The Two and a Half Feathers

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"The Two and a Half Feathers"
Dad's Army episode
Episode no. Series Four
Episode 034
Directed by David Croft
Story by Jimmy Perry and David Croft
Produced by David Croft
Original air date Friday 13/11/70 8.00pm
(recorded Friday 6/11/70)
Running time 30 minutes
Episode chronology
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"Put That Light Out!"
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"Mum's Army"

The Two and a Half Feathers is the eighth episode of the fourth series of the British comedy series Dad's Army that was originally transmitted on Friday 13 November 1970.

Synopsis[edit]

New platoon member, George Clarke reveals that he served with Jones in the Sudan and questions the Lance Corporal's service record.

Plot[edit]

It is lunchtime in Walmington-on-Sea. Mainwaring, Wilson and Pike are in the British Restaurant, ordering their lunch. Wilson orders toad in the hole, and Mainwaring and Pike order the fish and potato pie, but when they find out that the fish is snoek, they soon change their minds. Walker enters and gives the dinnerladies knicker elastic in exchange for a steak.

As they sit, Jones enters in his old Sudanese uniform, and informs Mainwaring that he's off to the 42nd annual reunion for the veterans of the Battle of Omdurman. He gives Mainwaring and Wilson a gory account of the battle, spreading mothballs everywhere, and putting Wilson and Mainwaring off their food. Mainwaring is even further put off when he eats one of the mothballs, which landed in Walker's pickle pot.

That evening, Frazer brings in a new recruit for the platoon, Mr George Clarke. He's very loyal and trustworthy, as he stood Frazer several pints in the bar at The Anchor last Thursday. Clarke tells Mainwaring that he joined the army in 1897 and, like Jones, served at the Battle of Omdurman. Wilson and Mainwaring are shocked at the coincidence, especially when Clarke mentions that he was in the Warwickshire Regiment (the same as Jones) and gives an accurate description of Jones. Mainwaring decides to wait until tomorrow to see if it's the same man.

Jones arrives, tired, the next evening, and Frazer, Pike and Walker follow him into the office, where Godfrey is fitting Clarke with his uniform. Clarke immediately recognises Jones, and seems very civil... until his tone of voice turns hostile. Mainwaring quickly organises the parade, and Frazer announces his suspicions about their relationship.

Later, Frazer rings someone on the telephone, and tells them that after a couple of pints, Clarke told him that Jones and Clarke were captured by the Fuzzy Wuzzies. He then told him that Jones managed to escape, and left Clarke to die. The rumour soon spreads, and Walker is torn between his friendship with Frazer and his friendship with Jones.

Jones, meanwhile, receives malicious letters that contain two and a half white feathers, and saying that he shouldn't have left Clarke in the desert. Jones has had enough and leaves on a mysterious errand. As he leaves he mysteriously says to himself, "I've got to do something I should have done a long time ago. I've got to do it, it's the only way."

At the next parade, Mainwaring is determined to get to the bottom of the incident. Clarke tells Mainwaring that they were captured and Jones begged for mercy after Jones allegedly left him in the desert, a native rescued him. He remarks the native must have saved his life, even if he did pinch his wallet. Jones creeps into the office, and tells his side of the story...

Jones reveals that a few day before the Battle of Omderman, in 1898, he and Clarke were part of a patrol sent out by General Kitchener to find out the strength of the Mahdi's army. It was led by Colonel Smythe (Wilson), with another officer, a young 2nd Lieutenant called Franklin, who had just come out of Sandhurst (Pike), who was the Colonel's nephew. The NCO was Sergeant Ironside (Mainwaring), a vulgar, foul-mouthed bully who kept yelling abuse at the men. One of the main Privates was a young merry joking Cockney, Private Green (Walker). As they traveled through the desert, they met an old fakir (Godfrey), who warned them that when the sun sets, they would all be dead. When Ironside gave him "a mouthful of coarse abuse", the fakir was outraged and said something to them in Arabic. Jones didn't understand it at the time, but later he learned it was a curse upon us all.

Suddenly, a fusillade of shots rang out, and the patrol were quick to respond. They took cover behind a large rocky hill and an enemy cavalry charge begins. Colonel Smythe suggested that two men should go for help. Jones asked to go, and Smythe told him to take Private Clarke with him. By morning, their water bottles were empty. They stopped for a rest, and were captured by two Dervishes (Frazer and Hodges). Jones was about to attack when "Clarke" begs for mercy. They peg Clarke out in the desert and take Jones with them.

When the Dervishes stopped and started to cook a meal, they had an unknown argument and start fighting between each other, giving Jones the chance to free himself. One of the Dervishes runs off, and the other is scared by the burning branch thrust in his face, and the Dervish tells him, in Arabic, to put that light out (which is his catchphrase in real life). Jones put on his robes and took his horse. By the time he returned, Clarke was unconscious from the heat and thirst. Carrying him on his horse, they met up with an large relief column...

Returning to the present, Jones says that Clarke was sent to a military hospital and he never saw him again. Mainwaring is puzzled as to why Jones didn't tell them the truth before. Jones reveals that when he returned to Clarke, he thought he was dead. Whilst searching through Clarke's wallet to send home among his personal effects, Jones found a photograph of the Colonel's wife meaning that Clarke and her had been having an affair. Jones tells them that he couldn't have told them this before for fear of slurring the Colonel's name. He has recently been in London at Somerset House, he now knew that the Colonel and his wife were dead, so he could tell all, and burn the letters that she and Clarke sent to each other. Mainwaring is upset that Jones has been treated as a coward and is incensed at Clarke, so he decides to confront him. Upset for their treatment of Jones as well, the platoon are also angry at Clarke. However, Wilson reveals that Clarke went outside. As they go after him Clarke, Hodges arrives, and tells them he's resigned and left by train and will post his uniform back. Jones proceeds to burn the letters, and Hodges tells him to put that light out.

Cast[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • The title is a play on the novel and subsequent films entitled The Four Feathers, in which a member of the British Army in the Sudan is accused of cowardice. In the 1939 film The Four Feathers, the Khalifa is played by Private Frazer actor John Laurie.
  • The historical flashback scenes were filmed in a disused Norfolk quarry, rigged up to look like the Sudan, interspersed with footage from the 1939 film version of The Four Feathers.
  • This was one of two episodes where the Dad's Army characters were rather whimsically shown in a historical setting; the other was A Soldier's Farewell.
  • During the flashback scenes, there's a rare opportunity to see Clive Dunn without the makeup and persona that made him look much older.
  • Mrs Mainwaring is actually heard groaning twice in this episode, though she is not actually seen.

References[edit]

  • Croft, David; Perry, Jimmy; Webber, Richard (2000). The Complete A-Z of Dad’s Army. Orion. ISBN 0-7528-4637-X. 

External links[edit]