Sergeant Arthur Wilson
|Sergeant Arthur Wilson|
|Dad's Army character|
|First appearance||The Man and the Hour|
|Last appearance||Never Too Old|
|Portrayed by||John Le Mesurier|
|Occupation||Head Bank Clerk|
|Affiliated with||Home Guard|
Wilson is carefree, cheerful and well-spoken, although more complex than he first seems. He has a vague and dreamy personality and an aura of mystery. In appearance, he resembles Anthony Eden. He is a kind man, who goes with the flow of life. He is chief cashier of Walmington-on-Sea bank, and captain of the cricket club. He has an upper-middle-class background; his father had a career in the City of London, and Wilson often recalls fond memories of his nanny. He was educated at a public school named Meadow Bridge.
Captain Mainwaring, Wilson's senior in the Home Guard and in the bank, envies and resents Wilson's privileged background and once compared Wilson with Peter Pan, because he could never face responsibilities. These include Private Frank Pike, who worships his "Uncle Arthur" but may be Wilson's son — Wilson has had a long relationship with Mavis Pike, Frank's widowed mother. It is gossip in Walmington-on-Sea, as both arrived in Walmington from Weston-super-Mare around the same time, and there are other "coincidences" that show Wilson and Mrs Pike are more than just close friends, such as them unofficially living together. He admits that Frank Pike originally called him Daddy, until told to call him Uncle (although the writers have confirmed that Wilson is Pike's biological father.) In "Menace from the Deep" Mainwaring brushes against Wilson while he is asleep, and he says without fully waking "Gently, Mavis".
In "Getting the Bird" it is revealed that Wilson has an adult daughter from an early marriage. He admits to Fraser that he does not see his daughter as much as he would like, but it is clear that father and daughter love each other deeply. In "Sgt. Wilson's Little Secret" a misunderstanding leads to him nearly marrying Mrs. Pike (indicating that he has divorced his previous wife) but he apparently calls it off at the last moment. There remain loose ends about Wilson's personal life, e.g. he may avoid marrying Mrs. Pike because he does not want his previous marriage to become known.
Wilson's dream-like manner is often mimicked by the platoon, mostly Walker and Fraser, but the men like him, and some admire him (including Jones, Godfrey, and most of all Private Pike). Rather than bark orders as a sergeant would be expected to do, he asks "Would you mind awfully falling in, please?"
Tension and comedy between Wilson and Mainwaring is heightened by their difference in social class: Wilson had an upper middle class childhood and a public school education, prompting resentment from the lower middle class Mainwaring, who had to work his way up and views Wilson as having it easy. Mainwaring frequently emphasises his superior rank at the bank and in the Home Guard to maintain his authority and superiority over Wilson. Wilson undermines his superior through casual charm and frequent concern at Mainwaring's plans, querying, "Do you really think that's wise, sir?" The contrasts are established in several ways: as a civilian, Mainwaring wears a bowler hat while Wilson wears a more fashionable Anthony Eden hat. In "The Honourable Man", Wilson became "The Honourable Arthur Wilson" after an uncle who was a peer dies. Mainwaring tried to stay at the centre of attention; Wilson detested his new style and the expectations it brought him, which only infuriated Mainwaring more, as he believed one should revel in titles of nobility rather than be ashamed of them.
Conflict between the two reached a head in "A. Wilson (Manager)?", in which Wilson is promoted as manager of another branch and also to second lieutenant in a neighbouring Home Guard Unit. Wilson finds out that he would have been promoted long ago if Mainwaring had not told his superiors that he was unsuitable for promotion. Mainwaring's resentment of Wilson's breeding is revealed. Wilson's new branch is bombed, so he has to return to Walmington. His sign, "A. WILSON, manager", is among the debris. Mainwaring's first concern is to let Wilson know that GHQ is allowing him to keep his rank. Wilson is glad until Mainwaring throws him the sergeant's stripes.
Wilson thinks Mainwaring a pompous fool; in "A. Wilson (Manager)?", Wilson reminds Mainwaring that when he first wore his captain's uniform, he saw him walking up and down the high street all afternoon trying to find someone to salute him, but he had to make do with a sea scout troop. However, they remain friends. In the episode "Room at the Bottom", Wilson was told that Mainwaring had not been commissioned a captain's position, and was gleeful when he was told thus Mainwaring would be demoted. Wilson provides a more realistic and down-to-earth appraisal of a situation than Mainwaring, who is blinded by pomposity and patriotism, as demonstrated in this exchange:
- Mainwaring: They'll never get through the Maginot Line.
- Wilson: Haven't you heard... They went around the side.
- Mainwaring: That's a typical shabby Nazi trick!
However, when pushed, a different Wilson emerges. In "High Finance", it emerges that Warden Hodges has been forcing his attentions on Mrs. Pike by blackmailing her with a rent increase; Wilson reacts by punching Hodges in the face, to the admiration of Mrs Pike and Frank. Wilson is the only member of the platoon to be physically violent, as in "Absent Friends" when Pike, Jones, Fraser, Walker and Mainwaring attempt to subdue three IRA members and are beaten. Wilson defeats them singlehanded with only bruised knuckles to show for it.
In the final episode, Wilson turns up at the wedding of Jones and Mrs. Fox in a captain's uniform, having achieved the rank during the First World War. He is modest about it (in the first episode Wilson claims to have been a sergeant in the Royal Artillery serving at Mons, Gallipoli and then back in France again) and Mainwaring is pleasantly surprised — although he insisted that "it doesn't change anything, you know". (Ironically, John Le Mesurier, who played Wilson, had served as an Army captain during the Second World War while Arthur Lowe, who played Mainwaring, had been an RAF sergeant major.)
Although Sergeant Wilson rarely wore his medals, he had previously been awarded them as a Captain (British Army and Royal Marines) in the First World War.
- Webber, Richard; Perry, Jimmy; Croft, David (2000). The Complete A-Z of Dad's Army. London: Orion Books. pp. 288, p.227. ISBN 0-7528-4637-X
- Webber, Perry, Croft, p.228
- Webber, Perry, Croft, p.132
- Webber, Perry, Croft, p.99
- Webber, Perry, Croft, p.227
- Webber, Perry, Croft, p.11
- Webber, Perry, Croft, p.118