground. West Ham’s Geoff Pike fouled a Derby player and the referee blew for a free kick and went over to book the West Ham midfielder. Suddenly a wag in the crowd shouted the obvious line, ” Don’t tell him your name, Pike!!” There was a laugh went up.


  12. I always like British humor, Andrew, but I am not familiar with Dad’s Army. I will say your expression in the North Sea is pretty damn funny. If I could only read lips… –Curt


  13. So true, British humour doesn’t always work well when redone in the states. I loved watching British comedy shows growing up in Canada. Many of my friends said they couldn’t understand them, but I had no problem. The only one that seemed to work was the Office. They were both hilarious. Perhaps to do with the casting or the fact that offices are the same all over the world!!


  14. We were certainly lucky enough to get the British comedies here. I think they are better than the American ones. The sense of humor is wry and can be downright subtle. It seems the American ones tend to be a bit more over the top. The only one of the British comedies I grew tired off was ‘Are you being served’. It started out OK, but then it went on and on and on and got pretty absurd toward the end. I think one of the first ones I started watching was ‘Good Neighbors’. Loved that one! ‘As Time Goes By’ with Judy Dench was a favorite, followed by ‘To the Manor Born’ with Penelope Keith.


  15. We went to Thetford when the Dad’s Army museum was closed too!

    This is quite interesting – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Ridley#Military_service


  16. Dad’s Army is such a fine piece of work: great scripts and marvellous actors. Because of its setting it hasn’t shown its age at all. Absolutely love it.


  17. Pingback: Cornwall, Value For Money with the National Trust | Have Bag, Will Travel

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