The Deadly Attachment

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"The Deadly Attachment"
Dad's Army episode
Episode no. Series Six
Episode 054
Directed by David Croft
Story by Jimmy Perry and David Croft
Produced by David Croft
Original air date Wednesday 31/10/73 6.50pm
(recorded Friday 22/6/73)
Running time 30 minutes
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Time On My Hands"
Next →
"My British Buddy"

"The Deadly Attachment" is the first episode of the sixth series of the British television sitcom Dad's Army which was originally transmitted on Wednesday 31 October 1973. It has become one of the best known episodes of the series due to the rare encounter between the platoon and the Germans and the much-remembered "Don't tell him, Pike!" exchange which has been placed in the top three greatest comedy moments of British television.[1]

Synopsis[edit]

Mainwaring's men have been detailed to guard a captured German U-boat crew until a military escort arrives. When the escort is delayed, the platoon must house them in the church hall overnight. Pike rather stupidly starts singing a song where Hitler is called a twerp and the U-boat captain puts his name on a list for people who are to be captured when the Germans 'win ' the war.

Plot[edit]

Captain Mainwaring is giving a lecture on parachutists and the need to determine the respective identities of British and German parachutists. This eventually ends up becoming a discussion on the possibility of refugee nuns parachuting into Britain. Mainwaring's lecture is interrupted by a telephone call from GHQ; the survivors of a sunken German U-Boat have been picked up by a fishing boat and taken to Walmington-on-Sea. The Home Guard unit is to be responsible for providing security until the proper military escort can arrive. Mainwaring, excited at finally getting to grips with the enemy, sets off with most of the platoon to collect the prisoners, but not before ordering Sergeant Wilson and Private Pike to prime the platoon's allocation of hand grenades.

Pike is naturally excited at throwing around a lot of (unprimed) hand grenades and pretending to be a gangster; Wilson is a lot more cautious, and on discovering a collection of dummy detonators along with the real charges, opts to prime the grenades with dummies, reasoning that in the event of an invasion a switch could be made quickly, as allowing certain members of the platoon to be in charge of live grenades is very dangerous.

The prisoners, including their smug and surly captain, are held in the church hall until the escort arrives. However, the escort has been delayed, meaning the Home Guard will be responsible for the prisoners overnight, including the feeding of them. Corporal Jones' suggestion of cutting the prisoners' trouser buttons off is dismissed by the U-Boat Captain as being a violation of the Geneva Convention, thus earning Mainwaring's ire; and Mainwaring proceeds to refer to Adolf Hitler as a tinpot dictator resembling Charlie Chaplin, thus annoying the captain. Mainwaring's name gets put on the U-Boat Captain's ominous "List" - a collection of names of those who have upset him, who will be brought to account once the war ends, prompting a childish exchange of "Oh no, you're not!" "Oh yes we are!" between Mainwaring and the U-Boat Captain as to which side is actually going to win the war. Pike, who foolishly opts to sing a song in which Hitler is called a "twerp" at that very moment ("Whistle while you work, Hitler is a twerp, he's half barmy, so's his army..."), finds his name also put on the U-Boat Captain's List once Mainwaring inadvertently gives it to him ("Don't tell him, Pike!"). Talking in German, the U-Boat Captain tells his men he is going to feign illness in order to gain the upper hand.

After the prisoners receive a fish and chip supper ordered by Private Walker (including soggy chips, despite the U-Boat Captain's demands), the platoon settle down to guard the prisoners overnight. Matters are not helped by the Verger and Warden Hodges, entering the hall after a night on the drink to find the prisoners there waiting for them. Taking advantage of the distraction, the U-Boat Captain feigns illness ("I reckon it must have been all those soggy chips you made him eat, Captain Mainwaring!" quips Walker) and manages to steal Mainwaring's revolver, seizing Hodges as a hostage.

A tense stand-off between the Germans (housed in the Vicar's office with their hostage) and the British (in the main hall with superior firepower) sees the British try to recapture the situation. The Germans threaten to kill Hodges if Mainwaring does not release them, but Jones points out if the Germans escape, they will continue to sink British ships (Frazer does not help by pointing out that Mainwaring "never liked" Hodges, so he should have no qualms about letting him die.) A conversation about different films that ultimately goes nowhere, however, sees Mainwaring struck by inspiration; they will agree to the terms of the Germans, confident that someone in the town will see the Germans escape. Unfortunately, Mainwaring's plan is not as well thought out as the U-Boat Captain's, who has anticipated this - the platoon will be forced to march the prisoners through town to the harbour as to offset suspicion, and will then accompany the prisoners back to Germany in order to ensure that the Royal Navy do not intervene. And once they are back in Germany, the List will be closely examined. Cooperation will be further enforced by the presence of a grenade in Corporal Jones' waistband, which will have the safety pin pulled off by the U-Boat Captain at the slightest hint of trouble. Wilson gladly goes to get the grenade.

The march through town is a tense matter (for all except Wilson and Pike, who are the only ones aware that the grenade is a dud). The U-Boat captain's plan is inadvertently rumbled by Mainwaring's senior officer, the Colonel, who chances upon the marching platoon en route to meeting the escort and, seeing the string in Jones' waistband, immediately pulls it. The resulting chaos sees the Germans sprawled on the ground, Jones frantically screaming "Don't panic!" whilst dancing with a grenade in his trousers, and Wilson calmly asking the Colonel for a pistol. He promptly uses it to recapture the German Captain, forcing him and his men up against the wall. Once all has calmed down, and Mainwaring has realised that in disobeying his orders, Wilson has saved Jones' life, Jones requests if someone could ask Private Frazer to remove his hand from his trousers.

Cast[edit]

Notes[edit]

Part of the episode was filmed on Mill Lane in Thetford
  1. Actor Philip Madoc's portrayal of the scheming U-Boat captain is regularly recalled, in spite of it being Madoc's only appearance in the series.[2] When he died, BBC news broadcast a clip from this episode as part of their obituary.
  2. Half of the length of string used during filming is in the collection of Jimmy Perry, while the other half is in the Blitz and Pieces museum, having been donated by David Croft.

Adaptations[edit]

The episode has also been adapted for radio and a recreation of this episode formed the fourth instalment of the 2007 Dad's Army Stage Show. In 1976, the episode script was selected as the basis of an unsuccessful pilot episode for an American Broadcasting Company adaptation called The Rear Guard. The script also forms part of the combination of four shortened episodes published for amateur production.

The episode has been adapted on a number of occasions. Some changes were made when this episode was adapted for radio. In particular, it was The Vicar, not Hodges, who became the hostage. (Initially the grenade was set to be inserted into Mainwaring's trousers, but Arthur Lowe refused and so Jones was chosen instead.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BBC News - ENTERTAINMENT - Television's crowning moments". bbc.co.uk. 
  2. ^ Webber, Richard (1999). Dad's Army: A Celebration. London: Virgin Publishing Ltd. p. 125. ISBN 0-7535-0307-7.